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Our Story

The San Francisco Green Film Festival is a non-profit organization dedicated to screening compelling environmental films; connecting you to filmmakers & experts; and sparking green ideas & actions.

As the leading movement for films and conversations about people and the planet, our mission is to educate and connect communities through forward-thinking programs of environmental films, dialogues, and action opportunities.


The seed for the Festival was planted ten years ago when founder Rachel Caplan sat down to watch Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth - a moment that led her down a whole new path.

It was the first time she experienced a film that was building a movement and inspiring people to take action on climate.

Four years later, Rachel launched our signature program Green Film Fest.

From the first event, it was clear that this was about more than watching a movie, people were excited about getting together, sharing the stories on screen and talking about these pressing issues.

Over 250 film programs later, we’ve honed the power of that “a-ha!” moment - we want to make the most of when the credits roll, the lights come up, and you feel moved and motivated for what comes next.

Working with filmmakers, environmental experts and campaigners we are curating film programs that bring us together to watch, discuss and spark ideas for a better world.

See you at a green film event soon!



Our Goals & Programs

  • Use the power of film to bring the public into the global conversation about what it means to live sustainably.
  • Bring our community relevant and compelling environmental and cultural content - film, art, discussion, action steps - as a catalyst to inspire us all to change attitudes, behaviors and take action.
  • Give American and International filmmakers the opportunity to screen new works in the Bay Area, increase awareness of their stories and support the ongoing success of their films.
  • Encourage young people to participate by creating content and attending events to inspire the next generations of environmental leaders, advocates, and filmmakers.


Curated Film Series

We bring audiences relevant & powerful environmental documentaries and discussions.


Since 2011, we have produced over 250 environmental film events with over 400 films for Bay Area audiences and 1 in 4 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 use the power of film to inspire people to take action for environmental change.

041616_Catching_the_Sun__byPamelaGentile_019.jpgAt 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.


Youth Program

We give young people access to green films & filmmaking. We want them 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 launch a youth filmmaker workshop for green documentary making - Reel Stories: Keep It Wild. Young people learn how to write, edit and shoot a film and these films were then screened at Green Film Fest.


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.



Our Impact

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...

2016 Green Film Fest Wrap Report

The 2016 Green Film Fest, April 14 - 20, presented seven days of internationally acclaimed films, guests, and stimulating discussions about the world’s most pressing environmental issues. 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.

IMPACT: Audiences seek out diverse voices and experiences from filmmakers and characters in the film.


We've produced over 250 environmental programs bringing together over 500 guest filmmakers, environmental leaders, artists & more than 15,000 Bay Area residents. And we're always charting reactions from our community.

Our audience has grown year-on-year. At the 2016 Green Film Fest, there was a 28% increase in individual ticket sales and there were 4,025 audience members.

To stay accessible to a diverse audience, 1 in 4 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 2016, there were films from 24 women directors, 8 first time feature film directors, 9 youth/student films, and from 15 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 60 community partners and local artists to inspire environmental change through their unique perspective.

79% of attendees say 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 2016 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 300 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 the 2016 Green Film Fest, there were 11 world premieres; 24 women filmmakers; 8 first time feature film directors; 9 youth filmmakers; 24 Bay Area filmmakers; and 18 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.

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 2016 Green Film Fest we provided 300 complimentary tickets for students to attend films; nine of the films screened were from young filmmakers; we launched a youth filmmaker workshop with The Mix/Teen Digital Center at San Francisco Public Library; and continued our collaboration with UC Berkeley Student Environmental Resource Center on our student leadership program.


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
  • Parking: Near major freeways with free parking on weekends


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 Hetch Hetchy 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 2016 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 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 Merchandise 

We just don’t sell any. We know you have enough bags already.


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 600+ 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 or 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.