Overview | Permit Requirements | Filming Application | Costs | Insurance Requirements | Performance Bonds | Pre-Permit Conference/Scouting | Permittee Responsibilities | Prohibited Activities | On-Camera Appearances by Employees | Permit Termination
Filming/Photography Information Sheet
“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 there in and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” (16 U.S.C. 1)
Under the guidance of RM-53, all NPS units have direct authority and responsibility to manage, permit and/or deny filming, photography and sound recordings in ways consistent with park management and missions. For this reason, you may find Harpers Ferry’s guidelines and the way in which permits are managed different from other parks—all parks have different resources and, hence, different concerns. While Harpers Ferry offers a vast range of unparalleled film and photographic opportunities, these activities are subject to certain restrictions and considerations and require close supervision in the interest of protecting the park’s rare and delicate resources, while ensuring visitor experiences are not impacted.
It is the policy of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to allow filming and photography when and where possible, while adhering to this mandate. Therefore primary consideration will be given to potential resource damage and to anticipated disruption of normal public use.
The following guidelines are established by the superintendent of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park as they relate to filming and photographic activities within the park.
Documentaries filmed specifically for sale to a news station or educational channel are considered a commercial venture and require a permit. News media crews not covering newsworthy/news making events, but shooting human interest, staged events, or other topics are required to obtain a permit before proceeding with filming.
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.
Possible Permit Exemptions:
To apply for a permit, complete the Filming Application in full detail and submit it to the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Permit Office allowing sufficient time for evaluation by the park staff before the start date for your activity in the park. Please remember to enclose your check or money order for $50.00 to cover non-refundable application costs. Your request will be evaluated on the basis of the information in your application. Therefore, you are encouraged to attach maps, diagrams, script pages or storyboards to assist the park staff in evaluating your request. (Since NPS cannot censor content, submission or script and story-boards are voluntary.)
All projects will be reviewed to ensure protection of the park’s resources and values, and that no disruption of normal visitor use will occur. A permit within areas administered by the NPS may be denied or revoked if the project: 1) creates a threat to the park resources; 2) places unreasonable burdens on the monitoring capacity of park staff; 3) would conflict unduly with the public’s normal use of the park: 4) the Permittee does not agree to pay project estimates; 5) the project depicts activities that are not permitted within the park; 6) the application does not contain sufficient information on which to base a permit. In addition, a permit may be revoked if the Permittee fails to comply with the permit and/or conditions as written.
Most requests can be processed within ____ business days. Requests which involve multiple locations, complex logistics or coordination with other visitor activities will require a minimum of __30__ business days to process. Projects which require environmental or cultural resource evaluation must be submitted not less than __60__ days before the start of proposed activities.
All costs of evaluating the request will be billed to the applicant, whether a permit is issued or not, In compliance with the requirement of the Debt Collection Act of 1996, the applicant must submit their social security number of Federal Tax ID number when filling out the application for permit.
How to Apply
Keep in mind:
Since Harpers Ferry’s costs are based on the services we provide, we do not differentiate between profit and non-profit documentary projects.
A $50.00 non-refundable administrative processing charge is required for all applicants and must be received before a permit will be considered, regardless of whether or not a permit is ultimately issued. This charge covers the administrative time which includes, but is not limited to, review of the application and associated materials, research done by and consultations with park staff, technical review of treatments and scripts, permit processing and billing. Additional charges will be incurred if the permit process from start to finish requires a longer administrative processing time. This payment must accompany the application, and be made payable to the NATIONAL PARK SERVICE. Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover Cards are also accepted.
Costs incurred by NPS in conjunction with accommodating the permitted activity will be reimbursed by the permittee. Administrative costs and estimated costs for activities on sites will be calculated and must be paid when the permit is approved. The permittee will be advised of any fees that are due prior to receiving a permit. If any additional costs are incurred, the permittee will be billed at the conclusion of the permit.
The applicant or permitee is required to notify the NPS of any delays or schedule changes at least 36 hours in advance, or as agreed to by the superintendent. Should the applicant or permittee fail to provide such advance notification, the applicant or permittee is responsible for paying all costs incurred by the NPS anytime during the application, permitting, or operational process, including that due cancellation, moving, or rescheduling of the project. Such payment will include but not be limited to a non-refundable charge for each staff person scheduled for the affected activity. Such charge will, at a minimum, be the equivalent of two hours overtime for each employee assigned. These costs may be recovered through the posting of a bond at the time of application, or through a bill for collection presented at any point after initial contact.
General liability insurance must be carried by the permittee showing the U.S. Government, National Park Service, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park address as additionally insured. Short term policies must show coverage on “occurrence” basis. The minimum amount of commercial liability insurance is one million dollars. Additional amounts may be required for high risk activities.
Certain activities may trigger the need for the permittee to post refundable damage bond. The amount of the bond will be equivalent to the estimated cost to NPS for clean up, repair or rehabilitation of resources or facilities that could potentially be impacted by the permit activities. At the conclusion of the permit, the bond will be returned to the permittee after costs of clean up, repair or rehabilitation are deducted. The Superintendent has the option to waive the bond requirement if he or she anticipates that no resource damage will result, or that the activities will not require any cleanup.
All pre-permit conferences and site scouting will be scheduled with the park’s permit coordinator and the potential permittee after the application has been received and reviewed. A visit to all potential filming sites in the park will usually be made at this time. By the end of the meeting, the permit coordinator should have enough information to prepare the permit once the project has been approved. The completed permit will detail the activities and locations to be authorized. Any activities not specified in the permit will not be allowed. No activities on NPS property may begin until the permit has been approved by the park and agreed to by the permittee.
If the Permittee requests NPS assistance such as scouting, providing interviews, etc., the Permittee will be billed $_____/hour per employee.
Sharing the Park
For more complex permit operations, or for activities which require coordination with other visitor use, and for which are perceived to have the potential to impact park resources without proper supervision and care, at least one employee of the Park Service will be assigned to the film/photography crew. The permittee will be responsible for reimbursing the NPS monitoring. These costs will be included in the estimate of site use charges. Any additional costs will be recovered at the conclusion of the permit.
Restrictions and Conditions
Please note that the permit does not include authority to film or photography individuals. Model releases are the responsibility of the permittee.
Harassment of wildlife is prohibited by law. Filming of wildlife is permitted as long as there is NO disturbance, feeding, teasing, or manipulation of resident or free-roaming animals. Wildlife captured elsewhere may NOT be used in any in-park filming, whether trained or not.
On-camera appearances by employees are allowed only under the following conditions: 1) the employee is selected and/or approved by park management and is depicted performing his or her normal duties or serving as a subject matter expert; 2) the employee’s appearance supports NPS goals and has a beneficial effect for the Service; 3) the role is not scripted; 4) the employee is paid by the park as part of his or her regular working hours. The permittee will reimburse the park for this cost, including time necessary for preparing/researching for the appearance as part of cost recovery; 5) if the filming requires overtime or back filling positions, the NPS will be reimbursed for any such additional costs; 6) NPS employees cannot sign talent or location releases supplied by applicants.
All filming or photography permits by the National Park Service are “revocable” on 24 hours notice or WITHOUT NOTICE if the terms of the permit are violated. Deliberate infractions of the terms of the filming permit or the deliberate making of false or misleading statements concerning intended actions in order to obtain a permit are causes for immediate termination of the permit and cause for possible prosecution. Permits will be revoked if damage to resources or facilities is threatened, or if there is a clear danger to public health or safety.
Last updated: August 5, 2015