Commercial Filming and Photography

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A person and film camera are silhouetted against a rocky cave backdrop
Filming along the Grand Avenue Tour Route inside Mammoth Cave.

NPS Photo

Changes to Commercial Filming Permits on Park Land

On January 22, 2021, the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision in Price v. Barr determining the permit and fee requirements applying to commercial filming under 54 USC 100905, 43 CFR Part 5, and 36 CFR Part 5.5 are unconstitutional. In response to the decision, the National Park Service issued interim guidance on February 22, 2021, to manage filming activities. Under the interim guidance, filming activities may require a permit if they would impact park resources or the visitor experience. The National Park Service intends to update regulations addressing filming activities that are consistent with the outcome of Price v. Barr. Once effective, those regulations will replace and supersede the interim guidance.

Those interested in commercial filming activities at Mammoth Cave National Park should contact the park for more information about filming and to discuss how to minimize potential impacts to visitors and sensitive park resources.

Do I need a permit to film?

Under the interim guidance, the National Park Service is not distinguishing between types of filming, such as commercial, non-commercial, or news gathering. Low-impact filming activities will not require a special use permit, but non-low-impact filming activities may require a permit to address their potential impacts on park resources and visitor activities.

Low-Impact Filming

“Low-impact filming’ is defined as outdoor filming activities in areas open to the public, except areas managed as wilderness, involving five people or less and equipment that will be carried at all times, except for small tripods used to hold cameras. Those participating in low-impact filming activities do not need a permit and are not required to contact the park in advance. If low-impact filmers have questions about areas where they want to film, they should contact the park.

Videographers, filmers, producers, directors, news and other staff associated with filming are reminded that rules and regulations that apply to all park visitors, including park hours and closed areas, still apply to filming activities even if a permit is not required. Check with the park staff for more information on closures, sensitive resources, and other safety tips.

Non-Low-Impact Filming

Filming activities that do not meet the description of low-impact filming require at least ten to twenty one days advance notice to Mammoth Cave National Park by contacting the park directly in writing. The park’s superintendent will determine whether the filming activities will require a special use permit for filming. Based on the information provided, a permit may be required to:

  • maintain public health and safety;
  • protect environmental or scenic values;
  • protect natural or cultural resources;
  • allow for equitable allocation or use of facilities; or
  • avoid conflict among visitor use activities.

Examples of requests that require a permit include, but are not limited to: entering a sensitive natural or cultural resource area, filming in areas that require tickets to enter such as inside a cave, or filming in visitor centers, campgrounds, or other visitor areas. The decision to require a permit rests with the park superintendent based on potential impacts to park resources or the visitor experience.

Contact the park directly if unsure whether or not a filming activity is considered low-impact or may require a permit.

Are filmers still required to pay fees to film in parks?

Under the interim guidance issued on January 22, 2021, the National Park Service is not collecting application or location fees, or cost recovery for filming activities.

 

Still Photography

When is a permit needed?

Price v. Barr had no impact on how the National Park Service regulates still photography, so there are no changes in how the National Park Service regulates that activity. Still photographers require a permit only when:

  • the activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or
  • the activity uses model(s), sets(s), or prop(s) that are not a part of the location's natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities; or
  • a park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity.

How do I apply for a permit?

Applicants should submit a completed application form along with the application fee in as far in advance of your planned date as possible. In addition, please consult with park staff on any requests that are unusual or complex to help them process the submitted application in a timely manner.

What fees will I have to pay?

The National Park Service will collect a cost recovery charge and a location fee for still photography permits. Cost recovery includes an application fee and any additional charges to cover the costs incurred by the National Park Service in processing your request and monitoring your permit. The application fee at Mammoth Cave is $180 and must be submitted with your application.

In addition, the National Park Service has been directed by Congress to collect a fee to provide a fair return to the United States for the use of park lands. The National Park Service uses the following still photography fee schedule:

  • 1–10 people - $50/day
  • 11–30 people - $150/day
  • Over 30 people - $250/day

Are there other permit requirements?

You may be required to obtain liability insurance naming the United States as additionally insured in an amount commensurate with the risk posed to park resources by your proposed activity. You may also be asked to post a bond to ensure the payment of all charges and fees and the restoration of the area if necessary.

 

Restrictions

  • Commercial photography and filming inside park caves, always require a permit and NPS monitor to protect park resources and avoid conflicts with visitor use.
  • Drone use is prohibited without a Special Use Permit.
 

How to Apply

Download and complete the Filming Application-Short Form or Commercial Photography Permit Application form. Send your completed application, any associated documentation, and the $180 non-refundable application fee for Commercial Photography to the park’s Commercial Filming Coordinator. 

Commercial Photography Application [664 KB]
Filming Application - Short Form [661 KB]

All applications must be received 10 days or greater prior to the start date of the proposed activity to be conducted in the park. The non-refundable application fee for commercial photography may be paid by check or money order payable to "National Park Service."

Applications are handled in the order they are received. Priority will not be given to urgent requests nor will the park reply by express mail. Requests which involve filming inside the cave, multiple locations, complex logistics, environmental compliance, or coordination with multiple NPS divisions or visitor activities will require a minimum of 21 days to process. 

Requests for permits are evaluated based on the information in the application. Therefore, applicants are encouraged to attach maps, description of activity, check in points, what support will be provided, etc. to assist the park staff in evaluating the request. 

 

Contact Us

Contact us for questions or more information about commercial filming and photography in the park or send completed applications to the address’ below. 

Email
e-mail us

Phone
270-758-2180

Mail
Commercial Filming Coordinator
Mammoth Cave National Park 
P.O. Box 7 
61 Maintenance Road 
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259 

Last updated: April 21, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 7
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259-0007

Phone:

(270) 758-2180

Contact Us