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Our Story

Launched in 2011, the San Francisco Green Film Festival is the West Coast's leading organization for films & conversations about people and the planet.

We educate and connect communities through fun, fearless, forward-thinking environmental film programs like our flagship annual Film Festival, along with year-round community screenings and events in the Bay Area. Attendees discover new, top-quality films from around the globe, encounter stories from the front lines of the world's most urgent environmental issues, and get inspired to collaborate and innovate towards solutions.


The seed for SFGFF was planted by founder Rachel Caplan, who has over 20 years of experience working in film exhibition, including film festivals in the USA and Europe.

Rachel is passionate about film as the catalyst for environmental ideas and action. There were several audience experiences in 2007-2009 that led her to launch the Green Film Fest. These film screenings – An Inconvenient Truth, The Age of Stupid, The Cove – were about more than watching a movie: people were excited about getting together, sharing the stories on screen and talking about pressing environmental issues. In 2010, Rachel created the Green Film Fest to fill this need for sharing bold environmental stories in the city that's at the forefront of both independent film and the global green movement.

Since the first-ever Opening Night screening of Bag It, Green Film Fest has shown time and again that films are powerful vehicles for spreading knowledge, opening debate, and galvanizing action. Over 275 programs and 520 films later, we’ve honed the power of that “a-ha!” moment – when the credits roll, the lights come up, and the audience member feels moved and motivated for what comes next. Working with filmmakers, environmental experts, and campaigners, we are creating programs that bring us together to spark ideas for a better world.

Our Goals & Programs

  • To educate and inform the public about environmental threats and solutions by opening up high quality, relevant, and factually accurate films from around the globe.
  • To create transformative arts experiences for individuals to absorb current environmental realities and envision our possible futures.
  • To build collective power for environmental causes by bringing together diverse people and communities to make connections and share ideas and actions.
  • To grow diversity and inclusivity in the environmental movement by designing programs that are inviting, affordable, and accessible to everyone.
  • To effect environmental justice through programs that motivate audiences to change attitudes, behaviors, and government and corporate practices.


Curated Film Series

We create entertaining & relevant film events that connect attendees to the most pressing environmental issues. 

Our annual Film Festival and ongoing Community Screenings reach many thousands of people each year:

Since 2011, we have produced over 275 environmental film events with over 520 films for Bay Area audiences. 1 in 3 of our events are free to the public.

Our signature program, the annual Green Film Fest, brings 70 new environmental documentaries and over 100 filmmakers and environmental guests to over 4,000 people. 

Year-round we present a number of events with partners across the Bay Area, including our Encore Series and Science on Film


Green Connect Program

We build connections between audiences and ideas, communities, and causes.

At every screening, our Green Connect program provides a way to help people find their environmental passion, hook on and take action.

Working with filmmakers and our community partners, we connect people with the ideas in the film and opportunities to get involved.

The program involves talks and sessions on the issues; directing people to our Lights! Camera! Take Action! resources and give people a chance to share their Green Pledge on postcards, online or on video with Green Speak Out.


Filmmaker Development Program

We support filmmakers to increase the impact of their stories.

We want to provide a participatory space for this network of documentary film professionals to thrive.

Each year we honor films and filmmakers with our Green Film Fest Awards, which gives winners additional industry recognition for their work.

We have two specific programs to support filmmakers in telling their environmental stories: First Cut - Works-In-Progress; and Filmmaker Residency. Each year we will strive for a dynamic and diverse program of films and we give particular consideration to female filmmakers and Northern Californian filmmakers.

Our events are designed with the filmmaking community in mind, our Green Film Now events are panels, workshops and networking sessions on the latest ideas in green documentary filmmaking.


Youth Program

We give young people access to green films & filmmaking. 

We want young people  to have an opportunity to share their environmental passions and stories.

Every year we encourage students age 18 and under to submit their films to Green Film Fest, with the added incentive of submitting for free.

Our Green Film Fest Young Filmmaker Award honors a young filmmaker during the Festival and invites them to accept their award at the event. 

