ACFF Announces the Next Gen Capture Conservation Project & Contest

A Youth-targeted Short Film Initiative

June 2017 – ACFF challenges and invites young people ages 5 to 18 to create and submit a short video capturing what conservation and their relationship to nature and the world around them means to them. The purpose is to encourage youth to explore conservation issues and the environment and connect it with a personal video message that captures that relationship. Selected films will be featured on ACFF social media channels and the website and catalogued in a dedicated ACFF youth film archive.

The American Conservation Film Festival is an annual 5-day event held in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, a vibrant arts community 70 miles west of the nation’s capital.  2017 will mark the 15th annual film festival scheduled for Oct 13-15, with an encore showing Oct 20-22. The festival will feature about three dozen exceptional conservation-themed films selected from more than 250 film submissions from 38 countries. Filmmakers and conservation experts, family programming, a filmmaker workshop, and receptions round out the festival’s offerings.

The Next Gen Capture Conservation Project & Contest is open to youth ages 5 to 18, with four categories: 5 to 10, 11 to 14, 15 to 18, and team project of mixed ages. Prizes of $100 cash will be awarded in each category with a top prize of $250 and iPad mini awarded for the video that tells the most compelling story of the youth’s relationship to conservation. Videos shall not exceed four minutes in length and will be judged on the power and relevancy of the conservation message, originality/creativity, and the overall production value, in that order. Videos should be uploaded to the designated ACFF Vimeo channel for this group:

More information, submission guidelines, instructions on uploading videos to the ACFF Vimeo channel, and tips and examples for young filmmakers can be found at the ACFF website at

Please contact Jennifer Lee at if you have questions.

The 2017 deadline for submissions is August 15, 2017.


On Education

My teachers have always been the reason I maintain interest in academic settings. A teacher who is passionate about their work is inspiring, not only to accomplish more in that field but also to put that sort of dedication to your own passion. Teachers at Shepherd University have inspired me and opened my eyes to things I never even contemplated. What really means a lot is when these teachers encourage me to do my best and give me positive reinforcement when I succeed on a task I put a lot of work into. The teachers who teach me about passion inspire me to try and do great things for the people around me.

~Blair Cherelstein

Get the Buzz at our Spring Fundraiser!

ACFF Spring Fundraiser Features Pollinator Film & Discussion
Endangered Rusty-patched Bumble Bee Film, Pollination Experts,
Food, Drink, & Music at Wild Goose Farm on April 29th


 April 5, 2017. Shepherdstown, WV. — The American Conservation Film Festival 3rd annual spring fundraiser will shed light on threats facing a number of America’s pollinator species and how we can help them at a party including festive food, drink, and music at Shepherdstown’s beautiful Wild Goose Farm on Saturday, April 29th.

In light of the Rusty-patched bumble bee (below) being placed on the Endangered Species List in early 2017, ACFF will screen the film Ghost in the Making: Rusty-patched Bumble Bee ( followed by a discussion with three pollination experts addressing the endangered species listing, native plants and healthy habitat, and home landscape design that supports pollinators. Leda Huta, director of the Endangered Species Coalition, Dr. Larry Stritch, the US Forest Service’s National Botanist for 18 years, and horticulturist James Dillon of Native Havens LLC will participate in a panel discussion and answer questions from the audience.

The historic and bucolic Wild Goose Farm, located just outside of Shepherdstown, will serve as the venue for this year’s party where guests will have a chance to wander the grounds, watch a short film, and enjoy a seasonal buffet dinner, drinks, and upbeat music from the Charlie Bare Quartet at the farm’s party barn. A brief live auction will offer attendees the chance to bid on interesting experiential items as well as buy “shares” supporting various film screenings and education initiatives of the Festival. More information on the event and tickets are available at

The American Conservation Film Festival is in its 15th anniversary year of presenting the best conservation films from a diverse group of filmmakers from around the world, hosting a filmmakers’ workshop, and offering special screening events around the region throughout the year. This year’s festival runs October 13-15 in Shepherdstown, with an encore weekend of award-winning films on October 20-22. ACFF received over 200 film submissions from 38 countries this year and is now in the process of film and programming selection.

This annual party is the primary fundraising event for the American Conservation Film Festival and has quickly gained a reputation as one of the more informative, entertaining, and interactive soirees of the season and region. Seats are limited and advance ticket purchase is highly encouraged.

