Get to know attending filmmakers Chris Smead and Gordon Gurley

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Highline cast Chris Smead Chris Smead Gordon Gurley Gordon Gurley

The NatureTrack Film Festival is excited to welcome back Director Chris Smead and his Co-Director for Highline, Gordon Gurley, to the 2020 Festival in Los Olivos, March 20-22. Chris brought us Rae Lakes in 2018, The High Sierra Trail in 2019, and will be giving us a Southern California premiere of his first full-length film, Highline, this coming March. Chris is the founder of Outmersive Film.

We are very excited that both Chris and Gordon will be coming to the festival to give insight into the making of their film. One thing we can always expect when we watch a film produced and directed by Chris and his Outmersive team – we will learn more about the trail’s history, and we will want to grab our hiking boots and experience it for ourselves.

Highline follows 5 hikers as they traverse a lesser known mountain range in Utah called the Uinta (you-inta).  Viewers will experience the adventures and challenges along the way. Local archaeologist Tom Flanigan adds another layer of depth to the experience by sharing stories from the past and conveying the importance of this lesser known place. As the story progresses, viewers begin to learn more about the hikers, and why they choose to hike for days, weeks, and even months at a time. Stories of PTSD recovery, addiction recovery, health, and family issues are heavy topics in the film.

The Highline premiere in Utah brought 400 people to the showing, and back to back screenings in Salt Lake City were sold-out, as are 2 showings in Tennessee. It is clear that Outmersive is producing films that people want to see!

If you would like to know more about the “behind the scenes” adventures creating the Highline film, we recommend listening to Backcountry Exposure’s Backpacking Experience Podcast with Devin. A wonderful interview with Chris Smead.

Information on hiking the trail can be found here.

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Get to know Blue Ventures’ Biography of Madame Kokoly

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Kokoly Kokoly

The NatureTrack Film Festival is excited to welcome Tom Collinson, a representative of Blue Ventures, which produced Kokoly. Blue Ventures is a British marine conservation NGO, dedicated to rebuilding tropical fisheries with coastal communities.

While there are many films about the impact of climate change on our biodiversity, it is also important to highlight the impact of climate change on the humans who rely upon that biodiversity to live.

Madame Kokoly

Kokoly offers an insight into the life of an incredible woman. Against a backdrop of extreme poverty, personal loss and a marine environment changing beyond her control, Kokoly lives on a knife edge. Kokoly follows a traditional Vezo fisherwoman Madame Kokoly – as she reflects on her life experiences and carries out her daily routine in and around the coastal waters of southwest Madagascar. This film features female-only voices from one of Africa’s most remote regions.

Says Blue Ventures, “This film was produced with support from the Skoll Foundation and is a product of the Sundance Institutes ‘Stories of Change’ grant.

The film is a powerful and personal exploration of how one woman is navigating her daily life against a backdrop of poverty and marine biodiversity loss. It’s important that voices from marginalised communities are amplified; communities who will bear the brunt of the effects of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss. We hope this film will be a valuable contribution to this conversation.”

Learn more: Read Oceanographic Magazine article by Garth Cripps


Get to know attending filmmaker Yeliz Motro

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Escape Escape

The NatureTrack Film Festival is excited to welcome Director Yeliz Motro and Producer Catherine Nelson to the 2020 Festival in Los Olivos, March 20-22. Animation is a singularly unique way to illustrate a relationship with nature or the world. NTFF is very pleased this year to have had a number of excellent animation projects submitted to the festival – from those submissions, we were able to accept a larger number than ever before, two of them being student films!

Beginning with a simple train trip, a little girl searching for serenity, determines to escape into the wilderness. Her journey ends, only when she is wild enough to become a part of it.

Yeliz Motro

Yeliz relates, “Between March 2018 to June 2019, I directed a 2D/3D hybrid short for my senior film at SCAD, made up of 2D backgrounds and a 3D character textured and rendered to fit the illustrations. We also incorporated a subtle style shift between the beginning and the end of the short, starting with a “clean” look (graphic, geometric, refined) and slowly transitioning to “wild” (loose, painterly, impressionistic) as the character moves deeper into the forest.” To learn more about the processes used to create her animation visit:

Yeliz Motro is an animator, originally from Istanbul, Turkey. Graduated from SCAD Atlanta, she is an avid traveller, with her art frequently taking inspiration from concepts of childish curiosity and adventurous wonder.


