Acquiring Aerial Permits for filming in Nepal
Nepal is one of the beautiful, savory, and delightful places for any cinema lovers and fanatics; to hit the road, turn the dial on, and backpack across the terrains for filming. There has been a time when Nepal was one of the premiers, lauded, and beloved locations for filming. Thanks to the grandeur location, majestic beauty, panoramic landscape, and cavalcades of people showing the beauty of their cultures, traditions, and rituals, Nepal is heralded as a premier destination. Moreover, the country is blessed with free, bountiful, and motivating gifts bestowed by nature; in all its glory.
For any film fanatics, lovers, and makers; this country has provided a plethora of beautiful mountains, chilling coldness of the hills, artistic temples, crafty monasteries, thrill of navigating through the mountain trails and guerilla trails, all during the course of hiking- trekking. Through the years, various films have been filmed here in Nepal such as Everest, Baby, Hare Ram Hare Krishna, Mahaan, Khuda Gawaah, Golden Child, Baraka, etc.
If you are planning or wanting to know about filming in Nepal and acquiring aerial permits, there is quite a process to follow through.
Before filing for the application for the filming permit in Nepal (including aerial permits); one needs to consider budget, shooting location, personnel on board, liaison with various stakeholders in Nepal, production and logistical requirements. The Film Company or makers should fill out forms and submit various documents to acquire permits here in Nepal. This post will attempt to clear the step-by-step method of acquiring an aerial permit for filming in Nepal.
Before finalizing and going ahead with filming in Nepal; you need to secure express permission from Government authority for the same. The permission can be obtained in the forms of i. One-Time Filming permit and ii. Permits from related bodies under the government (Heritage body, Aviation body, etc.) One-Time Filming Permit you to grant you access and opportunity to rifle through and officially film in Nepal; after fulfilling certain criteria and set protocols.
As per the sources, to acquire film permits, one must shell out approx. 150 USD (or equivalent amount of Nrs. 15000). While permit charges from other bodies are dependent upon their policies, regulatory frameworks, purpose, and organizational charters.
The permits for national filmmakers and international makers are contingent upon location, budget, production modality (Film, Documentary, music,) and other factors. Whether the team has professional and\ or amateur cinematographers; a permit is always essential to stave off any conflicts, trouble, and discomforting situations. The permit is valid for one year whereas, the licensing stays valid up to three years, from the date of issuance.
Regarding aerial permits; you also need to get clearance permits from the local security agencies; proving the express purpose of filming, details of the involved stakeholders (producer, director, actor, cinematographer, etc.), proposed filming schedule (time-frame). Synopsis and nature of scenes requiring aerial shots, and what exactly the company \ individual want to capture in the frames.
As aerial permits are deemed sensitive and security-conscious aspect; there is a requirement to seek official aerial permits from four major agencies: – Ministry of Information & Communication, the Home Ministry, the Defense Ministry, and the Aviation Body (CAAN).
Though the application and reception of such permits were convenient and much faster in the earlier time, it is much complex and scrutinizing now. Thanks to the illegal and often devalued aerial shots and footage in the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquake; Nepal Government set the mechanism to strictly control, record, and regulate such permits.
The time frame to receive final and official permits can be placed between 2-weeks to 2-weeks; depending on the pace, investigation, and approval of the submitted documents. In the application documents; it is imperative to disclose the following details:-
- Name of the Applicant
- Home Address
- Passport and Citizenship Information
- Involved Company and associated details
- Details of the film, its cast, and crew (including proof and details of their nationality and passports; Nepalese need to furnish exact number and Citizenship details)
- Local Coordinators (Firm, Group, organization) in Nepal
- Specification of the scenes requiring aerial shots and nature (aerial shots of mountains, landscape, temples and religious places, etc.)
- Equipment on hands (DSLR camera or red\ 4K camera, lenses, camera mounts, drones, etc.) with serial numbers
- Singed, verified consent\ authorization letters for filming from various agencies and stakeholders (National Park, Nepal Tourism Board, Ministry, Department) – contingent upon where filming is scheduled
- Licensing for Drone piloting
- Any other additional letters (as and when required)
The cost for aerial permits also differs based on location, film modality (scene, documentary, and film), involved agency, government protocols, and production aspects. For example, the permit charge might be scaled up to USD 600. The Film Company is assigned a specific liaison officer from a particular ministry; with wages ranging between USD 80 to 200. Especially, there is a requirement for licensing of both Drone equipment and personnel using the technology to pilot the drones; for filming purposes.
Regarding liaison officer; it will be convenient, safer, and ergonomic to collaborate with the registered fixers: – Film Production Company (for foreign aspirants), and \ or networking with experienced individuals, firms for those makers from Nepal. Apart from wage negotiation; they will come in handy to provide a safer, faster, and budget-friendly approach to aerial permits.
They will also help coordinate other permits (as and when required), brief and debrief regulations including Dos and Don’ts of aerial filming or cinematography. For instance, it is extremely difficult to get permission to shoot in sensitive, restrictive zones such as Military camps, army Barracks, and Airport areas (including Tribhuvan International Airport).
Generally, the Department of Tourism, Ministry of Home Affairs, and Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), as well as various line ministries \ departments, provides aerial permits; for valid filming purposes. CAAN dictates that no permit is required for those using drones weighing less than 2 kg and flying 200 below feet ground level; for the expressed purpose of research, study, and tourism. But, it is advised to pre-inform nearby security offices (police stations) of drone usage in the areas.