ACFF goes to DCEFF – Environmental Film Festival of the Nation’s Capital

World Premier of Last of the Longnecks

We are thrilled to once again be partnering with the Environmental Film Festival of the Nation’s Capital to co-present an extraordinary conservation film!  This year, that film is Last of the Longnecks, a beautiful, poignant, and alarming story about the profound decline of giraffe populations in Africa and efforts to protect them.  Screening at the Carnegie Institution for Science at 7pm on March 23rd.  WATCH THE TRAILER HERE.    GET TICKETS HERE.


(USA, 2017, 92 min.)

Directed by Ashley Scott Davison.

Being such a recognizable animal, the image of a giraffe can instantly conjure sentiments of African sunsets, untouched wilderness and the serenity of nature within the minds of viewers of all ages. It’s silhouette is both unmistakable and evocative, and is used around the world in advertising to sell a wide range of goods. It has even been used as a logo for the Olympic Games and football’s FIFA World Cup. Few travel operators or safari brochures fail to include the giraffe when they market Africa as an exciting travel destination, and the species is a must-see on every safari-goer’s wish list. Unlike Africa’s Big Five – the elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion and leopard – the giraffe is not in demand as a trophy so revenue from legal hunting is limited. But the giraffe, like the elephant and rhino, is an agent of change in habitats and landscapes. Yet how can it be that the majority of the world is oblivious to the giraffe’s fight against extinction?

Discussion with director Ashley Scott Davison and Development and Communications Director for ACFF, Jennifer Lee, follows screening.

Meet our 2017 Interns!


We are so happy to welcome two interns from Shepherd University to ACFF this semester!  Both Maggie and Blair helped out at the 2016 Festival and did a fine job.  Fortunately for us, they seemed to enjoy their time learning about ACFF and sought internships for their final semester at Shepherd.  They are concentrating on communications and marketing, in accordance with their fields of study and interests.  Maggie is leading up the effort to start a special “Intern’s Blog” and Blair will be analyzing our social media efforts and outreach, among other things.

We hope you’ll follow their progress and congratulate and thank them if you see them!

Blair Cherelstein is a 22-year-old Shepherd University senior from Westminster, Maryland.  She has always loved movies and sports, specifically crime thrillers and soccer.  She has been a member of multiple choruses and acting groups.  Blair is a Mass Communications major and will graduate this spring.


Maggie Cohee Nevin is a 22-year-old Shepherd University senior from Martinsburg, West Virginia. In May, she will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a concentration in literature, and a minor in political science. At Shepherd, she is a member of the Multicultural Leadership Team, the Debate Team, and the English Honor’s Society. Maggie’s professional experience includes legislative internships at both the state and federal level. Upon graduation, she hopes to obtain a position working with underprivileged youth through AmeriCorps, and eventually pursue a Master’s Degree in Education.


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


During the festival, we encourage ticket holders to visit this page to vote for their favorite film.  At midnight on Sunday, October 23rd, all the votes will be tallied and we will bestow upon the film with the highest vote count, the 2016 ACFF Audience Choice Award!  Results will be announced the following day on our website and on social media.  The Audience Choice winning film will be shown, along with another award winner, during Block 13 on Saturday, October 29th at the Frank Center, which begins at 7:30 pm.  Be sure to cast your vote and grab your ticket!

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An Acquired Taste
The Babushkas of Chernobyl
Beneath Paradise
Bluebird Man
Canyon Song
Catching the Sun
Defined by the Line
EO Wilson: Of Ants and Men
Forget Shorter Showers
How to Change the World
Life Story – First Steps
Marijuana Grows and Restoration
Medieval Monsters
Monarchs: The Milkweed Mission
Moving the Giants
Pale Blue Dot
Pronghorn Revival
Racing Extinction
Return of the Cicadas
Saving Mes Aynak
Seed: The Untold Story
Sharing the Secrets
Sonic Sea
Testimony: Remembering Glen Canyon
The Burden: Fossil Fuel, The Military and National Security
The Messenger
The True Cost
Think Like a Scientist: Boundaries
Think Like a Scientist: Gorongosa
Thirty Million
Unacceptable Risk: Firefighters on the Front Lines of Climate Change
Where Ice & Ocean Meet: Kenai Fjords National Park



Things to Know

Joining us for the Festival? Here’s what you need to know!

