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.


Permit Requirements

Permit Required
Permits are required for any project that generates an electronic media, film or video production for television, the motion picture industry, public interest or private multi-media which consists of production crews and vehicles, broadcast equipment, props/sets, talents/actors, construction, trailers, housing, animals, or aircraft.

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:

  • Visitors using cameras and/or recording devices for their own personal use and enjoyment. Commercial still photography may also be exempt, unless it involves product or service advertisement; or the use of models, sets, or props; or when proposed photographic activities indicate potential for resource damage or undue disruption of visitor activities. A permit is required if using a still camera with video capabilities to capture motion picture footage for commercial purposes.
  • News media crews filming breaking news (an event that cannot be covered at any other time or location) but are subject to the same restrictions and conditions necessary to protect park resources and public health and safety, and to prevent derogation of park resources and values. Photographers of breaking news are also exempt from the permit requirements, if no advertising, and no set, props, or models are used and there is no derogation of park values or disruption of park visitors. (Refer to the Superintendent’s Guide to Public Affairs for more information regarding news media.)
  • NPS filming or photography, Department of the Interior Audiovisual Center filming or filming/photography done pursuant to a cooperative agreement or contract.

Filming Application

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
To apply for a permit, please fill out the outline application and either fax to (304) 535-6061, email, or mail the completed application along with the $50.00 non-refundable application fee to:
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Attn: Permit Office (Filming)
P.O. Box 65
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425

Keep in mind:

  • All applications for Commercial Filming permits must be received at least two weeks in advance of requested date. For more extensive filming, permit applications must be received at least 4 weeks in advance. No exceptions.
  • Applications are handled in the order in which they are received. Priority will not be given to urgent requests.
  • Please note that all requests to film the interior of historic buildings must have meaningful and accurate association with the historic resource or contribute to the public understanding and appreciation of the historic resource. Due to the high potential for resource damage the park is very selective on these requests.
  • You will not be permitted to arrive and then select locations on the day of shooting.
  • Commercial filming is not permitted within park buildings during regular business hours.
  • It is prohibited to charge an admission fee to participate in a commercial filming or still photography activity.
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 from 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 to agree to pay assessed cost recovery;
  • the proposed filming or photography would conflict with visitors’ 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 public.


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.

Location Fees
Commercial filming and still photography permits are subject to the following location fee schedule:

Motion Picture/Videos
1-2 people,
camera and tripod
1-10 people $150.00/day
11-30 people $250.00/day
31-49 people $500.00/day
Over 49 people $750.00/day

Still Photography
1-10 people $50.00/day
11-30 people $150.00/day
Over 30 people $250.00/day


Insurance Requirements

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.


Performance Bonds

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.


Pre-Permit Conference/Scouting

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.


Permittee Responsibilities

Sharing the Park
A filming or photography permit does not allow the permittee to restrict park visitors from any location; therefore sites which attract a large number of visitors should be avoided.Normal visitor use patterns will not be interrupted for longer than five minutes, and only as specified in the approved permit. Film/photography permit activities may not occur simultaneously with other permitted activities or unduly conflict scheduled public activities. Visitors will be allowed to watch filming.

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.


Prohibited Activities

Prohibited Activities
Activities having the potential to damage or significantly impact or alter park resources are prohibited. The following are also prohibited: 1) altering, damaging or removing vegetation, 2) vehicle use off established roads and parking areas, 3) use of insecticides, herbicides and pesticides, 4) loud noises (60 decibels or higher) between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., 5) smoking, eating or drinking in buildings, or in vegetated areas, 6) use of fragile vegetation areas, except on trails or already disturbed areas (as determined by NPS), 7) flying aircraft below FAA recommended minimum altitude (usually 2,00 feet) or landing of aircraft except at designated landing sites 8) writing on or discoloring any natural feature or structur. 9) no nails, screws, holes, adhesives, etc. may be applied to any structure or finishes. 10) no digging or disturbing soils without park Archeologists/106 Compliance Coordinator’s authorization and inspection. 11) use of any device or prop that utilizes an open flame, unless pre-authorized by park. 12) weapons firing without park clearance. 13) idling of vehicles in the Lower Town. 14) generators, wire cables, or any electrical equipment connections, whether connected to park resources or generators unless inspected by park electrician.

Restrictions and Conditions
There will be enumerated in the permit. The following activities are restricted and must be approved on a case by case basis: 1) use of children or animals, 2) discharge of blank ammunition and all black powder weapons, 3) mechanical or pyrotechnic special effects, 4) stunts, 5) amplified music or sound, 6) placing of large set dressings, 7) filming photography inside interiors of government administrative work areas, 8) film equipment or activities on roadways, 9) access to closed areas or access to areas during non-visitor use hours. The permit will specify the number of people and the exact types of equipment allowed. Activities not specified in the permit will not be allowed by the NPS monitor on duty.

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.

Permit activities may be restricted based on weather or seasonal conditions (fire danger, standing water after rain, nesting season, etc.). Additional closures, use limits and/or restricted activities are listed in the superintendent’s Compendium.


On-Camera Appearances by Employees

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.


Permit Termination

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

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
PO Box 65

Harpers Ferry, WV 25425


(304) 535-6029

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