<< Documentary and Series Producer's Guide

Step 4 - Securing Permits

The US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and most other federal land management agencies require a commercial filming permit for feature films, television commercials, television programs and most kinds of documentaries filmed on public lands. The purposes of a commercial filming permit are two-fold: to prevent or mitigate impacts to public land resulting from the filming activity, and to defray agency costs devoted to planning and monitoring the filming on public lands.

Commercial filming permits include fees, which are focused on the impacts and use of public land. Commercial filming permits, however, are not just intended for cost recovery. These permits are also a means by which agencies comply with laws governing environmental impacts to natural resources.

Depending on the nature of impact to public lands, obtaining a commercial filming permit can take as little as a few weeks. Securing a permit for projects with large production crews, sets, lighting, etc can take much longer. NIFC urges producers to submit permit application materials early in this process, to account for time needed to process the permit. Requirements for permits, and the amount of time it can take to issue permits, can vary between agencies, states, regions and individual units.

Additional information about obtaining commercial film permits is available on the following websites:

(You may want to see if other agencies have info on their websites as well.)

For proposals involving the Bureau of Indian Affairs, contact Robyn Broyles at Requirements for permits vary between tribes and Indian Nations.

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