Last updated 8th February 2022
If you get a request to film in your church in could be from a variety of sources, both professional - like the BBC - or perhaps an amateur group such as students from a local school or college.
In recent times churches in our Dioceses have had requests from BBC Songs of Praise; a local community TV station; university students for a project and school pupils as part of another education project.
You may also receive requests from film production companies or radio outlets such as BBC Radio Lancashire to record in your premises, although this page deals more with video-based requests.
The key advice in handling filming requests is to be careful but welcoming. Most times requests for filming are fine and can be granted quickly and easily. You are able to make that decision yourself taking account of the advice here. Be aware of filming for 'stock footage' ... see below for more on this.
But if you want to check further before proceeding you should speak to your Archdeacon and you could also discuss with the Diocesan Communications Manager, Ronnie Semley, who can be reached on email@example.com
When you receive a request ask questions ... check the requester is legitimate. If you have any concerns ask them to provide a contact number and call them back. If they represent an organisation that is reputable they should have no problem with this. You can also check with the organisation directly ... eg the school reception if the request comes that way ... to verify their identity.
Ask for clear outline of what is being asked for ... how they will use the footage shot and in what context. This is important because footage shot for a soap opera for example might be used in a storyline which could be controversial and one which you would rather not be associated with.
It's always good to check first. It's an extreme example but this recent cautionary story about a Cathedral in Toledo is an example of how things can go wrong. The Dean thought the request was for a dance sequence. It was, but there was a lot more to it! Context is everything.
You should also check the organisation filming on your premises has its own insurance for doing so ... if not or you are not reassured of this then you should refuse permission.
If you have refused permission (for any reason) the organisation may try to suggest they have the right to film as the church is a 'public building'. While access to a church is free for all, permission for professional filming and photography (ie more than snapshots) is required.
You should also feel free to request to see a copy of the final edited footage before it is used on television or social media etc. You could even make it a prerequisite of granting permission to film and ask them to pledge to do so in writing in their response to you. Again, feel free to refuse if not happy.
There may be fees available you could beneift from and you could discuss this if it is a professional organisation and not an amateur production. Fees could normally apply to requests from a film or TV production company but not to a news organisation or filming such as for Songs of Praise.
You may be asked to sign legal documents by certain organisations when filming is due to take place. If you are not happy with any part of such documentation you can refuse to sign or alternatively seek advice from your Archdeacon before signing. This won't happen every time but it could so we are highlighting it here just in case.
You will want to know precisely what is being filmed; what it is for; where it will be shown/aired. If it's a drama or something like that.
Where it would get trickier is if someone was filming for stock footage that could be used in a variety of contexts. After discussions, if you have ANY concerns about the use of stock footage further down the line (ie concerns it could be used in a context not suitable for a church setting) the advice is it would be best to just refuse the request to film ... this is simpler than trying to sort it out later!
In this latter case you might want to them to reassure you in writing that the footage will always be used appropriately.
Whatever happens, get them to answer all your queries with a written response so you have that to fall back on should there be a problem.
Ronnie Semley, September 2019; updated June 2020 and October 2021