Interview with Executive Director Lisa Veliz (Environmental Film Festival at Yale)

Brazilian trash workers, killer whales, and food waste all share one thing in common–they’ve been featured in the largest student-run environmental film festival in the world. Mark your calendars—the 8th annual Environmental Film Festival at Yale (EFFY) is taking place from April 1-9, 2016 in New Haven, Connecticut. This festival draws audiences of over 1,700 each year and several films that have been screened at EFFY in years past have since won Oscars, Emmys, and are now shown on Netflix. This festival was founded by a group of graduate students at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and it has grown to include the greater Yale and New Haven communities while maintaining inclusivity through FREE admission for all.

Interview with Lisa Veliz: 

Matthew Toffolo: What is the festival attempting to accomplish for filmmakers and the attendees? 

Lisa Veliz: The goal of EFFY is to shed light on environmental issues through the medium of film. We work diligently to make this festival inclusive for all through free admission and diverse in terms of content throughout the festival.

MT: How many countries represented the festival last year and in 2016? 

LV: This year we have received submissions from over 26 countries, and we are currently in the process of reviewing films for final selection. Last year, we had films from more than 30 countries.

MT: How did the festival get started? 

LV: The festival was founded 8 years ago, by a small group of graduate students at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. It started with a few films over 2 days and it has grown to encompass close to 20 total student, feature, and short films over 9 days.

MT: Where do you see the festival in 5 years? 

LV: My 5-year vision for EFFY is to take a front seat at the table with the premier environmental film festivals worldwide, and to leverage the network of both student-run festivals as well as environmental initiatives to ultimately reach larger audiences than ever before.

MT: How is the film scene at Yale University?

LV: I’m very new to the film scene, so I’m not sure I can speak to the film scene on campus at-large.

MT: How many films do you anticipate showcasing at your 2016 Film Festival?

LV: We’ll be showcasing 22 films (features, shorts, and student films)

MT: Can you give us a sneak peak of what to expect for the 2016 Festival?

LV: We’ll be integrating virtual reality experiences, a special Youth Film Summit, and a few Sundance films!

MT: What are your feelings on certain high ranking US politicians who feel that there isn’t any environmental issues happening around the world?

LV: I don’t understand why we’re still debating the severity and legitimacy of the environmental crisis we face today. We don’t need more proof of extreme weather conditions and mass species extinction to understand that we are at a turning point in the history of this planet. These issues affect business, the economy, public health, and–most of all–our children. I think climate-denying politicians will surely be in for a rude awakening.

MT: When did you join the festival? Is it always a student run affair and handed off to a new group every 3-5 years? 

LV: I stepped up as ED in June 2015, and it’s been an interesting process to think about the succession plan, because our Master’s programs are typically only two years long–it makes succession planning very challenging. We’re working on making EFFY more integrated into the fabric of the university and particularly at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

MT: If I am attending the festival in New Haven, what else should I see? Landmarks etc..? And what restaurant(s) do I need to go to?    

LV: I’d recommend hiking up to East Rock, dining at Caseus or Da Legna, and going for drinks/pool at Bar. These are my New Haven favorites!


Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

3 thoughts on “Interview with Executive Director Lisa Veliz (Environmental Film Festival at Yale)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s