Screening films from all over the world, the American Conservation Film Festival (ACFF) is an annual event held in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, a vibrant arts community 70 miles west of the nation’s capital.

ACFF considers submitted non-fiction and fiction films, provided the theme is driven by environmental or cultural conservation. Of special interest are the myriad ways humans interact with wildlife and wild places, issues driven by natural resource conservation, humans as part of the environment, living in a continuum of cultural tradition, lifestyles in conjunction with changes in the natural world and how youths encounter and understand the natural world. The motivating force behind ACFF is the power of imagery to engage, inform and inspire.

Dates for the 2021 Festival will be March 24 - 28 in multiple venues, providing screenings for a broad range of conservation films, some of which rarely receive a wide showing. In the event that ACFF's Board of Directors decides conditions are unsafe to hold a live festival, we will reach out to the filmmaker of each officially selected film with a proposal to screen their film online.

Green Fire Award - $1,000
Our most prestigious award, The Green Fire Award, named in honor of Aldo Leopold, is bestowed upon the film that exhibits an extraordinary level of excellence in filmmaking and helps us look anew at our relationship with our environment. Films are selected on the strength of their conservation message, storytelling, and visual impact.

Audience Choice Award - $500
Attendees vote for their favorite film of the festival! This film is often honored with multiple screenings at Best of Festival events throughout the year.

Short Film Award - $1,000
ACFF looks to recognize compelling conservation stories that engage, inform and inspire viewers in less than 40 minutes.

Green Spark Award - $1,000
One Green Spark award will be granted annually. This award is reserved for films that distinguish themselves in one of three ways:
• by drawing attention to a conservation hero
• by highlighting a pathway to environmental sustainability
• by inspiring the next generation that will take on conservation challenges

Super Short Award - $500
In recognition of the new media landscape since the advent of streaming and the proliferation of social media in which conservation awareness campaigns are often waged using very short films. This award will acknowledge concise storytelling and good editing in films under three minutes.

Student Filmmaker Award - $500
Supporting new and emerging filmmakers is a major tenet of ACFF. We actively encourage student filmmakers to submit their work for review and potential inclusion in the festival. The Student Filmmaker Award Winner receives a $500 cash prize sponsored by Friends of the National Conservation Training Center.

Because submission of a film constitutes acceptance of these terms and conditions by filmmakers and their agents, please review the following carefully.

ACFF considers submitted films from all over the world and in all genres, provided they have a conservation theme. All films being submitted to ACFF shall have completed production after May 15, 2018 and may be duplicated for internal use by the selection committee and board of directors.

ACFF’s preferred method of submission is by secure online screener via ACFF’s FilmFreeway account. Film submissions registered via ACFF’s FilmFreeway account are also accepted through the mail labeled NTSC DVD (region-free or region 1), however submitted DVDs will not be returned. DVD entries must adhere to professional production standards that will ensure compatibility and playback on standard, consumer desktop DVD players. It is the entrant's responsibility that the program that is entered can be easily identified on the DVD menu. Films with non-English soundtracks must be submitted with embedded subtitles.

All officially selected films and materials solicited by ACFF will be programmed into the Festival. We plan for all selected films to be screened in public venues if safety conditions allow. In the event that ACFF's Board of Directors decides conditions are unsafe to hold a live festival, we will reach out to the filmmaker of each officially selected film with a proposal to screen their film online.

Deadlines are the dates by which we must receive your film. They are not postmark deadlines. We must receive your digital upload or physical disc by the deadline date for which your film has been registered.

If your submission is a student production, be sure to choose that designation on the online submission application. A student is defined as one who is enrolled at an accredited high school, undergraduate, or graduate school. A student is not required to be a film or video major, but must identify their school, advisor and year of study on the entry form. No student production can have been produced as a work for hire.

ACFF is not responsible for notifying any parties other than the entrant, through its contact person, of entry status or of any questions or determinations regarding the entry.

It is the sole responsibility of the entity submitting the project to secure permission from the copyright holders of the material contained in the film.

Multiple entries will be accepted provided they are submitted individually.

Entrants may resubmit a film submitted in the past that was not accepted as long as the film has been completed in the past 2 years.

If your film is officially selected, you may be asked to provide:
• 1 high resolution file download via Dropbox, Google Drive, We Transfer or Vimeo that is 1920×1080 pixels, 23.97 fps, 48 kHz Audio, progressive scan in mp4 format - with closed captions whenever possible
• 2 exhibition-quality NTSC DVDs (region free or region 1) or 2 Blu-rays of the invited work One of each is preferred.
• A digital press kit including film stills in high resolution jpg format, a synopsis, production credits and director bio
• A link to a publicly-accessible streamable online trailer
• A high resolution downloadable trailer file 1920 x 1080 pixels in mp4 format
Note: If materials are not submitted by the applicable deadline, we reserve the right to secure substitute materials from other sources.

Films that are selected by ACFF are chosen by a committee of media and conservation professionals. The quality of storytelling, production value, aesthetics and topic are principle factors in the selection of films for ACFF.

Entry Materials
All entries must include the following:
(1) A secure online screener *or labeled NTSC DVD (region-free or region 1/ N. America) copy of the work
(2) Contact information for the filmmaker or person handling the submission-- name, mailing address and email
(3) Student filmmakers must provide school affiliation with submissions as well as contact info for academic advisor on the project

If you choose to submit your work on a NTSC DVD (region-free or region 1) you will be responsible for delivery of playable disc to the shipping address below by the designated submission deadline. Please make sure your DVD plays all the way through, then label pack your media carefully and try to minimize waste. All submissions must be sent prepaid, including any applicable customs fees.

Please see our website for additional submission information.

Overall Rating
  • Lizzie Bankowski

    The American Conservation Film Festival is a great place for anyone who is excited and interested to learn more about a range of environmental topics!!! If you're a filmmaker considering submitting or attending, the folks at ACFF are SO generous to their filmmakers. They were kind enough to offer us a travel stipend that helped our team of student filmmakers attend. We would likely not have been able to make it without their financial assistance. We are SO GRATEFUL!

    November 2019
    Response from festival:

    Thanks, Lizzie! Your team's dedication and enthusiasm for the art of documentary filmmaking were clear to all of us at ACFF. Supporting the work of emerging filmmakers is part of our mission and we were happy to help your team travel here for the screening.

  • Kent Wagner

    Fantastic experience year after year!

    October 2019
    Response from festival:

    So happy to have you with us again, Kent! Keep up the great work!

  • Jimmy Evans

    An amazing weekend of inspiring films and talks from talented, passionate individuals. Attending the ACFF involves more than just the opportunity to see the films and hear the talks – it allows you to join a community of kind, passionate, supportive people all working tirelessly to help save the world through film. If you are someone looking to make an environmental impact with video, the ACFF will provide you with the knowledge, expertise and inspiration to do so.

    October 2017
    Response from festival:

    Thank you, James! We hope to see many of your engaging film projects in the years to come.