Commercial Filming and Photography

Commercial Filming and Photography

“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, prohibited uses in wilderness, and disruption of visitor use.

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.

Filming in wilderness:

Potential permittee's should be aware that 95% of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is Designated Wilderness, which provides a number of restrictions.

Please contact the Park SUP Coordinator directly for additional information and refer to the form (link) which will provide a decision-making framework. Contacting the park early in the process is absolutely necessary.

  • Wilderness areas are strictly controlled and limited. Commercial filming in wilderness must demonstrate a clear benefit to wilderness in order to be approved.
  • Filming may occur within the non-wilderness corridor.
  • Permit requests to film in Wilderness require 20 business days advanced processing time and submission of a wilderness use form. Approval/denial will be attached to the SUP with any special conditions.

Generally, permits are NOT required for:

  • Visitors using cameras and/or recording devices for their own personal use.
  • Breaking news or a developing story - information about an event that just happened or just begun.
  • Sound technicians and film or video crews at breaking news events. In these cases, the Superintendent is required to protect park resources and the rights and safety of park visitors. News media wishing access for entertainment or scheduled purposes may be required to apply for 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.

Conference/Site Scouting

It is highly recommended that any potential permittee schedule a pre-shoot scouting trip to the park. Scouting assistance may be requested of the SUP Coordinator, subject to availability, however, additional charges may apply to scouting assistance (see costs listed below).

To apply for a film permit

  1. Complete a filming application form and submit it to the SUP Coordinator, allowing sufficient time for evaluation by the park staff before the start date of the proposed activity (10 days in Advance, 20 business days if requesting to film in Wilderness and complete the Wilderness Minimum Requirements Analysis form).
  2. Include a $50.00 non-refundable processing fee via cashier’s check or money order. Contact the SUP Coordinator for additional payment options.
  3. Include the appropriate location fee, as prescribed by the Location Fee Schedule. The processing and location fees may be combined and paid for in a single cashier’s check or money order.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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 do not need than to need something that is not in your permit.
  6. Provide a current copy of general liability insurance in the amount of $1,000,000.00 USD. The policy must be underwritten by a United States company, naming the United States as additionally insured.

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.

Application processing takes a minimum of 20 business days - please plan accordingly. Applications are handled in the order they are received.

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.

Costs Recovery

  • 16 USC § 3a - The NPS may recover from the permittee all agency costs incurred in processing the application, and monitoring the permitted activity if the request is approved. A cost estimate is calculated and provided once the SUP Coordinator has received all applicable information. The SUP processing fee is non-refundable, even in the event that the application is denied.

First Amendment activities are excluded from cost recovery.

  • 16 USC § 9701 Land and facility fees charged to the permittee will reflect the market value of the land and/or facilities provided by the government.

      • 16 USC §§ 460l-6d Mandates that cost recovery and location fees for commercial filming and certain still photography permits.

      • SURPA 54 USC 100721-100725 Under this authority the NPS can recover resource injury costs for damages resulting from SUP activities to include costs for direct damages, time to assess and report, mitigation and restoration, etc. allowing the park to seek all associated recoveries in a civil action.

The filming program fee schedule is as follows:

  • $50.00 USD 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.
  • Deposit - Approximately 1/2 of the estimated final cost recovery fees will be due at the time the permit is fully executed.
  • Hourly Fee - approximately $50 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. Generally, one monitor is required for every 8 people involved with the project.
  • Interviews – All interviews and filming or photographing of NPS staff members requires approval from the Superintendent in advance and cost is assessed at the specific employee’s hourly rate.
  • Scouting – If a permittee requests a scouting trip with or by the SUP Coordinator then staff time will be assessed.
  • Extended Administrative Time - Any filming activity that is particularly complex is subject to the hourly fee. This fee covers additional administrative time needed beyond the maximum two hours covered by the $50 application and administrative fee. This rate does not preclude any of the other fees and is applied per hour/per staff member.
  • Government Vehicle Mileage– We currently charge $.55/mile on government vehicles used for monitoring and other activities associated with filming.
  • Location Fees:

Motion Pictures/Videos

1-2 people (camera and tripod only) $0/day

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

Last updated: November 13, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

10 Organ Pipe Drive
Ajo, AZ 85321


(520) 387-6849 x7302

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