Every state has unique rules and regulations when it come to film making and photography. These are some basic guidelines for acquiring a film permit here in Hawaii according to the Hawaii State Film Office:

Film permits are required for all filming activity, commercial or non-commercial, which will take place on public locations. As the liaison between government and filmmaker, the State of Hawaii Film Office works closely with other State agencies, the county film offices, federal agencies within the state, and private property owners to help filmmakers determine the permits they need to film in public areas.

What is a Film Permit?
It makes sense to ask a neighbor for permission before shooting any project in their yard, in the same way, applying for a state film permit is the equivalent of requesting permission to shoot on state-owned land. It is similar in process to applying for permits to camp on state grounds. It’s also important to remember that the state isn’t the only entity that requires film permits. When planning to shoot on city & county, federal or privately owned lands or National Parks, individual permits are required from each of them before beginning production.

Why do I need one?
Many videographers and photographers do get away with shooting without a film permit, but authorities have every right to shut down productions that are not properly permitted and fines may be issued. When shooting b-roll, landscapes or personal projects, rescheduling or relocating a shoot may not be a huge inconvenience, but once clients and a production crew are involved, shooting without a permit is not an option. Sate and county offices request five (5) business days to process a film permit, but in a time crunch, most of them are able to accommodate faster turn-around times.

What type of film permit do I need?
As of 2015 there are three different types of film permits available:
1. Standard Permit | Hawaii Film Office’s Standard Permit is available for all filming activity that is not eligible for the Open/Accessible Sites Online Permit. This includes “Photography for calendars, class pictures, fashion catalogs/magazines, travel brochures, and other publications”.
2. Open and Accessible Permit | Hawaii Film Office’s DLNR Open/Accessible Sites Permit is limited to an established list of locations, including state parks and beaches.
Open & Accessible Sites by Island: Oahu | Maui | Big Island (Hawaii) | Kauai | PDF List
3. Wiki Permit | DLNR’s Land Management Division allows photographers to apply for permits through the Wiki Permit system for wedding, portrait, and scenic/landscape photography.

How do I apply for one?
State film permits are required for professionals using footage or photos for commercial and non-commercial purposes, they are not required for recreational use. Thus it is assumed that all applicants are business entities or professionals with some form of liability insurance. All applicants are required to carry a minimum of $1 million general liability and $1 million combined single limit automobile liability (for owned, non-owned and hired vehicles), and to supply a Certificate of Liability Insurance (COI) for all sites requested, naming the State of Hawaii as additional insured (Click here for example). Counties also require that they are listed as additionally insured.

Contact information for State and County Film Offices:

Donne Dawson | State Film Commissioner | State of Hawaii Film Office
Mailing address:
P.O. Box 2359
Honolulu, Hawaii 96804
Shipping address:
250 South Hotel Street, Suite 510-A
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
Tel: (808) 586-2570
Fax: (808) 586-2572

Walea Constantinau | HONOLULU Film Office (Oahu)
530 South King Street, Room 306
Honolulu, HI 96813
Tel: (808) 768-6108
Fax: (808) 768-6102

Art Umezu | KAUAI Film Commission
4444 Rice Street, Suite 200
Lihue, HI 96766
Tel: (808) 241-4948
Fax: (808) 241-6399

T. Ilihia Gionson | BIG ISLAND Film Office
25 Aupuni Street, Suite 1301
Hilo, HI 96720
Tel: (808) 961-8366
Fax: (808) 935-1205
Email: film@bigisland.com

Tracy Bennett | MAUI Film Office (Maui, Molokai, Lanai)
One Main Plaza
2200 Main Street Suite 305
Wailuku, HI. 96793
Tel: (808) 270-8237
Fax: (808) 270-7995