Get to know attending filmmaker John M. Mastriano

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The NatureTrack Film Festival is excited to welcome John M. Mastriano to the 2020 Festival in Los Olivos, March 20-22. Inspired by the stories told to him about his father’s life, this film demonstrates the connection that can be made through the power of nature.

John Mastriano

A poignant story, Guidance, tells a first person account of connection. Says director John, “John Thomas Mastriano lost his hard-fought battle with cancer on October 25, 1989, at the age of 31. John was my dad. I was too young to remember much about him, but I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by many people who knew him well and enjoyed telling stories about him. Fathers can guide you through life in all sorts of ways. This is a story about me and my father’s shared passion for nature, wildlife and exploration and how learning about him guided me to that passion. I wanted to use my own personal experience to inspire people to find inspiration and fulfillment in the wake of great loss.”

John’s story exemplifies how children can connect with nature, even when that guiding hand is felt through the stories left behind by those who knew a father would have wanted to share his passion with his child.

Director Biography:

Director, DP, and filmmaker. Born on Long Island, NY in 1986. Developed a passion for nonfiction storytelling while attending The State University of New York at Oswego in the mid-2000s. Possesses tremendous appreciation for wildlife and the natural world.



Get to know attending filmmaker Elizabeth Lewis

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duck saved copy Waters of March Waters of March

The NatureTrack Film Festival is excited to welcome Elizabeth March to the 2020 Festival in Los Olivos, March 20-22. An animator of award winning films, Elizabeth’s talent will be on full display!

Waters of March is the classic written by Tom Jobim and performed by jazz singer Stacey Kent. The delicately rendered animated drawings move at a rollicking pace transitioning back and forth from real to abstract images telling the ever-changing story of loss and hope.

Elizabeth Lewis

Says Elizabeth, “My films are based on poetry and my interpretations are intensely personal. The imagery varies from close representation of the words to abstract. I am inspired by nature. I live in the woods beside a river and every image in this film is from direct experience. The film is a tribute to my late brother and the journey he took in his last year. Although the images move quickly, the references to illness, life, medicine, hope and ultimately the continuation of life is there. Every word and phrase of this song has meaning in this context. I had heard this music before. It is a classic dating back many decades. It is only when I heard Stacey Kent sing it on the radio that it really moved me. Her version is pure and hopeful. Some of the words in the song are dark and sometimes violent. Mixed in with this is beauty and hope all sung and interpreted with a sense of wonder and truth.”

Director Biography:

Born and raised in Montreal, Elizabeth later moved to Toronto. Her training is in fine arts painting and drawing. She attended schools in Montreal, Paris and Banff. Elizabeth got her start as an animator at the National Film Board of Canada, where she animated and designed the poetry film based on A kite is a Victim by Leonard Cohen. After moving to Toronto, she animated other poems by Earl Birney and William Carlos Williams. Professionally, she was on the animation teams at Nelvana and other studios including Walt Disney Animation Canada. Elizabeth was an animator on award winning films for Street Kids International produced by the National Film Board of Canada. She was awarded for her poetry films by the Poetry Film Festival in San Francisco and the Chicago Educational Film Festival. Waters of March was premiered in North America at the Flickers International Film Festival, Rhode Island 2019 and in France at the Cannes Short Film Festival September 2019 and has been accepted into six other festivals. Waters of March won Special Jury Award for Music Video at the Los Angeles Animation Festival 2019 and was a finalist at the ARPA Festival in LA.


Get to know attending filmmaker Lydia B. Smith

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Walking the Camino - Six Ways to Santiago J&Wbridge3

The NatureTrack Film Festival is excited to welcome Lydia B. Smith to the 2020 Festival in Los Olivos, March 20-22. Many people have never heard of this extraordinary pilgrimage but, many people have, and it’s excited a longing to travel the Camino de Santiago some day.