Our Youth Ticket Fund gives young people in the San Francisco Bay Area an opportunity to participate in Green Film Fest events for free.

We work with The Mix/Teen Digital Center at San Francisco Public Library to produce youth filmmaker workshops for green documentary making Reel Stories. Young people learn how to write, edit and shoot a film, and present it to an audience at Green Film Fest.

Our Impact

2017 Green Film Fest Wrap Report

At our signature program Green Film Fest 2017, April 20-26, we presented 71 films in 7 days at 7 venues across San Francisco Bay Area. More than ever, we’re coming together to champion independent filmmakers and show audiences the power of film to take on the biggest environmental hurdles. Read more...

2016 Annual Report

San Francisco Green Film Festival continues its commitment to champion bold, independent environmental filmmaking. Bringing these vital stories to San Francisco Bay Area audiences. 

Our signature program, the annual Green Film Fest, reached new heights in 2016 with our move to the historic Castro Theatre. From April 14-20, Green Film Fest was a city-wide celebration for Earth Day and became a fixture in the San Francisco cultural calendar. Over 4,000 audience members came together for 70 new environmental documentaries, with over 100 filmmakers and environmental guests, and 60 community organizations taking part. Read more... 

Past Annual Reports and Green Film Fest Wrap Reports:


Here's how we think about the impact of our programs:

IMPACT: After participating in a SFGFF event, audiences are more aware of these environmental stories and the filmmakers' work.

We've produced over 275 environmental programs bringing together over 500 guest filmmakers, environmental leaders, artists & more than 28,000 Bay Area residents. And we're always charting reactions from our community.

Our audience has grown year-on-year. At Green Film Fest 2017, there were 4,100 audience members.

To help stay accessible to a diverse audience, 1 in 3 programs are free to attend, plus 10% of tickets at every paid event are free for schools, youth organizations, and non-profit partners.

Our film curation is guided by the principle of presenting a diversity of perspectives from all over the world. At the Green Film Fest 2017, there were films from 30 women directors, 12 youth/student films, and from 16 countries.


IMPACT: After participating in a SFGFF event, audiences are:

  • more aware of the issues raised in the film and the context of the issues in the Bay Area; OR
  • ready for action! Taking steps such as seeking additional information and sharing the issues with other people; OR
  • engaging in new behavior such as a lifestyle change, increased donations, volunteering with the Festival or a community partner.

We have 8 themes for people to learn more and take action, we work with over 70 community partners and local artists to inspire environmental change through their unique perspective.

82% of attendees at Green Film Fest 2017 said they have been inspired to take action or change something. We also collect feedback from all our stakeholders in these testimonials.

Over 100 people at Green Film Fest 2017 shared what they have learned and plan to do next by making a Green Pledge on our postcards or on Green Speak Out.

We keep track of stories that tell the Bigger Picture - events that capture the long-tail impact of our film screenings as we plug into wider issues here in the Bay Area and around the world.


IMPACT: After participating in a SFGFF event filmmakers are connected to Bay Area audiences and partners.

We've supported the work of over 350 filmmakers in sharing their films and making connections, including programs at our annual Green Film Fest, year-round community events, filmmaker residency, and work-in-progress screenings.

In Green Film Fest 2017, there were 12 world premieres; 30 women filmmakers; 12 youth/student filmmakers; 21 Bay Area films; and 28 international films.

Every year we celebrate & promote our films and filmmakers with the Festival Awards, selecting our choice for Best Feature; Best Short; Inspiring Lives; Green Tenacity; Audience Award; Young Filmmaker Award; and the Green Fire Award - a juried award with $5,000 cash prize.

We work with filmmakers to provide them, as well as the Festival, the greatest exposure possible. The Festival is an opportunity to connect filmmakers with local press, film industry and environmental leaders in the Bay Area.


IMPACT: After participating, youth filmmakers are connected to Bay Area audiences and partners.

IMPACT: After participating in a SFGFF event, youth are more aware of these environmental stories and the filmmakers' work.

Every year, we support local film contests for aspiring environmental filmmakers and showcase young filmmakers at Green Film Fest.

