Changes to Commercial Filming Permits on Park Land
Effective October 28, 2022, the National Park Service (NPS) has rescinded interim guidance that was in place during litigation regarding commercial filming and has returned to longstanding laws and regulations governing commercial filming in parks. When filming, photography, and sound recording activities occur in parks, they must be consistent with the protection of park resources and avoid conflict with public use and enjoyment of the park.
"Commercial filming" means the film, electronic, magnetic, digital, or other recording of a moving image by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience with the intent of generating income. Examples include, but are not limited to, feature film, videography, and documentaries. Commercial filming may include the advertisement of a product or service, or the use of actors, models, sets, or props.
When is a permit needed for commercial filming?
Under federal law, all commercial filming that occurs within a unit of the National Park System requires a permit. Federal law requires a permit for all commercial filming, no matter the size of the crew or the type of equipment. This includes individuals or small groups that don’t use much equipment, but generate revenue by posting footage on websites, such as YouTube and TikTok. The primary focus of the NPS, however, is on commercial filming that has the potential to impact park resources and visitors beyond what occurs from normal visitor use of park areas. Examples of this type of filming are productions that use substantial equipment such as sets and lighting, productions with crews that exceed 5 people, and filming in closed areas, wilderness areas, or in locations that would create conflicts with other visitors or harm sensitive resources. All filmers, no matter the size, must comply with all rules that apply in park areas, just like other visitors.
When is a permit needed for still photography?
In most cases, still photography does not require a permit. A permit is required for still photography only when:
A “model” means a person or object that serves as the subject for still photography for the purpose of promoting the sale or use of a product or service. Models include, but are not limited to, individuals, animals, or inanimate objects, such as vehicles, boats, articles of clothing, and food and beverage products. Portrait subjects, such as wedding parties and high school graduates, are not considered models.
Still Photography Workshops
A Commercial Use Authorization is required for photography workshops. Contact the Park Special Uses Coordinator.
Audio recording does not require a permit unless:
Applying for a Special Use Permit
Filming, photography, and sound recording applications must be received a MINIMUM of one month in advance and will be reviewed in the order they are received. Once the application and application fee are received, the proposed project will undergo a compliance review to ensure that natural and cultural resources and/or visitor experiences will not be unduly impacted. Upon approval from the Superintendent, the permit will be approved. Application fees are non-refundable, even if the permit is denied. We require a minimum of 4 weeks to fully process a basic permit request. Please submit requests in a timely manner. We will not “rush process” any requests and compliance may take longer than usual. While email is preferred, you may also submit your Special Use Permit Application by mail, UPS, or FedEx.
What fees will I have to pay?
Federal law requires the National Park Service to recover its administrative costs for commercial filming and still photography activities that require a permit. 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 the permitted activities. This amount will vary depending on the park and the size and complexity of the permitted activities. The application fee must be submitted with your application.
Federal law requires the National Park Service to collect a location fee that provides a fair return to the United States for the use of park lands for commercial filming and for still photography. The National Park Service uses the following fee schedules for filming and photography: These are NPS standards and are non-negotiable. These fees are based on the number of cast/crew per day. Location fee for the minimum anticipated days is due two business days prior to ﬁlming date. Any additional days will be billed at the end of the ﬁlming.
The non-refundable application fee, when applicable, includes three hours of administrative time; including phone calls, correspondence, application review, scheduling park staff, permit issuance, follow-up, and billing. Additional administrative time and site visit will be billed at a rate of $50/hour. The application fee must be submitted with your application. All payments must be in the form of a cashier’s check, cash, money order, or credit card. Personal or company checks are not accepted.
Permits for student projects are eligible for a waiver of these fees with proof of current enrollment in an accredited school as is part of a course requirement.
General commercial liability insurance is required. A minimum of $1,000,000 is typically required. Complex projects or projects with large cast/crews or sets will require higher insurance. The “United States Government” will be named as “additional insured” on the insurance certiﬁcate. If further speciﬁcity is desired/requested: “the Department of Interior, National Park Service, Valles Caldera National Preserve.” A copy of the insurance from the Carrier must be received PRIOR to issuing an approved permit.
Depending upon the complexity and scope of the project, a performance bond may be required to ensure that the area used is returned to the same state as prior to ﬁlming activities. The performance bond may also be used to deduct additional costs associated with the permit that may include, though not be limited to: additional administrative costs not associated with application fee, monitoring costs, maintenance of area post-ﬁlming/production; and mitigation of natural and/or cultural resource damage.
Filming activities will be monitored by a qualified NPS employee to assure full compliance with all the terms and conditions of the permit. Small projects with no potential impact to natural/cultural resources or visitor experience with a small cast/crew may be considered for spot-check monitoring instead of on-site monitoring. This fee is determined after we’ve reviewed the application and is based on the complexity of the project.
Compliance review is required for all special use permits. The fee will be determined on the complexity of the project and the amount of time for compliance to be completed.
Last updated: August 17, 2023