Speakers, Special Guests, and Events

We are pleased to enhance your festival experience with appearances by filmmakers, special guests, pre- and post- show discussions, and activities. Events within blocks are included with Festival Passes or Block Tickets. You can click on the links below to order specific block tickets or purchase festival passes here»

Attending Filmmakers

Ben Dorger and Becky Harlan

Becky Harlan
Film: Shad Run
Block 16: Sunday, October 6th – Block 16 – National Conservation Training Center 3:30 PM

Becky Harlan is a video producer and photographer based on a house barge in DC’s Washington Channel. She has been obsessed with documenting Washington’s waterways since 2012. Currently, she works on the video team at NPR. Before that, she was a photo editor and writer for National Geographic’s photography blog.



Neil Losin
Film: Parrots in Peril: Miami’s Wild Macaws
Saturday, October 5 – Block 5 – Frank Center 1:15am – 2:30pm

Neil Losin is a biologist, photographer, and filmmaker based in Miami, FL. He was named a National Geographic Young Explorer in 2009 while studying invasive lizards in Florida and Puerto Rico. Neil received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and earned his Ph.D. in UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in 2012. He’s an incorrigible birdwatcher and can juggle more objects than you’d think. Neil cofounded Day’s Edge Productions with Nate Dappen in 2012.



Lizzie Bankowski (student)
Film: Dead in the Water (Student Film Award) 
Sunday, October 6 – Block 14 – NCTC 11:30am – 1:15pm

Lizzie Bankowski is a documentary filmmaker, nonfiction writer, and environmental advocate. Lizzie uses documentary filmmaking to foster positive environmental and social change. Her films have played at Cucalorus Festival, Women’s International Film Festival, and Oaxaca Film Festival. Lizzie is currently directing a documentary short about sustainable seafood in Virginia Beach.


Justin Lotak
Andreea Lotak

Justin and Andreea Lotak
Film: Conserving Ibera’
Saturday, October 5 – Block 5 – Frank Center 1:15am – 2:30pm

Andreea and Justin Lotak are co-founders of the nonprofit organization Conservation Atlas. Andreea and Justin have been working to create films about conservation projects worldwide that benefit from increased sustainable tourism. With four more conservation films in progress, Conserving Iberá is their organization’s first film.



Terry Spahr
Film: Earth Overshoot
Saturday, October 5 – Block 7 – Frank Center 5:00pm – 6:45pm

Terry Spahr wrote, researched and produced Earth Overshoot. He is the executive director of a nonprofit by the same name, established to ensure ecological limits are central to all decision-making. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Fels Center of Government, Terry lectures on issues of sustainability to students, professional associations, investor groups, and civic organizations. He writes regularly for a variety of environmental publications and blogs.


Abigail Mellinger

Abigail Mellinger (student)
Film: Fueling Faith: The Oily Secrets of Climate Denial
Sunday, October 6 – Block 14 – NCTC 11:30am – 1:15pm

Abigail Mellinger is an Ithaca College graduate that majored in documentary studies and production. She served as the executive producer on multiple documentaries covering a wide variety of topics that highlight climate/social and political justice. As a certified stress and rescue diver, she is also passionate about the ocean. She enjoys underwater photography and videography and has been published in Southern Boating Magazine.


Josh Murphy - Director

Josh Murphy
Film: Artifishal (Green Fire Award) 
Sunday, October 6 – Block 12 – Frank Center 5:15pm – 6:45pm

Josh Murphy is an award-wining director and producer whose work includes commercials, branded content, television, short and feature narrative film and documentaries. He is the recipient of North American Snow Sports Journalist Association’s Bill Berry Award for Modern Media, the Harold Hirsch Award for Film and Broadcast, and was a finalist for the Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grant for narrative film.



Sarah Koenigsberg
Film: The Beaver Believers (Green Spark Award) 
Sunday, October 6 – Block 10 – Frank Center 1:00pm – 2:30pm

Sarah Koenigsberg is a filmmaker, photographer, and educator whose work focuses on stories of art, environment, and community in the American West. Her films and teaching cross disciplines, illuminating the power of storytelling as a medium through which to explore complex science and policy issues. Koenigsberg’s work has screened across North America, in venues such as the National Climate Adaptation Forum and the North American Congress for Conservation Biology, and in film festivals such as the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival, the International Wildlife Film Festival, the Portland EcoFilm Festival, and the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, among others.


Kent Wagner - Director

Kent Wagner
Film: Borneo’s Vanishing Tribes
Sunday, Oct 6th – Block 14 – National Conservation Training Center 11:30am

Kent Wagner is a filmmaker, photographer and audio producer focusing on environmental and cultural issues. A former engineering major at Berklee College of Music, he holds a degree in Electronic Media and Film from Northern Arizona University, and is presently completing an MFA in Environmental Filmmaking at American University in Washington, DC.