This year, we are excited to introduce Director Lydia B. Smith’s film “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago” and have her on-hand to answer questions about the making of her film.

Bunk-beds. Blisters. Stunning landscapes. World-class snorers. Hot searing sun, freezing cold rain. Kindness from strangers. Debilitating injury. Unexpected romance. No toilet paper when you really need it. Profound grief and deep doubt. Hunger. Laughing with new friends. Total exhaustion. One is guaranteed to experience all of these emotions and moments, amongst others, while walking Spain’s ancient pilgrimage path, the Camino de Santiago.

Since the 9th century, millions of people, from spiritual seeking or devoutly religious pilgrims to adventure-driven travelers, have embarked on an epic pilgrimage across northern Spain that is known to be profoundly enlightening, spiritually nourishing, and physically challenging. Today, several hundred thousand people a year walk on this mostly unpaved path with little more than a backpack and a pair of boots.

Across Spain, this sacred path stretches westward to the city of Santiago de Compostela where the bones of the apostle St. James are said to be buried. The Camino is world-renowned; UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site and the Council of Europe declared it the first European Cultural Itinerary. Millions of people from all over the world have traveled this trail for over 1,000 years – in 2010 alone, over 270,000 people attempted the arduous trek – each one a seeker of something.

Walking the Camino is a total immersion experience that captures the trials and tribulations associated with a group of modern pilgrims who decide to walk the Camino de Santiago. The cast of people featured in the film run the gamut of ages (from age 3 to 73), as well as nationalities, religious backgrounds and motivations for coming to the Camino.

Through the stories of these six pilgrims and the priests, hospitaleros, and others featured along the way, Walking the Camino presents universal themes that highlight the communal and individual components of the Camino de Santiago. Solitude and community are inseparably intertwined as pilgrims seek to redefine the way they live their lives, deepen their relationships with themselves, and rediscover their connection with the world in which they live and in doing so, pilgrims become more self-aware. Out of that self-awareness inevitably emerges open-mindedness and selflessness as pilgrims, both in Walking the Camino and the thousands of others who have walked the journey, help each other through their trials and struggles to reach the finish line.

The star of the film, the Camino itself, is showcased with elegant cinematography that captures and depicts the gorgeous scenery and breathtaking vistas, from the raindrops on leaves to the fields of grass, mist covered mountains, colorful sunsets and truly inviting local people and historic surroundings. The documentary truly captures the personalities and inner challenges of the pilgrims and their transformations along the journey. The audience experiences the drive, questions, pains, joys, and revelations that these modern day pilgrims encounter along the way. Walking the Camino is guaranteed at the very least to inspire the audience to examine their own life’s journeys, if not pick up a backpack, strap on a pair of boots and set out for Santiago themselves.

Director Bio:

It’s hard to imagine another filmmaker better suited to capturing the Camino’s unique experience than Lydia, who makes her feature film directorial debut with Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago.

She lived in Barcelona for over six years and speaks flawless Spanish, in addition to Italian and Catalan. Her deep understanding of the Camino comes from Lydia’s avid passion for the outdoors, hiking, and nature along with her deep spiritual practice; she is a licensed spiritual practitioner from the Agape International Spiritual Center and from the United Centers for Spiritual Living. During the spring of 2008, Lydia walked the entire 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago, and has a deep understanding of the power of pilgrimage and of the captivating stories along the way that are waiting to be told.

Lydia B. Smith has a long history of collaboration with the producers on this project and began her work in documentaries 30 years ago. She directed, produced, and wrote: They’re Just Kids, a 26-minute educational documentary showing how children with disabilities can have a positive affect on our lives, A Legacy Revealed, a 40-minute historical documentary, Infiniti: Behind the Scenes, and a 20-minute biography, Bill Lansing: A Tribute

Additionally, she was Senior Producer on CNN’s Soldiers of Peace: A Children’s Crusade, Co-Producer and 2nd unit DP on the CNN Documentary, The Mystery of the Arctic Rose, 2nd unit DP on the PBS show, Stand Up, American Producer for Chilean TV’s, The Route to the Beringia, DP for Anthony Hopkins Teaches and more.

