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Environmental + Film Festival Does Not Have to Equal Drudgery. Wild & Scenic Proves It.

| Friday January 22nd, 2010 | 4 Comments

Coach Vanessa at Wild & Scenic Film FestivalI recently had the pleasure of attending the 9th edition of the Wild & Scenic film festival, America’s largest environmental film festival, organized and hosted by SYRCL, in the tiny but vibrant town of Nevada City, California.

Through these events, SYRCL has made people across the nation aware of its fight to preserve the Yuba–a river mostly unknown outside the local region. And even if you didn’t know that SYRCL stands for South Yuba River Conservation League,  the group’s new logo, prominently featuring a leaping salmon, makes it even more clear, quickly.

Like that salmon, SYRCL is succeeding in swimming against the unfriendly current; despite the poor economy, tickets to the festival, even for the higher priced VIP event, sold out. Having the likes of Patrick Stewart and media savvy No Impact Man in attendance throughout the weekend likely helped.

But my sense, having attended the festival for three years, is that SYRCL just getting smarter and more effective at putting on an event, which is becoming like the Sundance of green film festivals. The group’s tentative steps into social media are bearing fruit, as I noticed filmmakers and other featured guests talking about it on Twitter, amplifying the festival’s promotional efforts. The addition of a media lounge, plus live streaming and subsequent archiving of interviews with 35 film participants no doubt added to the experience for those not present, and will continue to add momentum and credibility in the year following the festival.

In its film choices and other programming throughout the festival, Wild & Scenic’s struck a delicate balance of educational, thought-provoking and entertaining content. It’s clear that the organizers understand that there’s not just one type of person interested in the environment, and that what motivates, interests and inspires the audience come from many different angles. Wild & Scenic meets the interests of everyone from entrepreneurs to social justice advocates to budding filmmakers.

It also meets the needs of non profits, schools and other organizations across the country, making anywhere from a 3 hour to 2 day version of the festival available, used as a fund-raising tool for the local organization putting it on. The festival sends the host town a nearly complete set of resources, while the host provides the projector and handles promotions.

In doing this, SYRCL both builds awareness around its own and the host’s organization, while educating via the films and accompanying materials. It’s this open, accessible, multiple-stakeholder-benefiting practice that other non profits (and for-profits as well) would be wise to model in their own organizations.

Readers: How are your organizations finding creative, effective ways to raise funds and awareness? What can businesses do to benefit both themselves and others beyond their immediate markets?

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations around, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media.


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  • Sandy

    Drudgery? It's a sad world if people find environmental films to be drudgery.

    • Paul Arthur Smith

      To a mainstream audience not inclined to choose to go to an environmental film festival? Absolutely. That they include a variety of programming that will reach people of a variety of points of view and interests is something to take note of.

  • Aukman

    Yikes, that photo looks a bit like drudgery!

  • Aukman

    Yikes, that photo looks a bit like drudgery!