Film and Special Use Permits

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Please note: Activities that do not comply with current guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19 will not be permited at this time.

Three men with camera equipment crouch in an empty cement pond surrounded by rocks and desert
Cinematographer, soundman, and director filming in one of Manzanar's garden ponds.

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 on land managed by the National Park Service are encouraged to contact the park directly for more information about filming in the park 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 directly.

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 days advance notice to the National Park Service 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 may require a permit include, but are not limited to: entering a sensitive resource area, filming in areas that require tickets to enter, 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.

Filming in Wilderness Areas

The National Park Service manages and protects more than 67 million acres of park lands and waters as wilderness areas. These areas have additional laws and policies to preserve their wilderness character for future generations. Filming activities in wilderness areas must follow all applicable laws and regulations that govern wilderness areas in the park, including prohibitions on structures, installations, motor vehicles, mechanical transport, motorized equipment, motorboats, or landing of aircrafts.

Except for casual filming by visitors, special use permits for filming are required for all filming activities in wilderness areas, no matter the group size or equipment used.

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.

Please visit the NPS Commercial Filming & Photography site for up-to-date information.

Student Film Projects

Permits are required student film projects following the same guidlines as for non-student projects.


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:

  1. the activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or
  2. 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
  3. a park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity.

How do I apply for a permit?

Permit applications are available through the administrative office. Email the Special Park Uses Coordinator for a permit application and more information. You should submit a completed application along with the application fee to the park where you want to film or photograph as far in advance of your planned date as possible. In addition, you should request a meeting with park staff if your proposed activity is unusual or complex. Early consultation with park staff will 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. This amount will vary depending on the park and the size and complexity of your permit. The application fee 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.

Student Photography Projects

Permits are usually required for student photography projects. These projects may be eligible for an application fee waiver. Please email the Special Park Uses Coordinator for more information.

What about photography workshops?

If you are planning a photography workshop, you may need a commercial use authorization.


Commercial Use Authorizations and Special Use Permits

Two men stand under a boom microphone to the right of a large camera
Henry Rollins interviews Hank Umemoto about his experiences as a teenager in Manzanar. April 26, 2014.

NPS Photo

Groups, including non-profit groups, wishing to engage in commercial activities at Manzanar NHS may require either a Commercial Use Authorization or Special Use Permit. Please email the Special Park Uses Coordinator for more information.

Special Use Permits are required for organizing and performing activities or assemblies which provide a benefit to an individual, group or organization, rather than the public at large. Special use permits are also needed for activities that require National Park Service staff to protect park resources, the public interest, or both.

First Amendment Activities

Freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly are rights protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and in accordance with the Code of Federal Regulation. People may exercise these rights in national parks, but the National Park Service still retains its responsibility to protect park resources and prevent impacts to park visitors. A permit is not required for groups of 25 or less individuals, conducting first amendment activities in the park’s designated first amendment areas.

Groups of 25 or more, groups desiring to reserve designated areas in advance, groups wanting to use a sound system, stage, chairs, etc., or groups soliciting donations require a permit. This list is not exhaustive, please email the Special Park Uses Coordinator to determine if your group's first amendment activities require a permit.


Permit Application Procedures and Requirements

Generally, permits are not issued for filming on weekends or holidays.

Filing a permit application alone does not grant you the right to your activity. Permit applications may be approved or rejected by the park. The application fee is nonrefundable, whether your application is approved or denied.

Applicants should read through the application and information on this web page to facilitate an understanding of the permit process. If site scouting is planned prior to application period, email the Special Park Uses Coordinator to set up an appointment.


Complete applications must be submitted with the non-refundable application fee a minimum of fourteen (14) days before the desired activity date.

Your request will be evaluated based on the information in your application. During the process of reviewing and evaluating a permit application the Special Park Uses Coordinator will contact the applicant about additional permit costs if it is determined that substantial park staffing resources will be required for the permitted activity. You are encouraged to attach maps, diagrams, vehicle and equipment lists, call sheet, itineraries, shoot schedule, shot list, etc. with your application to assist park staff in evaluating your request.

Most requests will be processed within 14 days if the application is complete and without alteration. In compliance with the requirements of the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, applicants must submit their Social Security number or Federal Tax ID number when filling out the application for permit.

Note: Park managers will not sign location releases supplied by applicants.

Please submit applications as far in advance as possible. Mail to:
Manzanar National Historic Site
Attn: Special Park Uses Coordinator
P.O. Box 426
Independence, CA 93526-0426

Cemetery monument with yellow flowers in foreground
Cemetery monument at Manzanar National Historic Site

NPS Photo D. Hayes


Congress has authorized the National Park Service to charge location fees for the use of park lands and facilities. Site use charges will be estimated based on the information you provide in your application.
The National Park Service is required to recover all costs associated with permits. All administrative costs involving permit application and processing are nonrefundable and will be charged to a permittee. We require that charges be paid before work can begin on National Park Service property.
Photography, Special Use Permits, and Commercial Use Authorizations may also involve cost recovery fees as described below.

Payment Options

Permit fees and costs may be paid by electronic transaction or check.
To pay by credit card: submit an application, then email or call for instructions on how to submit your payment through

Permit Application Fees

A $75.00 non-refundable permit application fee must be submitted with your application.
If your application fee has been waived, you must submit the required documentation with your application.

Monitoring and Monitor Fee

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. This amount will vary depending complexity of your permit. The application fee must be submitted with your application.

Location Fees for Filming

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.

Location Fees for Still Photography

1-10 people $50/day
11-30 people $150/day
over 30 people $250/day



Manzanar National Historic Site is not currently able to approve most permits for weekends and federal holidays. This restriction includes non-low-impact filming, photography and special events. Please email to set up a time to discuss your project with our coordinator before submitting an application.

The National Park Service cannot accommodate a project if:

  • Damage to natural, cultural and recreational resources is expected which cannot be mitigated
  • The activity involves access to areas normally closed for reasons of resource protection and safety
  • The level of activity within the park is already so high that staff would be unavailable to work with film crews
  • The project includes a portrayal of activities that are not permitted within a national park
  • The production company is unwilling or unable to obtain necessary insurance, or comply with National Park Service bond requirements.
Graphic "No Drone Zone"
Drones are prohibited at Manzanar National Historic Site

Prohibited Activities

Prohibited activities include, but are not limited to:


Last updated: July 1, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Manzanar National Historic Site
P.O. Box 426
5001 Highway 395

Independence , CA 93526


(760)878-2194 x3310
Need to speak with a ranger? Call this number for general information.

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