This year marks our 14th Season!  From Friday, October 21st to Sunday, October 23rd and an encore weekend October 28th to 30th, we’ll be bringing you 35 of the best conservation films in the world. We are welcoming many filmmakers and conservation experts to town for post screening discussions.  Be sure to check out our FULL SCHEDULE as you make your plans.

NEW THIS YEAR: Festival Headquarters at the Entler Hotel, 129 E. German Street, Shepherdstown (next to Shepherdstown Visitors Center). Purchase tickets, pick up a program, grab a free snack, meet other festival goers! Come see us!



We strongly encourage you to purchase festival tickets online HERE to guarantee your seat.

Tickets are available for purchase NOW at The Local Source:  133 W. German Street.

You may also purchase tickets during the Festival at our Festival Headquarters at the Entler Hotel, 129 E. German Street in Shepherdstown or at each festival venue.

Check or cash transactions are preferred though credit cards will also be accepted.


We have 5 types of tickets:

Full Festival Pass – $55 – entrance into all films at all venues both weekends

1st Weekend Pass – $40 – entrance into all films from Friday, October 21-Sunday, October 23

2nd Weekend Pass – $25 – entrance into all films from Friday, October 28 – Sunday, October 30.

Block Ticket (multiple films) – $10 – entrance into all films during a specific time block at a specific venue

Block Ticket (single film) – $7 – entrance into blocks 12, 14, and 15


Students 18 & younger are admitted free of charge to all films as space allows.

All films on Shepherd Campus are FREE to SU students with Rambler ID

Details regarding tickets and film venues can be found here.


Doors open at each venue a half hour before each film block.

We strongly encourage you to arrive 20-30 minutes before start time to be sure you have a seat.



We’re inviting audience members and filmmakers to join us at the following gatherings:

Friday, October 21st – Opening Night Reception at Festival Headquarters, the Entler Hotel, 129 E. German Street, Shepherdstown. Enjoy refreshments and meeting filmmakers and other festival goers to kick off the festival weekend! Sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

Saturday, October 22nd – WRAP PARTY at the Blue Moon from 9:30pm to 11pm with free hors d’oeuvres and cash bar.


Please give yourself plenty of time to find parking and get to your venue(s). Free street parking is available Fridays after 6pm and Saturdays and Sundays, but do not park in residential parking zones! Parking is also available in lots A and B on Shepherd University.

Be aware that King Street (in front of Reynolds Hall), between German Street and High Street, will be closed on Saturday, October 29th from 8am to 8pm for BooFest events, so plan accordingly.

You can check out a Shepherdstown map here and a

Shepherd University Parking Map here.


We look forward to seeing you!


ACFF Presents 14th Season!

The 14th annual American Conservation Film Festival opens Friday, October 21st with a festive reception and two blocks of three films each and culminates with its Encore Award Winners weekend October 28-30. The Festival brings together the finest conservation films and filmmakers from around the world and features discussions with scientists and educators, professional workshops, family programming, and social events — all with the mission of engaging, informing, and inspiring its audience through the power of film.

This year’s Festival will present films with a wide range of environmental and conservation themes. The Green Fire Award winning film, E.O. Wilson: Of Ants and Men, tells the story of this remarkable thinker and biologist, called “a Darwin for the modern day.” Filmmaker Graham Townsley will be in attendance to accept his award and speak about the film.

Catching the Sun (Green Spark Award winner for Sustainability) follows the global race between the U.S. and China to lead the world to a cleaner energy future.

The Foreign Film Award goes to Thirty Million, a film about the impending displacement of tens of millions of people in Bangladesh as they face rising sea levels due to climate change.

For the younger set, ACFF presents an exciting and delightful film called Life Story – First Steps about the challenges baby animals face in the first few days of life. This feature length film will be followed by an educational program from the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center featuring live wildlife animal ambassadors.

At four venues in and around Shepherdstown, ACFF invites its audience to explore the world through the stories, images, and people that create this offering of compelling films. Several filmmakers and subject matter experts will be present during the festival and participating in discussions following the screening of their films. Films are arranged in thoughtfully considered “blocks” to allow for maximum screening options and a diverse array of topics and film lengths.