Kennedy Space Center: Florida’s surprising filmmaking destination
ORLANDO, Fla. — Believe it or not, big sci-fi epics like “Armageddon,” “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2″ and “Tomorrowland,” have something in common with cult hits like “Sharknado 3,” nonfiction movies like “Apollo 13″ and “First Man” and even reality TV shows like “Cake Boss” and “Lifetime Celebrity Bucket List.” They’ve all filmed at the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island.
While there are plenty of amazing natural locations and cutting-edge technical facilities in the Sunshine State that make it an attractive place for filmmakers, one of the most-filmed places in Florida is on the Space Coast, with 80 major films and TV shows shot at the Kennedy Space Center since the 1960s according to IMDB.
Most locations at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex are able to be filmed, including parts of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), the vintage rocket garden, Apollo/Saturn V Center, Space Shuttle Atlantis and even the brand-new Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex attraction, which opened earlier this year.
As might be expected, filmmakers wanting to shoot at this highly sought-after location must go through an extensive application procedure with the team at NASA to ensure that not only is the project a good fit for the facility but that the filmmakers are also able to get the shots they need.
Amanda Griffin, deputy chief for the communication office at Kennedy Space Center, says the process begins with the script.
“When a movie wants to film at a NASA center, they submit a script to NASA headquarters for review and vetting,” Griffin said.
It’s a process that can take several weeks according to the official filming request website. Production crew and broadcast details will also need to be submitted along with an initial application for approval before cameras can start rolling.
Once a project has received the green light, staff at Kennedy Space Center work with the production company to make sure filmmakers have access to the right locations, archival footage and technical information prior to the shoot. Scheduling is also negotiated so that filmmaking crews are out of view of guests on busy days like weekends, event days and holidays. When the cameras start rolling, staff can also assist on-site with scouting, security and escorting crews and cast.
NASA employees can even sometimes perform as extras in certain projects, though Griffin clarified that they have to do that outside of their work hours.
As far as the cost for all of this support, Griffin said that production companies foot the bill for their own expenses, just as they would be on any other set: “NASA implements an agreement with the production partner to get reimbursed for any costs that might be incurred — so taxpayers aren’t on the hook for movie productions.”
NASA also has some specific requirements for the types of projects that can film at the Kennedy Space Center. Due to the volume of filming requests the center receives, pilot shows, spec projects and student filming requests are not generally approved. In addition, NASA logos and signage may not be used for any purpose without explicit permission.
Unfortunately for those hoping to catch an early glimpse of the next blockbuster film on their next visit to the Kennedy Space Center, sets are always closed to visiting guests and schedules are not made public ahead of time. However, space fans can keep up with the latest happenings at Kennedy Space Center (which sometimes include film-based events) at kennedyspacecenter.com and on Twitter at @NASAKennedy.