At Green Film Fest 2017 we provided 250 complimentary tickets for students to attend films; 12 of the films screened were from young filmmakers; and we continued our youth filmmaker workshop with The Mix/Teen Digital Center at San Francisco Public Library.


Greening the Festival

An important aspect of all San Francisco Green Film Festival programs is that the events themselves are green and strive to be zero waste events. Through green choices, we show guests that a fun event can also have a lower impact on the environment.


Venue Selection 


When considering venues for SFGFF events, the relative location to public transportation is a factor. This includes:

  • Public Transportation: BART, MUNI, CalTrain
  • Bicycling: Market Street/Embarcadero green bicycle lane, bike parking
  • Walking: Local restaurants and amenities within walking distance


Special Events

We all love a party! Our team works hard to ensure that our social events have minimum environmental impact. These are the rules we live by:

  • Local & sustainable: Food, beer & wine are provided by local, green-minded vendors (see full list here).
  • No new purchases: For decor, we use rented or recycled items.
  • Plastic-free! No plastic serving ware or utensils are allowed. Everything must be 100% biodegradable.
  • Zero landfill: everything must be either composted or recycled.
  • Zero food waste: leftover food is taken home by team members or donated locally.
  • No bottled water: Water stations are provided with delicious tap water.

None of this would be possible without a well-informed volunteer corps, enthusiastic to support our greening efforts and assist vendors and guests. 


Marketing Materials 

We keep our use of paper materials to a minimum. Where we do have to have these, they are printed locally using recycled paper and soy-based inks. Our 2017 Festival program guide was one sheet (!) of paper without any glue or staples. Materials such as guest passes, signage and décor are reused from one year to the next. For example, printing Festival vinyl banners without specific dates means they can be reused each year.

We encourage sponsors & partners to spread their messages through our electronic materials and on-screen at the events to reduce the need for paper promotional materials. For example, our Take Action slides on the big screen at every event give practical ways to get involved with the films and the work of our partners, eliminating the need for paper handouts.


Festival Awards

Our unique Filmmaker Awards are 3-D printed locally using green, non-toxic and biodegradable materials, such as PLA and recycled wood.


Guest Travel

Our filmmaker guests stay at stylish green hotels, including the Orchard Hotel and Orchard Garden Hotel , the first hotel in the US to receive the prominent LEED-EB O&M Gold certification, and only hotel in SF to use solar panels.

Guests are transported from SFO by shared shuttle and given a complimentary MUNI pass for all their travels around the City.


Digital Films

We use a digital film entry process, eliminating the need for paper forms, DVD materials, and entry shipping. Each year we receive 500+ films entries electronically, and our 30-person screening committee does all viewing and reviewing entirely online.

This extends to our film screenings where, whenever possible, we project digital versions of the films. This removes the need for toxic celluloid or other film materials and the heavy carbon footprint of shipping films around the world (A film print is usually shipped on six to eight reels in two cans and weighs 50 to 80 pounds).


Festival Office 

The Festival office implements many green practices:

  • The Festival core team commutes to the office using public transit, walking, or working remotely.
  • The Festival office is in a green building with natural lighting, CFL/LED light bulbs, low flow toilets, low VOC paint etc.
  • Furnishings are second-hand or donated.
  • We use energy efficiency certified appliances, such as printers.
  • SFGFF uses certified green suppliers and vendors, including New Resource Bank, Dharma Merchant Services, Western Web, Good Green Moving, and Blue Heron Catering.
  • The office has used only 2 reams of recycled paper in the past 12 months, which we source from green suppliers. Don’t forget to print double-sided!
  • We take many measures to be a paper-free office. For example, using paperless processes for electronic surveys, film submissions and judging, volunteer applications, event invitations, ticket sales, as well as creating paperless presentations and reports.
  • All serving-ware is reusable or compostable, no disposables/single-use plastic.
  • We have large pitchers of tap water for our water station.
  • We grow some greenery too – our office has lovely plants, including a banana tree!


Photos by Pamela Gentile and Tommy Lau.