Changes to Commercial Filming Permits on Park LandEffective October 28, 2022, the National Park Service (NPS) has rescinded interim guidance that was in place during litigation regarding commercial filming and has returned to longstanding laws and regulations governing commercial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.
Commercial Filming"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?
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.
Applying for a Special Use Permit for commercial ﬁlming and still photography is as easy as 1, 2, 3!1. Complete, sign, and return the permit application form electronically to e-mail us
2. Submit a copy of your insurance naming the “United States Government” as additionally insured electronically to e-mail us
3. Submit an application fee of $150.00. Application fees must be submitted electronically through pay.gov by visiting: https://pay.gov/public/form/start/77183133
ApplicationCommercial Filming - A Special Use Permit application must be submitted for any commercial ﬁlming. Download an application below.
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. If you are a crew of fewer than 5 persons and do not plan to use any cast, models, props or sets, you may use the “short form” application. If there is any doubt—use the “long form.” Please COMPLETELY ﬁll out the application. Please provide as much detail as you can in regards to what you want to ﬁlm and what you would like to accomplish. Please feel free to add additional pages or storyboards if needed. The more detail we have initially, the less time it will take to do the compliance and permitting process.
Still Photography - In most cases, still photography does not require a permit. A Special Use Permit application must be submitted for still photography only when:
TimelineWe need to receive the application AND the application fee a MINIMUM of three weeks (21 days) in advance. Any project that is complex in nature, or requests to ﬁlm in areas oﬀ paved or hardened surfaces or oﬀ-trail requires a minimum of four weeks. The park will not accept applications that are not submitted at least three weeks in advance. 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. The ﬁnal permit along with conditions of permit will be sent to the applicant for their signature and a copy returned back to the Commercial Services Oﬃce. The applicant can be denied a permit for a variety of reasons.
Performance BondsDepending 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. See FEES for possible costs.
FeesFederal 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.
Application Fee - A $150 non-refundable application fee is required. This covers the ﬁrst three hours of time spent on the permit. This may include telephone/email conversations, site visits, developing permit conditions, etc.
Administrative Fees - Permits/projects that require more than three hours of administrative time forreview, site visits, meetings or processing, will be charged at the rate of $50.00 per hour.
Compliance Fees - Compliance review is required for all special use permits. A $250 fee is charged for permits/projects that require additional analysis such as; construction of sets/ stages and use of ﬁre/explosives. Covers the first five hours.
Monitoring Fees - Filming activities may be monitored by a qualiﬁed NPS employee to assure full compliance with all of the terms and conditions of permit. The charge is $ 50.00 per hour with a 3-hour minimum. This will be charged at the end of the ﬁlming or may be taken out of the performance bond if one was required. 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 and may be charged a ﬂat $50.00 spot monitoring fee.
Location Fees - 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.
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, Zion National Park.” A copy of the insurance from the Carrier must be received PRIOR to issuing an approved permit.
Last updated: May 8, 2023