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AWF at Sun Valley Film Festival

African Wildlife Foundation at the Sun Valley Film Festival

When I first interviewed for my job at AWF, I was told that I may, on occasion, be asked to travel to Africa for work. No one ever told me I’d be expected to go to Idaho, too. But there I was last Thursday, crawling out of my soft, warm bed and leaving my family at 5 in the morning to catch a plane to Sun Valley, Idaho. For work.

Just the highlights

OK, you got me. Going to Idaho wasn’t much of a hardship. For one, the reason I was headed west was to attend the 2nd Annual Sun Valley Film Festival. For two, AWF had some exciting news to announce at the festival, and with some great partners, too. For three, Jodie Foster was going to be there! So my sleepy self rallied, and by 3 p.m. Thursday, I was stepping out of a tiny Idaho airport and into a fun, whirlwind weekend. In the interests of time and space, I’ll just give you some of the highlights:

  • AWF, Nat Geo WILD, and Sun Valley Film Festival announced the WILD to Inspire Short Film Competition! The contest, which opens April 1, invites the public to try their hand at nature documentary filmmaking: You submit a 5-minute nature film, and the three finalists get their submissions shown at next year’s Sun Valley Film Festival. The winner then gets crash course in nature documentary filmmaking—with a National Geographic filmmaker—in AWF’s Maasai Steppe Heartland in northern Tanzania!
  • By the way, the press conference announcing the competition was awesome. Lots of interested media, we showed a great trailer that the Nat Geo WILD folks put together, and our trustee Lisa Firestone did a lovely job representing AWF. Sun Valley Film Festival founder Teddy Grennan asked me to say a few words at the press conference, too, so I ended up getting my 15 minutes of fame on top of it all. I will note here that my 15 minutes of fame were very sweaty and consisted of a lot of nonsensical phrases strung together, and I need at least another 15 to 30 to redeem myself. Maybe at next year’s festival? AWF trustee Lisa, incidentally, went out of her way to make me feel at home. She gave me rides to the VIP luncheons and dinners, introduced me to people, and generally talked up AWF at every possible opportunity. It’s great to have people like her in our corner.
  • I got a chance to spend some time with the folks from National Geographic. Chris, Kristin, Geoff, Casey, and Stephanie were so friendly and fun, and I very much enjoyed my time with them. They really made me feel like a part of their team! (Not that they had much choice. I kept inviting myself along on their outings: “Oh, are you going to that film? Can I get a ride?”) • My thanks to Teddy and Candy at the Sun Valley Film Festival. All the festival staff treated me like a VIP—my kids could learn a few things from them—and even better, Sun Valley Film Festival promoted AWF in a big way.
  • Snow! Mountains! Crisp air! Sure beats the concrete and congestion of Washington, DC.
  • Jodie Foster led a very interesting and thoughtful discussion on acting and filmmaking on the last day of the film festival. I also got a chance to meet her, though I was too chicken to ask for a photo with her. No matter, though. Surely I made such an impression that she will soon be offering me the lead role in her next movie. And of course, there were the films. Though to be honest, we were running around so much that I didn’t get a chance to see more than a couple in the entire four days I was in Sun Valley. Still, when a colleague commented, upon my return, that it must have been nice to sit around and watch movies while the rest of the office worked, my first thought was: It was. It really was. Can’t wait ’til next year!


Nat Geo WILD created an amazing video to advertise the WILD to Inspire Short Film Competition—people loved it. I loved that we were able to position the AWF banner right next to the TV screen at the press conference. AWF trustee Lisa Firestone represented AWF at the press conference on Friday, March 15.

Mayu Mishina
About the Author

Mayu is director of content and messaging for AWF, responsible for AWF's print and online content, collateral and overall organizational messaging. At home, she divides her time between being a tyrant to her family and napping on the living room couch. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Mayu has nearly 20 years' experience in communications, storytelling and writing.

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AWF Blogs bring you to the critical landscapes we work in, where conservation benefits both wildlife and people alike. The blogs are written by our staff - men and women who have dedicated their lives to Africa's wildlife, people and wild lands.