PICTURED: Harmon Canyon Preserve in Ventura, managed by the Ventura Land Trust. The Wild and Scenic Film Festival helps bring in funding for the VLT.

by Kimberly Rivers


Art can move us and inspire us. Film as a medium can be particularly powerful in reaching a broad audience and inspiring people to act. That is the goal of this year’s 12th Annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival, hosted by the Ventura Land Trust and aimed at inspiring local residents to get out and get connected to natural landscapes around them. 

“Where activism gets inspired” is the tagline for the event that includes about one and a half hours of films. 

“Some are really short shorts, some medium-length-type films. All with an outdoor environment focus and a call to action to help preserve nature and celebrate nature on our planet,” said Melissa Baffa, executive director with Ventura Land Trust (VLT). She said about 500 to 600 people are expected to attend the outdoor event, about half of their typical attendance prior to the pandemic. 

Festival goers who have attended before can expect the same great festival experience, with food and drink vendors, including five local breweries. The venue for the event is the grassy field area outside the Ventura County Credit Union headquarters. 

Tickets run $5 to $125, and VIP tickets are available. There is free parking onsite. Festival goers may bring lawn chairs and blankets, and are encouraged to wear layers as the temperature cools in the evening. 

“We want to particularly make sure that everyone knows this is an outdoor event with plenty of space for people to spread out and socially distance,” said Baffa. Staff and volunteers will be required to wear masks, and are “encouraging all festival goers to be masked.” She noted a small indoor area in the VIP section where those passing through will “need to be masked,” as it’s an indoor space. 

The event includes a raffle, live music from local band Nautical Thrust, booths from local environmental organizations plus an area for fun and games, making the event family friendly. 

She hasn’t viewed the films yet, and explained that VLT has a committee that reviews, considers and selects the films screened. Baffa is excited to see the films and, based on years past, expects some to be “fun and quirky, others moving and inspiring.” 

Being mindful that some people may not want to venture out and gather with others, even outdoors, the Wild and Scenic Film Festival this year will also offer an on-demand viewing option for the week following the in-person screenings. “We do know that some people aren’t comfortable being out in crowds right now,” said Baffa, who noted that the smaller crowds do mean there will be more space on the grassy hillside for those who opt to come in person to really spread out. 

The aim of the event aligns with an important part of VLT’s mission, which includes “encouraging people to go out and celebrate nature. A lot of our films do celebrate exploring nature in your own way; hiking, mountain biking, skiing. Different themes for really connecting with nature.” The films highlight the importance of people experiencing nature “in all sorts of different ways.” 

As for the impact of the event on the work of the VLT, Baffa explained, “This event is important for a number of different reasons.” It is an effective fundraiser bringing in operational funds, which are “always the holy grail for nonprofits. These funds help keep staff paid and lights on, doors open.” The festival “also helps us to bring the community together, form and strengthen partnerships with individuals and other organizations.” These types of events also “raise the profile of the Ventura Land Trust and the work we are doing in the community and the reason that we do it.”  

One recent example of VLT’s work: The 2,100-acre preserve at Harmon Canyon in Ventura that opened to the public last year. The VLT either owns or manages sites across Ventura County, from Camarillo to Simi Valley, with most of the properties it fully owns in West Ventura. In addition to the initial cost of acquiring the land, the organization has to fund trail creation and maintenance, trash removal, brush clearance and invasive species removal. 

“We are eager for our community to know about that great resource [at Harmon Canyon],” said Baffa. It’s the largest property fully held by the VLT. She emphasized that events like the film festival bring in funds for the organization to help ensure areas like Harmon Canyon are available for the public to “explore every day for free,” adding that the area is “protected forever.” 

The 12th Annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival takes place on Saturday, Aug. 28, 5-10 p.m., at the outdoor area of the Ventura County Credit Union Headquarters, 2575 Vista Del Mar Drive, Ventura. For tickets and more information, visit www.venturalandtrust.org/wsff2021