2016 – A Good Year for ACFF

We deeply thank everyone who helped make 2016 such a successful and engaging year for ACFF – our filmmakers, audience members, donors, and community partners.  Please take a look at our accomplishments for 2016, and, with your help, what we hope to do in 2017, OUR 15 YEAR ANNIVERSARY!

DOWNLOAD 2016-year-in-review with PHOTOS





The mission of the American Conservation Film Festival is to promote outstanding films and the arts to educate and inspire people to become engaged in conservation issues.

This mission is achieved by: providing a venue for diverse conservation films that rarely receive a wide showing; celebrating conservation film and video in the vibrant atmosphere of historic Shepherdstown, West Virginia; showcasing independent, international, student, and regional films; offering an education component that complements film selections and supports those interested in conservation filmmaking, and; supporting emerging filmmakers as they are beginning their careers.

We are proud and grateful to share these accomplishments from this year.


Nearly doubled film submissions from 150 to 270 and from 38 counties, due to enhanced outreach to new and alumni filmmakers and film schools as well as a new submission platform (Film Freeway).

Selected and screened 35 of the most compelling, diverse, and visually rich films from around the world to present over two weekends of the Festival. Streamlined submission and selection processes for more efficient review and administration. Film topics included climate change, alternative energy production, wildlife conservation, cultural heritage, heroes in conservation, and biodiversity.

Welcomed over a dozen scholars and filmmakers, including four student filmmakers, to speak with audience members about film topics.

Presented the fifth annual Conservation Filmmaker Workshop, a two-day documentary filmmaking workshop, to 24 emerging filmmakers with instructors from independent production companies, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, Conservation Media Group, and National Geographic.

Provided financial support toward the travel, lodging, and filmmaker workshop tuition of four aspiring filmmakers from Washington, DC, Atlanta, and Chicago through the Alex Kemnitzer Emerging Filmmaker Fund.

Launched five new film awards in addition to three existing awards to recognize excellence in the following categories: Green Fire Award (for overall excellence); Student Filmmaker Award (with a $500 cash prize); Foreign Film Award; Short Film Award; Green Spark awards highlighting a conservation hero, pathways to sustainability, and inspiring the next generation; and the Audience Choice Award.

Offered a full second weekend of the Festival to present an encore of the eight award winners and two films not screened on the first weekend.

Realized a 46% increase in ticket sales over 2015 and 118% increase over 2014. Utilized larger venues to accommodate 40% increase in attendees.

Established a Festival Headquarters during the first festival weekend in downtown Shepherdstown to welcome visitors, sell tickets and distribute information, and provide a gathering place for audience members, sponsors, and filmmakers.

Hosted a live wildlife program from the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center to educate audience members of all ages about the region’s native wildlife and habitat.

Partnered with the Shepherdstown Rotary Club and Shepherd University to present two film blocks especially targeted to and free for high school and college students. Presented a special film block of student films and festival previews to Shepherd University Environmental Studies students to spark interest in conservation filmmaking.

Offered free admission to all students 18 or younger at all film blocks and to Shepherd University and Shenandoah University at selected film blocks, significantly increasing youth attendance throughout the festival.

Employed four Shepherd University student interns during the festival to assist with festival operations, headquarters staffing, and customer service. Engaged approximately 35 volunteers throughout the year, contributing over 300 volunteer hours, in the areas of event planning and hosting, technical support, promotion, and more.


Held a spring fundraiser featuring the film Unbranded and its filmmaker, with 125 attendees, raising over $7,000 for ACFF and $3,000 for the Mustang Heritage Foundation to support a military veteran’s adoption of a mustang through its Mustang Mentors program.

Hosted Best of Fest special movie screenings at the Weinberg Center in Frederick, Maryland and Barns of Rose Hill in Berryville, Virginia, with a total of over 300 people in attendance.

Partnered with the Shepherdstown Rotary Club and Shepherd University’s School of Business & Social Sciences to present the film The Bat Man of Mexico in accordance with the Rotary’s World Affairs Seminar featuring the theme of pollination.

Partnered with the National Park Service Centennial Film Festival at the National Conservation Training Center to present three park-related films from an ACFF alumni filmmaker and founding member.

Partnered with the Environmental Film Festival of the Nation’s Capital to co-present films at our respective film festivals (Unbranded at DCEFF in March, Babushkas of Chernobyl at ACFF in October).

Partnered with the Shepherdstown Film Society for a special film screening of Dare To Be Wild and a preview of 2016 festival films.

Created an ACFF in the Classroom program to provide Instructor Screening Guides that include course mappings and curricular keywords to help instructors connect the content of four selected films to specific topics encountered in the classroom.

Continued to build income reserves through sponsorships, grants, and individual donations to secure fiscal viability and sustainability for the organization, while keeping expenses at a consistent level.


As we celebrate our most successful year yet, we look forward to expanding our influence, growing our educational impact, and developing stronger partnerships to ensure relevance, sustainability, and outreach far into the future.

With the support of individuals, businesses, foundations, and community partners, we hope to:

  • Grow programs that introduce students to conservation issues, science, media, and filmmaking.
  • Recruit partners in the environmental, science, and media fields to help teach, promote, and execute these educational programs.
  • Provide access to select ACFF films to schools, community groups, and organizations and greater exposure for filmmakers and the critical issues they explore through their films.
  • Continue to present the most important, contemporary conservation films to diverse audiences throughout the region.
  • Provide resources that facilitate further understanding and exploration, opportunities to convert inspiration into action, and connections to the causes and organizations that will help people make a positive difference.


“I always look forward to this festival. Extremely fluid operations, best ever. Nice balance of venues, film choice, and film-related events.” ~ audience member

“I recently have been struggling with direction, creativity, etc [and] this workshop has really opened my mind to new possibilities and has inspired me to take on some new things.” ~ Conservation Filmmaker Workshop participant

“After my experience at this workshop and festival, I have decided to reassess my goals as a filmmaker and to pursue something more inline with my passions.” ~ student filmmaker and workshop participant

“I was delighted at last to have ACFF represented at the Barns. Thank you again for such a wonderful evening and event!” ~ Best of Fest hosting partner