News & Politics

DC Film Office Says Shutdown Will Keep Out Movie Productions

With some of Washington's most iconic locations off-limits to movie and television crews, the film office says it might have to turn away requests to shoot here.

The far side of Lafayette Park is the closest a movie crew can get to the White House right now. Photograph by Flickr user Matthew Bradley.
The city’s film office said today that the shutdown is limiting DC’s ability to grant film and television production permits. With the Mall and monuments closed off, and other iconic Washington locations like Pennsylvania Ave., NW, subject to federal oversight, the film office has had to warn production companies that want to film here that they might not get their desired shots.
The National Park Service controls the Mall and the monuments, but the film office arranges logistics on the surrounding streets. But with NPS effectively closed for business since last Tuesday, the film office has not been able to cooperate with its federal partners.
Pennsylvania Ave. between 15th and 17th Sts., NW, is also closed to camera crews. With the street in front of the White House unavailable, the film office is offering H St., NW, on the other side of Lafayette Square, but the office admits that’s not a great vantage point.
“There really is no alternate for getting that White House shot,” says film office spokeswoman Leslie Green. The office is also offering a few other backup locations to productions that plan to shoot in Washington during the shutdown. For the Washington Monument, cameras can get as close as Constitution Ave., NW between 14th and 15th Sts. (Madison and Jefferson Drs., which cut through the Mall, are closed because of the shutdown.)
Shots of the Capitol might prove even trickier. The Capitol does not permit non-news commercial cameras on its grounds, with the lone exception of the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial on the West Front. But as an NPS site, it’s closed, too. Instead, the film office will direct crews that want a shot of the Capitol to either just outside Union Station or the median of Pennsylvania Ave., but then only for still photography.
The film office says no major productions have been forced to cancel or postpone. There has been one exception to the shutdown-imposed filming restrictions, though. The Netflix series House of Cards got to film its motorcade scene outside the White House and along the Mall last weekend, but Green says those shoots were arranged with the relevant federal agencies before the shutdown went into effect. In the mean time, television and film companies that want a picturesque shot of Washington are going to have to get creative.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.