Nevada City, California
Theresa attended her first Wild and Scenic Film Festival in 2008 and it changed her entire life. An avid camper and a fish in a previous life, she fell in love with the Yuba River and describes it as a spiritual experience. Growing up in California and traveling all over has given her an immense love of nature and the environment.
Theresa brings a lifetime of sales experience to the Wild and Scenic Film Festival team. As a social entrepreneur, her goal is to use Wild and Scenic On Tour as her voice for change. She considers her position as Sales Associate to be a dream come true. Her intention is to use her extensive experience in sales, business management and public relations combined with her passion for the environment, to grow SYRCL’S Wild and Scenic On Tour Program.
Tell me about your role at the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL).
I am the On Tour Sales Manager for the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. This means that, while I definitely have a role in our big flagship festival here in Nevada City and Grass Valley every February, that event kicks off a worldwide tour and that’s where my efforts are focused. The tour is mostly in the States, but we do have events hosted in Europe, Spain, Canada, Italy, and India.
The On Tour program is an event planning system in a box. We provide the films either in pre-curated form or a custom program, and we produce the film program into a “River Network presents the Wild and Scenic Film Festival,” for example. And we provide these programs with a turnkey planning system, which helps if the local host is not experienced in event planning.
The Wild and Scenic Film Festival has been represented at River Rally for the last several years. Especially in the last 4 years with two virtual conferences, our experience building the program has changed to accommodate our internal needs and capacity each time. We chose a cultivated program in 2020 when we were so strapped for capacity switching to a virtual conference and it was an amazing program. Then we had a staff committee review the entire catalog in 2021, which was a lot of fun.
And most folks do choose the custom film program, which allows them to choose films that are directly related to their work. So many of the organizations that host an On Tour event are river or watershed organizations, so they all tend to pick the same handful of films. It ends up looking a lot like our curated programs anyway. And I say this because I think, in many ways, it’s advantageous to use a curated program. Any of those programs are available for fundraising and outreach purposes for any group who wants to host an event. SYRCL is also a waterkeeper so we thrive on water films and curate this program every year called “Our Waters”. We also had a Clean Water Act this year, so there is always a water-centric program available.
So the idea of the On Tour program is really similar to the event hosted at River Rally except that it is a local organization inviting folks from the community to come and learn more about the organization’s mission.
It’s a very strong outreach and fundraising tool. I have hosts that turned a single 2-hour event into a $90,000 fundraiser. Even during COVID, these host organizations saw good attendance, and 60% of those were new contacts.
What is the value of using films to bolster support and reach for a local organization?
When I first started in this role, I had a conversation with Bob Thomas at Loyola University who runs the environmental communications program about how someone hears the message and what they do with it. He told me that film is the most effective method of creating an activist, and that’s what happened to me personally. I attended a local event in 2008 and saw the film Bag It about single use plastics. I noticed people carrying reusable water bottles and thought I can do that. It shifted my thinking 180 degrees. At each of these On Tour events, we’re reaching at least one person like me who is going to make changes in their life because of a film. This is one of the strongest ways to create supporters and one of the most wonderful forms of entertainment that we all know and love.
Something that always surprises me about the annual film catalogs is the range of topics covered by Wild and Scenic. It’s not just outdoor adventure, it’s advocacy, representation in the outdoors, and very personal stories. Do you have a broader description of the kind of films that are included in the Wild and Scenic film catalog each year?
Yes, these films are where conservation and environmental activism come to live and thrive. There are a number of touring film festivals that are more adventure with a touch of conservation. We are conservation with a touch of adventure with a purpose. We’re a place where you might see a transgender woman hiking all 7 peaks, or a professional bicyclist struggling with bipolar disorder. It can be an American Rivers film with Tim Palmer, or a single mother in Louisiana fighting factory farm pollution near her home. And one that was included in the River Rally film program this year was A River Reborn about the Conemaugh River that was restored after generations of pollution by coal and steel industries. They can be very sad, funny, or empowering, and sometimes all three. We want to educate and entertain at the same time and inspire people to take action.
What have been some of your favorite On Tour events?
There are a few events that really rocked my world. Pines & Prairies Land Trust in Austin, Texas, reached out to us during COVID and they created an outdoor, nighttime films and camping experience on their preserve. They had 300 people show up and the photos are awe-inspiring. Another is River Alliance of Wisconsin who hosted an event with the Barrymore Theater. A University of Wisconsin woman spoke, and she was about to set out to an Arctic station where 10-15 people would be working on climate change research. She wanted to bring the film program up there and she took photos of them watching the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in the Arctic. Outdoor Afro also partnered with the Utah Film Society to put on a representation in the outdoors program that was really memorable.
How can someone learn more about bringing the On Tour program to their community?
They can reach out to me by email. We can have them attend a virtual event to get a feel for what the films look like, and we can also send them a sample program. We have an entire library of films in our resources that people can check out if they’re interested in learning more on their own time.