Speakers & Special Guests

Monica Schorn

Monica Schorn
DCEEF, Festival Coordinator
Co-presenting Current Revolution and Powerplant: Plants Could Save the Planet

In addition to her work at DCEFF, Monica works for the American Film Institute’s documentary film festival. She has served as the production manager for the AFI DOCS Film Festival since 2014, and as the production coordinator, associate programmer, and director of programming for the Annapolis Film Festival. Monica is a Washington native and a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.


Dr. Douglas Stein
subject of The Vasectomist
Saturday, October 5th – Block 7 – Frank Center 5:00pm – 6:45pm

Dr. Doug Stein practiced adult general urology for over 17 years in Tampa, Florida. In 2000, he stopped seeing new general urology patients to devote all of his time to vasectomy and vasectomy reversal, eventually providing vasectomy services at up to 21 locations in Florida, many under the federal Title 10 program for low-income men without insurance. In 2010, he began his international vasectomy mission work and has now led 38 vasectomy missions to a variety of countries including the Philippines, Haiti, Kenya, Mexico, and Indonesia. In addition to training doctors overseas, Dr. Stein has provided individualized training for 124 doctors from five continents at his main office in Tampa. He has performed over 45,000 vasectomies and 1,750 vasectomy reversals.



Susan Clayton
expert on eco-anxiety and how to cope
Sunday, October 6th – Block 11 – Frank Center 3:00pm – 4:45pm

Susan Clayton is Whitmore-Williams Professor of Psychology at the College of Wooster in Ohio. She has written or edited six books, including most recently Psychology and Climate Change (2018; co-edited with Christie Manning). Her Ph.D., from Yale University, is in social psychology. Her research focuses on the human relationship with nature, how it is socially constructed, and how it can be utilized to promote environmental conservation. She has written extensively about the implications of climate change for human well-being, and is a lead author on the upcoming 6th assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.



William Padilla-Brown
featured in Fantastic Fungi
Sunday, October 6th – Block 13 – Frank Center 7:15pm – 9:00pm

Founder of MycoSymbiotics, William Padilla-Brown is a social entrepreneur, citizen scientist, mycologist, writer, YouTube vlogger, contributing editor for Fungi magazine, researcher, poet, and father. He holds permaculture design certificates acquired through Susquehanna Permaculture and NGOZI. Leading the field of cordyceps cultivation, William regularly teaches at mushrooms clubs around the country, festivals, agricultural conferences, and more.



Sari Carp
Executive Director of Sustainability Matters
Sunday, October 13th – Block 21 – Frank Center 4:00pm – 5:40pm

Sari Carp is co-founder and Executive Director of Sustainability Matters, a nonprofit focused on conservation education and community building.  Since its founding almost two years ago, Sustainability Matters has organized over 90 events in eight Virginia counties. They’re also working on a sustainable business initiative and making trash bloom by planting pollinator habitat at landfills.



Sarah Cohen
Founder and President of Route 11 Potato Chips
Sunday, October 13th – Block 21 – Frank Center 4:00pm – 5:40pm

Sarah Cohen is the founder and president to Route 11 Potato Chips, a small specialty potato chipper founded in 1992. A Washington, DC native, Sarah grew up working in her family’s business, The Tabard Inn. With zero manufacturing experience or engineering skills, Sarah embarked on a food adventure that has been as painful as it has been rewarding. In 2008, Route 11 designed and built a state-of-the-art kettle chip facility in Mt. Jackson, VA and has just installed a second production line that will double Route 11’s production capacity.


Special Events

Conservation Filmmaker Workshop
October 4 & 5
National Conservation Training Center, 698 Conservation Way, Shepherdstown

Expert instruction from filmmakers and media experts on a variety of topics are offered to emerging and seasoned filmmakers in this 2-day intensive workshop.  $75/student; $200/filmmaker.


Free Opening Film Block
October 4
4PM – 5:15PM, The Frank Center, Shepherd University, 260 University Drive, Shepherdstown

Start the festival with a free special film block featuring three short films from the United Nations/Jackson Hole Wild Ocean Tour as well as feature film, Humpback Whales – A Detective Story, about filmmaker Tom Mustill’s encounter with a humpback whale when it landed on his kayak, drawing him into a community of whale experts concerned about the future of these colossal animals.

Reserve Your  FREE Ticket»

Filmmaker Workshop Sessions: Free & Open to the Public
October 5
National Conservation Training Center, 698 Conservation Way, Shepherdstown

12:30PM – 4PM 
A special opportunity to sit in on two sessions of this exciting and interactive workshop.

12:30PM – 2:30PM
Pitch Panel for New Projects – our version of “Shark Tank” where filmmakers pitch conservation film projects to a panel of esteemed experts for feedback and the possibility of winning seed money for their projects.

2:45PM – 4PM
Keynote address from an award-winning conservation filmmaker on the challenges, triumphs, and impact of conservation filmmaking.