In addition to her producing and directing career, Lydia has worked as a camera assistant and operator on commercials, top music videos, and on major motion pictures including Ed Wood with Johnny Depp, Dan- gerous Minds with Michelle Pfeiffer, and Matilda with Danny DeVito, to name just a few.

Get to know attending filmmaker Preston Maag

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The NatureTrack Film Festival is excited to welcome UCSB alumni Preston Maag to the 2020 Festival in Los Olivos, March 20-22. From the very beginning, NTFF has worked to develop a special relationship with UCSB’s budding filmmakers and has been proud to showcase their student work the last 2 years.

Preston Maag

This year, we are excited to introduce Director Preston Magg to our audience. His film, “10 Miles Out” was shot in our local backcountry and “follows backpackers of various skill and experience levels – from beginners to die-hard backpacking aficionados – as they navigate through the Los Padres National Forest, which spans from Ventura to Monterey Counties.” We are sure many in our audience will recognize some of the trails and maybe some of the people featured! Preston will be available after his screening to offer insights and answer any questions about his film.

Like NatureTrack, Preston believes that nature can be the perfect escape from the “chaotic cacophony of our technologically-driven society by simply spending some time enveloped in nature.”

Says Preston, “Growing up, one of my favorite hobbies was going camping. Many weekends were spent huddled around a campfire sharing stories and eating good food with family and friends. As I got older, these weekends began getting replaced as schedules filled with separate interests. It was not until earlier this year when I discovered the world of backpacking. My friend took me on a brief overnight trip into the Los Padres National Forest, and I was immediately hooked. Coming from a camping background wherein my supplies came from the bed of my car, Backpacking kept all the gear on my back. As an avid hiker, this gave me the option of hiking to beautiful places and rather than hiking back, being able to setup camp where nobody else was. After my first trip, I felt inclined to share my experience with people in the form of a film. “10 Miles Out” is an experiential documentary meant to provide general knowledge on backpacking as well as inspire people to get outside and enjoy what is available to them on a daily basis.”

Preston’s film career began in 2017 with the premiere of “La Luz” in Santa Ana, California. After transferring to UC Santa Barbara that same year, Preston quickly became a dynamic student of the film program. In a brief two years, he was part of over 30 student productions including a few credits as a Director and Director of Photography. His current film “10 Miles Out” was a 2019 GreenScreen Premier at the Carsey Wolf Center at UCSB. He works to capture stories that motivate people to consider their relationship with nature and technology. He plans to continue pursuing his dream in nature filmmaking.

We are adding more films to the festival!

In addition to the films that are selected from the hundreds submitted through FilmFreeway, the NTFF team also curates additional films that we feel would be of special interest to our guests.

So far, we are very pleased to announce that we have curated in the following excellent films!

Directed by Chris Smead

A feature length film about the Uinta Highline Trail

2018 NTFF “Rae Lakes” Film Documentary
2019 NTFF “The High Sierra Trail”
For most of human history, we lived in wild places.
Ten days. Five friends. One trek across Utah’s Uinta Highline Trail.
Watch as the ancient history of the trail is woven together with the personal history of each of the hikers as they get back in touch with the world, and each other. Rainier_in_pastel_light_-2

My Friends Were Mountaineers
Directed by Eric Beckeer

A short length film about Dee Molenaar

Dee Molenaar is an American mountaineer, artist, and cartographer who spent his life among the mountains. While celebrating his 100th birthday, the film explores his years working as a mountain guide and park ranger in Mount Rainer National Park, and the worldwide expeditions that he participated in, including the first ascent of Mount Kennedy along with Jim Whittaker and Robert Kennedy.

Warren Miller’s Timeless,
presented by Volkswagen

A feature length film about the Uinta Highline Trail

2018 NTFF “Line of Descent” & Warren Miller Tribute video
2019 NTFF Volkswagen presents Warren Miller’s “Face of Winter”

The only constant is change, but the spirit of winter is eternal. Featuring ski legends like Glen Plake, alongside newcomers Caite Zeliff, Jaelin Kauf, and Baker Boyd. Road-trip with rippers from Arlberg to the Matterhorn, be immersed in the hometown hill of Eldora and discover a different side of Jackson Hole, plus much more, as we celebrate 70 years of ski cinematography and travel with top athletes across the globe to renowned mountain locations.

