Sunday, September 20, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 29

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on August 7th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 23 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 23

Annual NatureTrack Film Festival gears up for third year in Los Olivos


Since 2011, the NatureTrack Foundation has hosted more than 20,000 cost-free outdoor activities and field trips for students throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Demand for the curriculum-coordinated program has increased every year with more and more teachers using the foundation’s docent-led excursions that align with classroom instruction.

Lights, camera, action!
Long and short film submissions are being accepted for consideration into the 2020 NatureTrack Film Festival, scheduled to run Friday, March 20, through Sunday, March 22. There is no fee to submit films before Saturday, Aug. 31. Starting Sunday, Sept. 1, a fee of $10 will be required. The final deadline for all submissions is Monday, Sept. 30. Entry applications and more details are available at

Los Olivos’ NatureTrack Film Festival is the only nature-focused film festival between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Among last year’s films was Natural Flow, featuring soccer freestyler Boston Fitzpatrick.

In 2017, the nonprofit hosted its inaugural NatureTrack Film Festival in Los Olivos—the only nature-focused film festival between San Francisco and Los Angeles. NatureTrack founder Sue Eisaguirre sought to start the festival as an extension of the foundation, bringing visions of the great outdoors indoors, so to speak, in order to inspire viewers to go out and seek their own adventures.

When Eisaguirre approached Festival co-producer Holly Cline with the opportunity to help bring the event to life, it was an offer she couldn’t refuse.

“As a lifelong nature lover, I fully support NatureTrack’s mission to bring school-age children out on the trail for an immersive experience,” Cline told the Sun. “And the idea of helping to start a ‘nature centric’ film festival, which would support and enhance that vision, was too good to pass up.”

Submissions for next year’s film festival—scheduled to run March 20 through 22—are now being accepted through Sept. 30. Applicants may submit films free of charge if received by Aug. 31 (each entry requires a $10 fee after that deadline). The festival is open to long and short films, and competition awards will be given in eight categories: Adventure; Animation; Biography; Conservation; Kids Connecting With Nature; Scenic; Student; and a special designation called Outdoors and Out of Bounds.

Last year’s NatureTrack Film Festival hosted the U.S. premiere of Our Planet, two weeks before the series’ release on Netflix.

“This category was specifically created for films that feature individuals going out into nature and putting it all on the line,” Cline said. “Skiing down glaciers, mountain biking down incredibly steep and dangerous terrain, etc.—these athletes are fueled by adrenaline, and there are very few who would be willing to take on the challenges that they are.”

Last year’s festival included films made locally as well as from around the world. The 2019 event also hosted the U.S. premiere of Netflix’s Our Planet, two weeks prior to its global release, and a screening of the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo, which took home the award for Best in Festival (Feature Film).

In presenting quality films focused on nature, the festival aims to influence students who are less inclined to go outside and take part in outdoor activities, especially those glued to their phones or other devices.

“In the modern world, kids are more often isolating themselves within the bubble of technology, moving farther away from the skills needed for face-to-face interaction and conversation,” Cline said. “On the trail, conversation and direct interaction are necessary. Immediate tangible experiences are tangible.

“Exploring outdoors allows children to use their imaginations to problem solve, engages empathy for the fragility of the habitats they encounter, and enhances listening skills among their peers and within themselves.”

NatureTrack Film Festival runners, including co-producer KC Murphy Thompson (left), connected with Black Diamond athlete Joe Grant (right) and other industry representatives at this year’s Outdoor Retailer Show in Denver, Colorado.

Cline, Eisaguirre, and fellow co-producer KC Murphy Thompson recently returned from the annual Outdoor Retailer Show in Denver, Colorado, where they sought potential sponsorship from several outdoor-friendly brands. Most companies were keen on learning more about the film festival and recognized its alignment to NatureTrack’s mission.

“All of these people realize the value of introducing young people to outdoor experiences. As kids log more screen time indoors, their ‘green time’ outdoors declines,” Murphy Thompson said in a press release. “All of these people realize the value of introducing young people to outdoor experiences. As kids log more screen time indoors, their ‘green time’ outdoors declines,” Murphy Thompson said in the release. She went on to say that outdoor companies are eager to help get kids outside, since they will be the ones buying gear for their adventures down the road.

“And once hooked on the outdoors, kids’ natural curiosity takes over and they are eager to learn and enjoy what nature offers,” she added, “and, most importantly, motivated to protect it.” 

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood is thankful his office has windows. Reach him at

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