Vegetarian Food Tasting
October 5
12:45PM, The Frank Center, Shepherd University, 260 University Drive, Shepherdstown

Following the film #Powerplant in Block 4 about a plant-based diet and its positive impact on the planet, join us for some delicious vegetarian and vegan food tastings.


Discussion on Human Population 
October 5
6:30PM, The Frank Center, Shepherd University, 260 University Drive, Shepherdstown

Following two films in Block 7 on the implications of over 7 billion humans inhabiting the earth, come hear Earth Overshoot’s writer and producer, Terry Spahr, and Dr. Doug Stein, The Vasectomist himself, speak about their work and solutions for the future.


Saturday Night Party with Cerphe
October 5
9PM – 11PM  Sustainable Solutions, 4419 Kearneysville Pike, Shepherdstown

Join us and our very special guest, Cerphe Colwell, “greenest DJ in America,” for a festival party inspired by rock-n-roll, people who tell powerful stories, and a love for our planet. Noshes, drinks, Cerphe’s “green playlist,” book signing, and tons of fun!  $30/person.  Filmmakers and sponsors free.


Electric Car Show w/ EVADC
October 6
10am-11am and 12:30pm-1pm Shepherd University Parking Lot, near the Wellness Center

Curious about electric cars? Here’s your chance to have a look at the Chevy Bolt, the Tesla Model 3 and more.Members of the Electric Vehicle Association of Greater Washington DC will bring their cars for display, answer your questions, and share info sheets comparing dozens of current hybrid and electric models! The show is before ACFF Block 9 and between Blocks 9 and 10 at the Frank Center, so you can check out the cars and take in some films too!

Family Film Block and Activity
October 6
1:45PM – 3:00PM National Conservation Training Center, 698 Conservation Way, Shepherdstown

Nature fans young and old will enjoy these two fantastic films on bugs and wildlife. Stick around for a bug petting zoo with the Leskey Lab from the USDA Appalachian Fruit Research Center.  Free for kids 18 & under.


Overcoming Eco-grief
October 6
4:30PM, The Frank Center, Shepherd University, 260 University Drive, Shepherdstown

Feeling anxious and overwhelmed by all the distressing news about our planet?  Join us for a candid and hopeful presentation from an expert on how to process all this information while staying optimistic and action-oriented. The speaker will directly follow the screening of Anthropocene: The Human Epoch at 3PM.


More on Mushrooms!
October 6
7PM & 9PM, The Frank Center, Shepherd University, 260 University Drive, Shepherdstown

Before and after Fantastic Fungi in Block 13, learn about foraging and cultivating mushrooms from expert mycologist and contributing editor at FUNGI Magazine, William Padilla-Brown, who also appears in the film!


ACFF Encore Weekend
October 11 – 13
Friday 6PM – 9PM, Saturday 4:30PM – 9PM, Sunday 4PM – 8:30PM.
The Frank Art Center, Shepherd University, 260 University Drive, Shepherdstown

Join us for encore showings of our eight award-winning films, including the ACFF Audience Choice Award winner!

Buy a Weekend Pass»

Green Business Discussion
October 13
Following The Green Lie – Frank Center 4:00pm – 5:40pm

Sarah Cohen, founder of Route 11 Potato Chips, and Sari Carp, Director of Sustainability Matters, will talk about the joys and challenges of creating a business and a nonprofit, respectively, and with green principles in practice.


Community Activities

Conservation-focused Book Sale and Display
October 4 – 13
Thursdays – Saturdays, 10AM-8PM, Sundays Noon – 5PM, Four Seasons Books, 114 W. German Street, Shepherdstown

Stop in Shepherdstown’s one and only wonderful bookstore for a special selection of nature and environment-centric books (as well as so many others).  Show your festival pass to receive a 15% discount on selected books! Four Seasons Books»

Art for Nature Exhibits
October 4 – 6 & 11 – 14
11AM – 7PM, Evolve Shepherdstown, 106 W. German Street, Shepherdstown

Visit Shepherdstown’s new pop-up art space for two exhibits celebrating nature.  Painting, photography, and mixed media from artists Susan Loonsk, Doug Kinnett, and Gary Bergel on October 4-6.  Woodwork, paper art, and ceramics from artists Bob Gallienne, Kristine Smith, and Liz Goines October 11-14. Evolve»

Heal Our Planet with Jala Yoga
October 6 & 13
9AM – 10:15AM  Jala Yoga, 117 W. German Street, Shepherdstown

Relax and restore with two special Sunday morning all-levels classes that celebrate nature on a global scales.  By donation. October 13 class will be held outside, weather permitting. Jala Yoga»

Sunday Farmer’s Market
October 6 & 13
9AM – 1PM, behind the Little Library on S. King Street, Shepherdstown

Visit our local farmer’s market to pick up the freshest locally grown produce, meats, and cheeses as well as baked goods, salsas, lotions, and much more.  Live music, too! Shepherdstown Farmer’s Market»