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NTFF 2020 opens for submissions in less than 10 days!


On June 1st the 2020 NatureTrack Film Festival in Los Olivos, California will open long and short film submissions in both live and animated form in the categories of Adventure, Animation, Biography, Conservation, Kids Connecting With Nature, Scenic, Student, and a special category called Outdoors & Out of Bounds. Up until August 31st there is no fee to submit a film for consideration. Beginning Sept. 1st, a fee of $10 will be required for late submissions. Closing deadline for all submissions is September 30, 2019.

Submissions in all categories will be accepted in both feature and short (40-min or less) lengths:


Films submitted in this category should emphasize exploration and interaction with nature. A journey of discovery about or through our natural world.


Films in this category should focus on nature, positive conservation efforts, or the environment as related in the other categories.


Films submitted in this category should focus on a person who has lived, or is living, a lifestyle that enhances our understanding of nature, conservation, and/or our environment.


Films submitted in this category should focus on positive conservation efforts that work toward preserving and/or protecting nature and the environment.

Kids Connecting with Nature

Films submitted in this category should showcase children connecting with nature through learning, exploring, discovering, or through community service in positive environmentalism or conservation.

Outdoors & Out of Bounds

Films submitted in this category should focus on extreme adventure and athletic interaction with nature and the natural environment.


Films submitted in this category should focus on the beauty, majesty, or exploration of interesting environments that can be found in nature.


Films submitted in this category must be submitted by a student (with proof of student enrollment at the time the film was created). Student films should be focused on nature, positive conservation efforts, or the environment as related in the other categories.

Complete entry application and rules are available at

Films will be judged by a jury of film industry professionals and nature experts. $1,000 cash prizes will be awarded for overall Best in Festival (feature and short). The “Dan Conaway Award” of $500 will be presented to the best depiction of Kids Connecting with Nature, and there will also be a $500 cash award for both the Audience Favorite winner and the film that best “ignites passion for nature.” All category winners will receive a custom designed award.

The NatureTrack Film Festival (NTFF) closed out a successful second year in March with over 60 films screening from around the world. Once again, the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley wine country hamlet of Los Olivos played host to the NTFF to the raves of filmmakers and filmgoers alike. Organizers are looking forward to an exciting third year by bringing an even more diverse and distinctive selection of outdoor film to the 3rdannual NatureTrack Film Festival. All entries are thoughtfully curated and selected to “ignite passion for nature through film.”

NatureTrack founder and director Sue Eisaguirre conceived the idea for a nature-focused film festival (the only one between San Francisco and Los Angeles) as an extension of the non-profit she started in 2011 which introduces school children to outdoor spaces from the seashore to the inland oak woodlands. Sue reflected on the 2019 edition of the NTFF saying, “The growth we experienced in our second year was thrilling for us, and a fantastic validation that the Central Coast area is eager to support and sustain an event that brings nature to the big screen in the gorgeous natural setting of the Santa Ynez Valley. We are excited to build on our success and offer even more international films in 2020 focused on “igniting passion for nature through film.”

The NatureTrack Film Festival welcomes sponsor and advertiser inquiries and offers numerous participation levels for businesses and individuals who wish to support the NTFF as a sponsor, partner or advertiser. Please contact Sue Eisaguirre for information on sponsor and advertising opportunities. Volunteer inquiries are also welcome!

About NatureTrack:

NatureTrack is a 501(c)3 non-profit that provides cost-free outdoor field trips for Santa Barbara County school-aged children, utilizing local trails and beaches throughout the county. NatureTrack instills students with leadership skills, attitudes and habits for lifelong learning, inspiring them to be respectful stewards of the natural world. Founded in 2011, NatureTrack has provided more than 20,000 outdoor experiences for students in Santa Barbara County. Demand for the curriculum coordinated program has increased every year with teachers praising the docent-led excursions that align with classroom instruction.