“The service…shall promote and regulate the use of…national parks…[its] purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” (16 U.S.C. 1)
It is the policy of the National Park Service (NPS) to allow filming and photography when and where possible, while adhering to this mandate. Therefore, when reviewing filming applications, the primary concerns of the NPS are potential impacts to park resources and disruption of visitor use.
Death Valley National Park is recognized worldwide as an area set aside and administered with preservation at the core. In order to preserve and protect resources and to assure the enjoyment of those resources by the public, the following guidelines are established by the superintendent of Death Valley National Park as they relate to filming and photographic activities within the park boundaries.
Generally, permits are not required for:
- Visitors using cameras and/or recording devices for their own personal use.
- Sound technicians, and film or video crews at breaking news events. In these cases, the superintendent will still be required to protect park resources and the rights and safety of park visitors. News media wishing access for entertainment or scheduled purposes may require a permit.
- NPS filming or photography, Department of the Interior Audiovisual Center filming or filming/photography done pursuant to a cooperative agreement or contract.
A request for a filming or photography permit may be denied if:
- In the opinion of the superintendent or his/her designee, the filming activity requested represents a potential for harm or impact on the park’s natural, cultural, wilderness or recreational resources, may create health or safety risks, or disrupt visitor use and enjoyment;
- It is determined that supervisory requirements for the proposed project will place unreasonable burdens on park staff, regardless of the applicant’s willingness to pay supervisory costs
- The permittee fails to obtain insurance/bonding, or does not agree to pay assessed cost recovery
- The proposed filming or photography would conflict with the visitor’s normal use of the park
- The request includes entry into areas closed to the general visiting public, or which would allow activities not permitted to the average visitor.
Filming/photography Permits are issued for photography, filming, and associated sound recording to ensure protection of resources, to prevent significant disruption of normal visitor uses, or when they involve props, models, professional crews and casts or set dressings. Permits are required for access to areas normally closed to the visiting public. Conditions for filming in Death Valley National Park are available here.
It is highly recommended that any potential permittee schedule a pre-shoot scouting trip to the park. Scouting assistance may be requested of the Special Park Uses Coordinator, subject to availability, however, additional charges may apply to scouting assistance (see Costs listed below). Photographs of some previously permitted locations are available here. Potential permittee's should be aware that over 95% of Death Valley National Park is a federally designated Wilderness, which is even more restrictive than National Park designation. For example, there is NO commercial filming within designated Wilderness areas--generally 200 feet from the centerline of a paved road and 50 feet from the centerline of an unpaved road. All filming must occur within the non-wilderness corridor.
All filming locations must be identified at least two weeks before arrival since locations are listed specifically on the permit and are subject to availability. The completed permit will detail all of the activities, equipment, props and locations to be authorized. Any items not specified in the permit will not be allowed. Filming may not begin within the park until all conditions of the permit have been agreed to by the permittee and approved by the superintendent.
To apply for a permit
Complete a filming application form and submit it to the Special Park Uses Coordinator allowing sufficient time for evaluation by the park staff before the start date of the proposed activity (normally 30-60 days)
Include a check, money order, or online credit card payment (email the Special Park Uses Coordinator for a permit number to pay by credit card) for $210.00 to cover non-refundable application costs.
- Attach maps, diagrams, script pages, or storyboards to assist the park staff in evaluating your request. (Since the National Park Service cannot censor content, submission of script and storyboards is voluntary.)
- Be thorough in listing equipment, props, and locations! Once your permit is completed nothing can be added or changed. It is better to request something you don't need than to need something that is not in your pemit.
- General liability insurance certificate in the amount of $1,000,000US listing the United States as additional insured
- Any filming/photography along State Highway 190 also requires a state filming permit, CalTrans permit, and/or CHP officers for traffic control. No filming will be allowed along Hwy 190 if not arranged in advance with the California Film Commission. Their website is http://www.film.ca.gov/
- For filming in or along the roadway, intermittent traffic control (ITC) must be provided by certified ITC staff. A park approved professionally developed traffic control plan must be on file with the Office of Special Park Uses prior to photography.
- If there is no contact from an applicant for 30 days after the application is submitted, the file will be closed. Any future contact with that applicant will require initiating the process from the beginning.
Due to the volume of filming requests received by Death Valley National Park, applications are handled in the order they are received. Priority will not be given to URGENT requests. Application processing takes 30-60 days - please plan accordingly!
All costs of evaluating the request will be billed to the applicant, whether a permit is issued or not. In compliance with the requirements of the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, the applicant must submit their social security number or Federal tax ID number when filling out the application for permit. Applications will not be processed if submitted incomplete or are received without payment.
All costs incurred by the park in conjunction with the permitted filming activity will be reimbursed by the permittee. A cost estimate will be calculated and provided once the Special Park Uses Coordinator has received all applicable information. In addition to the costs below, the permittee will be required to submit a certificate of general liability insurance in the amount of $1,000,000 US listing the United States as additional insured.
The filming program fee schedule is as follows:
- $210 non-refundable application fee must accompany each filming application. This fee is based on an average of two hours to provide initial review of an application. Since some projects require more than two hours of consideration this application fee is an average cost for the initial time involved in reviewing a project. The fee includes time spent answering initial inquiries, initial review of an application, and basic technical consultation. This fee also includes, but is not limited to, processing fees, permit development, consultations with the permittee, managerial and/or technical consultations and billing.
- A deposit of 1/2 of the estimated cost recovery fees will be due at the time the permit is fully-executed.
- Hourly Fee is approximately $35 per hour. This rate applies to specific employee salary, primarily under the following conditions:
Monitoring - Filming activities authorized by permit may require continuous, on-site supervision by the NPS to assure full compliance with all conditions of the permit. Monitoring will be charged at the billing rate of each individual monitor per hour per monitor with a minimum of two hours per monitor, per day. The level and type of monitoring supervision will be determined by the scope and complexity of the filming activity.
Interviews - all interviews and filming or photographing of NPS staff members will be assessed at the specific employee’s hourly rate.
Scouting - if a permittee requests a scouting trip with or by the Special Park Uses Coordinator, staff time will be assessed at a rate of approximately $30 per hour.
Extended Administrative Time - any filming activity that is particularly complex is subject to the hourly fee of approximately $30 per hour. This fee covers additional administrative time needed beyond the maximum two hours covered by the $210 application and administrative fee. This rate does not preclude any of the other fees and is applied per hour, per staff member.
1 - 10 people $150/day
11 - 30 people $250/day
31 - 49 people $500/day
Over 50 people $750/day
Commercial Still Photography
1-10 People / $50 per day
11-30 People / $150 per day
Over 30 People / $250 per day