Video and Digital Producer’s Guide to Shooting in Washington, DC
Everything you ever wanted to know about shooting video in D.C.
David DiFalco – Cameraman – Washington, D.C. – Go To Team
Prior to arriving in a new city, every producer needs the lay of the land. This guide explores everything about Washington, D.C. that producers need to know.
Nicknames: The Capital, The American Rome
Industries: Federal Government, Education, Tourism
Washington D.C. is a city with a lot to offer. Along with housing the current President of the United States, D.C. is home to museums, art, cuisine, and a rich history. Named after George Washington and Christopher Columbus, this city averages 19 million tourists a year. With that many people visiting, D.C. has to have a lot to do!
Also known as America’s Front Yard, National Mall houses some of the most iconic monuments in the country. Lincoln Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, the Washington Monument, and the Capitol Building are just some of the most popular attractions in National Mall.
There are also tons of interesting museums in D.C. along with the Library of Congress which is the largest library in the world with over 162 million pieces in the collection. The Smithsonian Museum, Museum of Natural History, and the National Air and Space Museum each offer unique and intriguing exhibits that attract a lot of visitors.
Every year, more than 1.5 million people come from all over to see the Annual Cherry Blossom Festival. Beautiful pink blossoms are the main attraction but parades, booths, and other events make it a hit every year. Signifying friendship and the exchange of gifts with Japan over the years, the festival is a beautiful testament to the city’s history.
Take a tour of the White House, visit museums, and eat great food influenced by a variety of cultures and innovations. Washington D.C. is a great city with something for everyone.
Want to catch a game while in the city? Check out their NFL team the Washington Redskins, their NBA team the Washington Wizards, their MLB team the Washington Nationals, their NHL team Washington Capitals or their MLS team the D.C. United.
Once you’ve decided to shoot in D.C. there’s plenty you should know:
Where to Stay
Washington D.C. has a wide variety of hotel options so no matter if you need a gym or pool, or to be in the vicinity of the subway, there’s a hotel for you. Upscale hotels like AKA White House or the Sofitel overlooking National Mall have the appeal of location in the heart of downtown but run on the expensive side. There are more affordable options such as Hilton Garden Inns and Hampton Inns located all over the city, and still in great locations. The good thing about D.C. hotels is that it’s easy to travel the city by subway no matter where you stay. If you wanted to be near the Washington Dulles International Airport, some hotel options include Sheraton Herndon Dulles Airport Hotel, Staybridge Suites, and the Hyatt Place. Most hotels near the airport offer shuttle services to the airport as well.
Locations and Drive Times
Depending on the vibe you are looking to stay in, D.C. offers various neighborhoods catering to various lifestyles. The Anacostia neighborhood is historic and on the water, Capitol Hill is stately and walkable, Columbia Heights is up-and-coming and artsy, and Georgetown is historic and upscale. If none of these appeal to you, there’s also Eckington, Foggy Bottom, Glover Park, Dupont Circle, Cathedral Heights, and many others. Most of the neighborhoods are easy to access by Metro (except Georgetown) or within 20-30 minutes driving from downtown. Trips from Downtown to the airport normally take 20-30 minutes via the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Expect to add around 20 additional minutes when coming from the farther neighborhoods and don’t forget to account for traffic.
D.C. is unfortunately known for its traffic, especially during rush hour. During busy commute hours, it’s entirely possible you could be stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. Uber or a cab can relieve the problem of parking, but still leaves the possibility of getting stuck in traffic. If you have a car be prepared for traffic and give yourself extra time to get where you need. Luckily, if you don’t have to deal with a car, the Metro system is one of the best in the country! Easy to navigate, extensive stations, and affordable, the metro is probably your best bet for navigating the city quickly. It can also get pretty packed during rush hour though, so leave yourself some extra time in case you can’t get in a car or the train gets delayed. If you happen to be heading to one of the few areas the Metro doesn’t stop at, you could try the D.C. Circulator Bus which has 5 lines that hit most of the spots the Metro misses. If you plan on just staying near the major attractions, the Hop On Hop Off Tour buses might be all you need. The lesson of this city is, leave yourself time and you’ll be ok!
The best times to visit Washington D.C. are from September-November and March-May. The Fall and Spring months don’t have the threat of snow or cold winds like Winter, or the heat and humidity of Summer. Fall is beautiful in D.C. and the changing leaves provide a gorgeous background for the historic buildings. Temperatures for Fall and Spring range around 50-75 degrees, while Summer averages around 82. Winter months can be cold and snow isn’t uncommon. We’d recommend you bring a rain jacket though as D.C. gets more annual rainfall than Seattle! For the current weather forecast in D.C., click HERE.
Crews across the country have a set of guidelines by which they conduct business. And as different as each city is from another, so are those guidelines. Every producer should have a basic understanding of each city’s standards. Shoots in DC are based on a ten hour day and the crew is on the clock at the specified crew call. Overtime at a rate of time and a half begins after ten hours. If your shoot takes the crew to a distant location, travel time can be expected. A distant location is any location outside a circle with a 30-mile radius drawn around the city. But all of these are just guidelines; certainly, verify with your crew their specific policies.
Chamber of Commerce/ Visitors Bureau
If you have any other questions about D.C., you could also contact the Chamber of Commerce or the official visitors’ company Destination D.C.
Chamber of Commerce
1133 21st St NW Suite M200
Washington, DC 20036
901 7th St NW #400
Washington, DC 20001
Booking the Right Crew
But even with the perfect location, the best-laid plans, and great weather, so much depends on the right crew. Booking the right crew means finding a crew that not only gets the job done, but does whatever it takes to ensure you have the best shoot. Are you conducting a series of interviews that require dramatic lighting? Are you going to be “run and run” around the city? Is your shoot going to require any specific equipment? Finding a crew that can handle every one of your needs is just as important as lining up all of the interviews and creating your shot list.
For more information on booking your video crew, reference: “Everything you ever wanted to know about booking a video crew.”
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