Please film by the rules

Jake Hughes
February 16, 2018 - 10:09 am

Credit: Sean Dougherty-USA TODAY


The many memorials on the National Mall—Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, World War II Memorial, Lincoln and Washington Monuments—are treasured American symbols. Millions make the journey from all across the country, and even the world, to see these historic places. Naturally, some people want to film their visits to remember them. But like in all things, it has to be done by the book.

Mike Litterst is the head of communications for the National Park Services National Mall department, and he says they encourage people to document their time there, but implores them to do it right. "One of the things we're challenged with is not only making sure there is access to these sites, but also that there is an opportunity for all to have a meaningful experience there." To that end, there are certain rules and regulations that must be followed by visitors concerning filming. There are certain places that are considered "restricted." For example, while it is allowed to film outside the Lincoln Memorial, you are prohibited from filming past the columns. Other places include the narrow sidewalk at the Vietnam Wall.

Most people can relax. They tend to not get upset by people with handheld camcorders. But once organizations, or even individuals, start breaking out tripods and lighting kits, they will ask you for your permit. "The benchmark I tend to use is that family from Kansas," says Mike. "They're making the journey to honor their grandfather or an uncle. We simply can't have activities there that will interfere with their experience." They also try to avoid letting groups shoot videos that would politicize the memorials, or use them for advertising purposes.

There are permits you can get, rather easily in fact, that allow you certain privileges. "We have a fully staffed office that processes permits. They do around 3,000 per year, and that's up 30% from last year." But for the most part, the National Park Services just ask you to respect the memorials and the veterans they stand for.