ORLANDO, Fla. — Believe it or not, great sci-fi epics like “Armageddon,” “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2″ and “Tomorrowland” have something in common with cult hits like “Sharknado 3,” non-fiction movies like “Apollo 13” and “First Man” and even reality TV shows like “Cake Boss.” and “Lifetime Celebrity Bucket List.” They all filmed at the Kennedy Space Center.
Although there are many incredible natural sites and state-of-the-art technical facilities in the Sunshine State that make it an attractive location for filmmakers, one of Florida’s most filmed locations is on the Space Coast, with 80 major filmed movies and TV shows. at the Kennedy Space Center since the 1960s according to IMDB.
Most locations in the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex can be filmed, including parts of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), the Vintage Rocket Garden, the Apollo/Saturn V Center, the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and even the whole thing new Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex attraction, which opened earlier this year.
Predictably, filmmakers wishing to shoot in this highly sought-after location must go through a thorough application process with the NASA team 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 of the communications office at Kennedy Space Center, explains that the process begins with the script.
“When a movie wants to shoot at a NASA facility, they submit a script to NASA Headquarters for review and verification,” Griffin said. This is a process that can take several weeks depending on the official filming request site. Production crew and broadcast details will also need to be submitted with an initial request for approval before cameras can start rolling.
Once a project is greenlit, Kennedy Space Center staff work with the production company to ensure filmmakers have access to the correct locations, archival footage and technical information prior to filming. Schedules are also negotiated so that film crews are out of sight of guests on busy days like weekends, event days and holidays. When the cameras start rolling, staff can also help on location with scouting, security and escort teams and actors.
NASA employees can even sometimes act as extras in certain projects, although Griffin clarified that they must do so outside of working hours.
As for the cost of all this support, Griffin said production companies foot the bill for their own expenses, just as they would on any other set: “NASA is implementing an agreement with the partner of production to be reimbursed for any costs that may be incurred – so that taxpayers are not responsible for film productions.
NASA also has specific requirements for the types of projects that can film at Kennedy Space Center. Due to the volume of filming requests the center receives, pilot shows, special projects, and student filming requests are generally not approved. Additionally, NASA logos and signage may not be used for any purpose without explicit permission.
Unfortunately for those hoping to catch a quick glimpse of the next blockbuster movie the next time they visit Kennedy Space Center, the sets are still closed to visitors and showtimes aren’t made public in advance. However, space fans can follow the latest happenings at Kennedy Space Center (which sometimes include events based on movies) at kennedyspacecenter.com and on Twitter at @NASAKennedy.