Although in Greece, in principle, no permit is required for filming in public open-air spaces, there are few exceptions to the above rule that could make the situation a little bit complex. These exceptions are mostly linked with the venue where the filming is going to take place, regardless of whether we are talking about a film, a commercial video, a documentary or news reports and of whether the journalists and/or crew represent foreign or local media and producers. The present article aims to give useful and practical insight on the above issues due to the fact that there have been recent legislation amendments.
The Law 3905/2010 (art. 36 par.1) explicitly provides that “No permit is required for filming in open-air spaces, unless special permits are provided by law and are issued by the relevant archaeological, municipal or other authorities”. It goes without saying that filming on private property requires a permit of the owner of such property.
The most common situations that special permits are required are the following:
- When filming in archaeological sites, monuments and museums.
- When filming in military and port facilities, airports, in national borders, and in cases of aerial and underwater filming.
- When filming by drones.
- When filming for documentaries, advertisements and films is taking place at public space, such as squares, streets and pedestrian areas, where local Municipality authorities are competent.
- When filming in means of public transportation.
Due to the fact that there is not one specific national body responsible for issuing filming permits for all the occasions that such permits are required, the interested parties may need to file their applications before different national authorities, following different issuing processes. As a result, prerequisites, time required and fees vary depending on the type of permit that needs to be obtained. Here is some additional information for the above-mentioned kind of permits.
Filming in archaeological sites, monuments and museums:
As far as regards filming in archaeological sites, monuments and museums, the legal framework has recently changed. According to the new legislative document (Ministerial Decision of the Ministry of Culture and Sports dated 2nd/7/2019), an application should be sent to the competent department of the Ministry of Culture and Sports that is responsible for the specific site/ monument/ museum [e.g. competent Ephorate of Antiquities at the region that the site is located or specific Museum (e.g. Acropolis)]. On the contrary, for filming at more than one monument, museum or archaeological site, the application should be submitted to the General Directorate of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture and Sports.
Each and every application shall be accompanied with certain information provided by law, such as the personal details of the applicant, purpose of filming, description of the scenario, list and description of technological equipment, list of crew members etc. In addition, in cases of audiovisual works of fiction, commercial videos and TV shows and documentaries (news reports are exempted), the Greek Film Centre (GFC) shall provide a Certificate confirming that the script or treatment (plot without dialogues) in question does not promote violence, racism or sexism and is not in breach of any legislation in force in Greece and of human rights.
The applications shall be submitted at least one month prior to filming. However, it is worth mentioning that such time framework does not apply for filming news – TV reports in order to cover actual news, where the applicant shall only briefly describe the topic of the reportage. In such occasions (news reports) the competent authorities of the Ministry of Culture and Sports should issue the permit within two (2) days.
Specific fees are provided that may differ in each occasion (e.g. depending on the archaeological site/museum, if there is featuring of persons, if filming includes underwater or aerial filming etc.). The fees are calculated by the competent authority and are communicated to the interested party in order to be paid before filming. Filming fees may be reduced in cases where the film is primarily of an educational, scientific or cultural nature, as well as in cases where the film promotes Greece internationally as a tourist destination.
If the filming restrictions are not respected and filming for economic and commercial purposes is taking place without the necessary permit, there may be penal sanctions.
Filming in military and port facilities, airports, national borders, underwater or aerially: Concerning filming in military and port facilities, airports, national borders, underwater or aerially, the interested party should send a request at the competent military authority at least three (3) weeks in advance. Such email should include the following information: the media (TV channel, radio, newspaper etc.) that the crew represents, the date of arrival and departure, the dates and places of filming, description of the plot/objective of filming and the personal details of the crew members. Payment of fees may also be requested.
Filming with drones:
When filming is going to take place by using drones, the interested party should send, before filming, an additional application to the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority in order to receive special permit. The party should make sure that, while filming, he/she complies with the Regulation of Civil Aviation Authority referring to drones.
Filming in public open-air spaces (such as pedestrian areas and squares) that are under the responsibility of the Municipalities:
Furthermore, in some occasions, a special permit may be requested by the competent Municipality when filming in public open-air spaces. For instance, the Municipality of Athens issues permits for filming for documentaries, films etc. in open-air public spaces (such as streets, pedestrian areas and squares). The interested party should send his/ her request with the necessary details via email thirty (30) days in advance. The permit has duration up to seven days and may be renewed. Normally, there are fees that should be paid except in special occasions. Not all municipalities in Greece have such filming restrictions.
Filming in public transportation:
Finally, as far as filming in public transportation is concerned, a request shall also be sent in advance at the competent authority. For the Greek Subway (Metro), the Tram or the electric urban rail in Athens, the competent authority is STASY SA. Payment of fees may also be requested in some occasions whereas other occasions are exempted from such an obligation (e.g. when filming for news or touristic purposes).
It is interesting to be mentioned that the so-called Direction of Diplomacy of Media (Department of Support of International Media) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in order to facilitate international press and media, acts as an intermediary, by receiving all requests for filming permits in order to transmit them to the competent authority. Therefore, the interested parties representing foreign TV crews, press representatives and journalists can send their request to the Department of Support of International Media of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs via email. Such request should include all the information mentioned above for each category of permit. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will then send the request to the competent Authority on behalf of the interested party. Such competence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is rather new and there might be delays. Therefore, in some situations direct contact with the relevant authority is preferable (e.g. when it comes to the Municipality of Athens).
All in all, it is a fact that, although filming permits are not in principle required, there are occasions, such the ones described above, that filming should be well organized in advance by the interested parties in order permits to be obtained before filming and in order bureaucratic delays to be avoided. Please have in mind that in Greece these days there is discussion about reforming the process of issuing special permits for photo shooting and filming, which aims to attract foreign productions and promote Greece as a potential attracting filming destination.