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Conservation Filmmakers Workshop 2019
Conservation Filmmaker Workshop
Conservation Filmmaker Workshop
Conservation Filmmaker Workshop

Pitch project ideas to our film industry panel and win seed money! Fondle the latest technical gear! Network with other filmmakers! Have a blast at this unique gathering!

THE CONSERVATION FILMMAKER WORKSHOP (CFW) runs concurrently with the American Conservation Film Festival, featuring conservation-focused films, filmmaker interactions, subject matter experts, and much more. It takes place in vibrant Shepherdstown, WV, a sweet little town along the Potomac River just 70 miles west of Washington, DC.

Accomplished workshop instructors from National Geographic, Smithsonian Channel, Tangled Bank Studios, along with award-winning independent filmmakers.

Workshop sessions have included: The Power of Film for Social Change, Gear Show and Tell, Distribution 2.0, Navigating the Industry, Impact Video & Storytelling, Creative Funding Strategies.

The ACFF Filmmaker Workshop is held at the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center, just 60 miles from Washington, DC in Shepherdstown, WV. The 533-acre campus includes instructional facilities, lodging, dining, and a social lounge, as well as outdoor patios and trails for observing local wildlife.

The two-day intensive workshop is . . .

  • an opportunity to hone the craft of documentary filmmaking
  • designed for all experience levels
  • an intimate, collaborative environment
  • a testing ground for ideas
  • Dates TBD
Neil-science story

Highlights from the 2019 Workshop


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.

His film Artifishal is the recipient of ACFF’s 2019 Green Fire Award.

Josh Murphy - Director

Notes from the Network: Taking Your Film from Rough Cut to Final Cut 

Presented by Tria Thalman, Executive Producer, Natural History, Smithsonian Networks

How do you most effectively communicate your film’s story?  In this interactive session, you’ll be guided through a film’s journey from rough to final cut, specifically following the Executive Producer’s notes to the filmmaker.  Explore initial story set up, fundamental components of good story, structuring a documentary destined to air on commercial cable, and techniques for compelling writing.  Review a full rough cut and offer your critique, comparing notes with other participants and the network executive, before viewing the final cut to see how the project came together.

Tria considers herself one of the lucky ones: someone who knew early in life what she wanted to do and has happily followed that path for 25 years. In her current role she helps develop and oversee a broad slate of wildlife films for Smithsonian Channel US and their international networks. She works with production companies to help shape their films through development and production, and gets deep in the weeds with scriptwriting if needed. But, a producer at heart, she’s happiest when in the field. Before joining Smithsonian Channel she worked as a freelance producer creating content for National Geographic, Discovery, Nat Geo Wild and Animal Planet. She has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in zoology from the University of Cambridge and studied film at the University of Bristol before moving to the United States in 1995.

The Business of Documentary Film Making

Presented by Neil Losin, Day’s Edge Productions

You want to dedicate your career to telling beautiful, important stories about nature and science. But what does it actually take to make a living in this industry? In this presentation, Neil Losin (Day’s Edge Productions) will discuss how to make filmmaking into a viable profession, without sacrificing the passion that inspired you to take this path in the first place. The presentation will cover: different jobs in the industry, the legal and financial basics of running your own business, how to manage projects and grow your business, investing in your future, and avoiding burnout. Wherever possible, the presentation draws from Neil’s real-world experience growing Day’s Edge Productions from an abstract vision of two science grad students into a successful nonfiction production company making dozens of films per year.

Neil is an award-winning documentary filmmaker based in Miami, Florida. Before making films, Neil earned his Ph.D. in Biology at UCLA and studied wild animals around the world. Now, through their company Day’s Edge Productions, Neil and his business partner Nate Dappen produce broadcast and web documentaries about science, nature, conservation, and adventure.

Pitch Panel

This special workshop session gives documentary filmmakers of all experience levels the opportunity to present new projects with a verbal pitch (that may include showing a trailer or short sample) to a panel of conservation filmmaking experts for feedback and the potential to win project seed money, and for all attending to gain valuable insights and new connections that can guide their own filmmaking.

This is the pitch you want to do before you do an industry pitch, so that you can give your pitch a test run in a safe and supportive environment. Constructive feedback from other filmmakers in a nurturing environment can help identify strengths and areas for improvement in projects and the pitch itself.

“The staff does a great job of providing a positive atmosphere for filmmakers of all experience levels to discuss important topics and network. I highly recommend that any aspiring filmmaker with interest in telling stories about the environment submit their work to this festival and participate in the workshop.”

“Because of the workshop, I feel plugged into a community of talented, kind, supportive, inspiring filmmakers and people working in conservation media that before felt so distant and separate from my work.”

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