Safety tips while filming in SF

Suggestions for productions while shooting in the city.

Discuss safety during your shoot

ADs, producers, and department heads should talk to their crew members about safety. We suggest discussing it at the beginning of a shoot and the first day at each new location.

Set up good lighting at your locations

Set up strong lighting outside of production offices and crew parking. If needed, bring in rental whacker and generator lights.

Go with a group

Use a buddy system when:

  • Scouting locations
  • Locking up production offices or locations
  • Working at a shoot

Stay alert

Always check your environment, especially when location scouting. Know when to hide your camera or smartphone.

Consider carrying a high-powered whistle with you at all times. This can be used to notify others in an emergency.

Always be aware of your surroundings. Don’t get so caught up with your task that you are not aware of what’s going on around you. 

Do not be prone to distractions from people outside of your crew. This is a common tactic used by thieves to get someone to look one way while another steals equipment.

Stay off your phones when you are locking up, leaving, closing up for a night or opening a set. Keep your full attention on your surroundings. Calls or texts can wait. 

Remind security guards there should be no reading, texting, or being on phones. They should pay full attention, make their presence known and be in uniform so they are easily recognizable.

Keep valuables hidden

Be mindful of any equipment that any crew might be carrying or displaying in public. 

Be self-aware and consider if you stand out or attract unnecessary attention in any way in a particular area.

Never wear expensive or showy jewelry or clothing while on location. This includes watches, rings, bracelets, necklaces, or leather jackets.

Carry small amounts of cash at any time.

Do not leave visible equipment items in your vehicles. Be sure to lock vehicles even if the shooting location is close by. If you need to store equipment in your trunk or in the back of a van, make sure to do that before you arrive at a location. Avoid someone seeing what you are storing. Make sure you cover your valuables.

Avoid advertising your exact location

Consider minimizing the amount of directional signs to set so non-employees do not know the exact location for set or crew parking.

Do not post pictures or posts about a production on social media, so non-employees cannot track what is going on.

If you are alone at night and walking on the sidewalk and feel even a little unsafe, it is better to walk in the middle of the street than on the sidewalk where you can be easily attacked.

Let things go

If approached for equipment on a set, just let them have the equipment. Productions have insurance to cover losses – even student films have insurance through their school. Let it go.

Even if it’s your own personal equipment, let it go. Your life is more valuable than a piece of film equipment.

Security and support

Hire security for your entire production

Consider hiring security 24/7 at the production offices. Even in prep and wrap, as needed.

Consider hiring enough security for overnight watches so security staff do not feel threatened.

When hiring security for a location, ask the security company if they have any knowledge of criminal activity or other issues in the specific shooting areas.

Requesting SFPD at your shoot

You can hire SFPD to be with you as a presence on a shoot, which may act as a deterrence. However, keep in mind that they are not there to guard your equipment.

If your production cannot afford police, call the non-emergency number of the Dept. of Emergency Management (415-553-0123) and ask them to connect you to the district station of the area in which you will be filming. Give the district station the locations of your filming and the times you will begin and wrap. Ask them for a passing call, so that the officers on patrol can make passes by your production whenever possible. 

You can check crime stats for an area, although this does not mean a similar crime will happen in the future. You can also check with SFPD media relations at 415-837-7395 or if you have specific questions about crimes in areas where you are filming.

Other departments and organizations

Build a relationship with the community and non-profits in the area before your production so that they can have your back, too. Check with Film SF or the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services at (415) 554-5977 for the best contacts in the area where you are filming. 

Do not hesitate to call 911 if you feel a situation is escalating to an emergency. Be articulate with the dispatcher as they will ask several questions in order to help you.


Last updated October 28, 2022