However; an official permit from CAAN is required to fly off a drone weighing more than 2 kg and flying above 200-400 feet above the ground level. Drone usage is restricted to fly above 120 meters (394 feet); and further than 500 meters (1,640 feet). Also; special care is needed to ensure that drone doesn’t fly over or within 150 meters (492 feet) of any congested area, and assembly o more than 1000 individuals. While, the military areas, sensitive International border points, airport zone, and highly sensitive areas are off-permit for drone usage and any aerial filming, in most cases.
Apart from requiring the drone flyers\ makers to be responsible for any injury sustained due to drone usage for aerial filming; the CAAN requires formal registration of drone (type, brand, model, usability purpose), payload, and Unique Identification Number (UIN) of the device. For aerial permits, some of the documents required are:-
- Citizenship and Passport details
- Company details
- Device\ Equipment\ Drone details (including info on make, model, and manual as well)
- UAV \ drone pilot license
Clarifying about the aerial permit acquisition process; there is a need for patience, perseverance, and calm demeanor in handling the representative from Government and other bodies; as it is often a tedious and dragging task; requiring more time, money, and effort. Be advised that indulging in aerial filming sans permits will incur imprisonment, penalty, and seizure of the equipment used in the process. Also; the most significant pre-permit essentiality is to insure the filming and droning equipment; for protection and insurance claiming.
Similarly, the flying drone is prohibited in Maitighar Mandala, Swoyambhunath, Pashupatinath, Bouddhanath, Budhanilkantha, Durbar Square areas (Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan), religious and archaeological areas, Singha Durbar area, within their aerial radius distance and residence of the president, vice-president and prime minister, around 1,000 meters of the office of Nepali Army and 500 meters of other security agencies.
The violation of safe permitted usage of drones and any aerial filming equipment might lead up to criminal indictment under the Civil Aviation Authority Act, 1996 and the Electronic Transactions Act, 2008.
To request an aerial permit; foreign companies need to appoint the fixer\ representative working and registered inside Nepal. Ministry of Information and Communication has the final authority over the permit; so there is a need to furnish evidence and documents for permits; as per the legal requirements. The pre-drafted signed approval from other government bodies; help in the process such as Department of Archeology permits for filming in the World Heritage Sites locations.
Dayaram Dahal and Bikas Rauniar, filmmakers, mention the requirements of the following documents to acquire the permits:-
- Appointment Letter of local representative(Film Company based in Nepal)
- Consent letter from local bodies and agencies to Ministry of Information and Communication
- Application Form filled and stamped with NRs. 50 stamps
- Synopsis and details of the project
- Details of Cast, Crew, and Equipment
- Exact working schedule
- Accommodation and Stay details and Approvals from other bodies, local organizations
After the permit is licensed; Liaison Officer from the Government bureaus precedes, observes, and monitors the filming activities; and assures that the project doesn’t interfere, affect and impede the environment and local communities. In case of breach and any such problems are observed; the Officer has the authority to cancel\ suspend the entire operation.
The Film Company is liable for bearing the cost of accommodation, flooding, safety, travel, and insurance (up to NRs. 300,000 minimum); and upon injury or untoward incident with him\her, compensation of NRs. 200,000 is required. Necessary clothing, medical facilities, and insurance are required for the officer; in case of filming in harsh regions such as mountains. Further; it is extremely important that filming be carried out in his\her presence.
Foreign filmmakers require additional permits and written, stamped approval from Nepal Embassy for the public screening and shooting; needing payment of around NRs. 150,000.
Regarding UAV\ Drone usage for filming purposes; the following Documents must be mandatorily filed with the Ministry of Information and Communication (MOIC):
- Express filming permit
- Approval letters from MOIC, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation
- Approved permits from Defense Ministry, Home Ministry, other ministries, and concerned departments
- Details of the pilot, licensing, and experience
- Map of exact flight area and reach
- Commitment letters
- Itinerary and Proposed Schedule
In case of any changes or modifications in the plan, it is essential to seek new permits from the CDO office. And, aerial filming is granted for limited window time; so as not to meddle with the aviation zone. It is to be noted that CAAN doesn’t go ahead with the permit application; if prior approval certification of any author bodies is missing.
The recent Government directive post-2015 have added following criteria for drone operation; that also applies to aerial permit:
- Aerial shoot and drone flight not allowed within 1000 meters of sensitive areas
- Drone and aerial cameras discouraged above the sites of historical and archaeological concerns
- UAV’s horizontal distance is limited up to 300 m. from the operator
- The vertical limit is set at around 100 m.
- The average flight duration is only 15 minutes
Aside from this information, it is integral for the filmmakers with regards to shooting and exposure of subjects, areas, places within the framework as proposed in the National Film Policy and regulations.
Collaboration with the National Film Board will prove much beneficial for the filming process; to complete the task; within the stipulated time frame. Another necessity for partnership and appointment of Nepal-based Company for foreign filmmakers is to complete the entire documentation process in NEPALI language.
Also, the droning permit is complex; to avoid the misuse and exploitation of the technology for purposes; other than filming, shooting some movie, documentary, reel footages. Also, apparent exploitation and misrepresentation of drone footages during the 2015 Nepal earthquake propelled the Government to strictly process, analyze and officially approve such requests for aerial filming.
Mr. Ashim is the co-founder of Filming Himalaya. He has worked with international companies like Discovery, National Geographic, and BBC. He also worked in the featured films like Up in the Wind and Everest (2015).