Film

Ruling Stops Need for Small Film Permits at National Parks

The change came after a court in Washington ruled in January that the fees were unconstitutional

By Associated Press

JACKSON, Wyo. – The National Park Service has changed its nationwide permit requirements so that commercial filmmakers no longer have to pay fees or seek clearance as long as shoots are not in the wilderness and remain small.

The change, which was announced last week, is limited to national parks and came after a court in Washington ruled in January that the fees were unconstitutional under the First Amendment, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued a permanent injunction halting the filming requirements after she found the fees could have a “chilling effect” for a wide swath of visitors to national parks.

The ruling came after Gordon Price, an independent filmmaker from Yorktown, Virginia, filed a lawsuit in response to a fine he received after making a film at Yorktown Battlefield in Colonial National Historical Park without getting a permit. Price challenged being required to pay a fee when noncommercial entities and news crews are exempt.

Bridger-Teton National Park spokeswoman Mary Cernicek said the legal precedent created by Kollar-Kotelly’s order did not carry over to the U.S. Forest Service.

“It should be all federal lands, not just the park,” filmmaker Jeff Hogan said, arguing that filming fees are a much bigger burden at national forests than national parks.

National forests permits for a still photography crew of 10 people or less costs $50 a day and increases to $250 if the crew exceeds 30 people. Video permits range from $150 a day for a single shooter to $600 a day for a crew of 60 people or more. There are additional cost recovery fees that start at $131 a permit.

Under the new guidance, Yellowstone and Grand Teton will no longer distinguish between commercial filmmakers and people who are casually taking video or doing so for journalism.

Low-impact filming that doesn’t require a permit includes shoots that are outside wilderness areas, located in areas that are otherwise open and require fewer than five people.

Photographers and videographers whose projects don’t check those boxes are still required to give the national park at least 10 days’ notice in advance of a shoot in which the superintendent will determine if a permit is required.

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