Reel Impact Film Festival Social Impact Reels
in Palo Alto at HanaHaus


Reel Impact Film Fest video screenshot

The Reel Impact Film Festival explores how motion picture is used to spread messages, drive change and achieve commercial goals for social impact organizations. The festival is focused on short films and “promo reels” that social impact organizations- both for profits and not for profits- leverage as part of their strategic communications. With the number of social impact companies growing rapidly and the explosion of the use of video online, social enterprises must embrace visual storytelling to effectively get their message out and drive the change they desire.

The digital world is opening up fantastic new opportunities for storytellers of all types, but especially for social impact organizations. Our vision is to provide an innovative festival where experts and newbies in digital short form storytelling can learn, share and create their own stories for good.
—Angie Mertens & Paula Saslow, Co-Founders of RIFF.


RIFF 2016 was the perfect confluence of talented filmmakers, passionate storytellers, and an engaged community––all committed to a better world through positive social impact. The films were inspiring, the conversations were electric, and the stories that were shared will stay with me for a long time.
—Jared Karol, Storytelling for Good
The Reel Impact Film Festival was an evening full of inspiration. The connections MAMA HOPE was able to make with filmmakers, impact organizations, foundations and other influencers in the venn diagram between film and social good have been amazing, and we are looking forward to many new partnerships because of this night! Not to mention the wonderful facilities and the engaging program put on by everyone at the Palo Alto Impact Center. We will definitely be attending next year!
—Katarina Boratko, Mama Hope
At RIFF, we got to celebrate the wide spectrum of storytelling that inspire people to take action.
—Emily Yao, Panet Murple
Congratulations on a well organized, exciting and magical event. I was honored to be apart of the inaugural RIFF. Stories connect, heal and shift us. This festival was like a gift to us -- bringing together storytellers, social good agents and thought leaders in a unique, engaging and impactful way.
—Toan Lam, Go Inspire Go
In addition to being inspired by all the purposeful and creative films showcased at RIFF, I was moved by the community of storytellers who showed up to learn, teach and support each other.
—Nayelli Gonzalez,

What is a promo reel?

Promo reels (aka demo reels, promo videos, pitch reels, corporate highlight reels) are 1-to-5 minute videos that combine visuals, audio, and concise messaging to create an overview of a product, service, initiative or brand.


The festival includes an opening reception, keynote speaker and panels, several rounds of screening a variety of reels, networking opportunities, workshops and a closing ceremony with an award session.

Workshop areas include:

  • Create your story – Identifying the most compelling pieces of your story or mission.
  • Create the reel – Producing a movie that captures the essence of your message.
  • Create the buzz – Marketing tools & techniques to distribute your movie.

2016 festival agenda below - Stay tuned for 2017!

  • 5:00 - 6:30 PM

    “Green Carpet” Networking reception

  • 6:30 - 7:15 PM

    Opening remarks by Sandy Herz, Skoll Foundation | Promo reel screening round I film reel|

  • 6:30 - 7:15 PM

    Panel discussion

    Wendy Levy, NAMAC (moderator)

    Jared Karol, Storytelling for Good

    Niema Jordan, Trilogy Films

    Nicole Newnham, Coco Films

  • 7:30 - 8:15

    Impact storytelling workshops

    Workshop 1 Ellen Schneider, Active Voice Lab

    Prenups for Partners: What Social Entrepreneurs, Creatives, and Investors Should Talk about before Tying the Knot

    Real impact happens when sectors work together towards common good, However, their cultures — even their language — might differ widely. What should you think about when forming a creative partnership? How can you learn from others' efforts? Join Active Voice Lab for an intimate, practical conversation about articulating vision and expectations, roles, even some initial questions to ask about distribution and ownership. view workshop details +

    Workshop 2 Benjamin Packard, Retainer Video

    How to make a video that doesn’t suck

    This is a 45 minute workshop that covers the basics of video production geared toward people with background in video. The workshop covers at a high level elements across: Content, Filming, Lighting, Sound, Music, Editing, Distribution. view workshop details +

    Workshop 3 Gabriel Diamond, Skoll Foundation

    Documentary style promotional filmmaking

    Gabriel Diamond ( and staff filmmaker at Skoll Foundation, will discuss his unique barebones documentary style process of creating promotional films on a tight budget. He’ll share tips on how to capture the essence of the story and mission with integrity and cinematic style while avoiding common pitfalls and cliches. We will view select clips from his work and there will be ample time for questions and discussion. view workshop details +

    Workshop 4 Ken Fisher, Truth Be Told and Robyn Carlton, Lookout Mountain Conservancy

    Engineering stories to build a movement, create impact and incite action

    Robyn Carlton and Ken Fisher will discuss how they are reshaping the Land Trust Alliance to create real and meaningful change through transmedia social impact storytelling. The Land Trust has traditionally been known for conserving land, but what if the land can also be used to transform lives. Robyn and her organization are pioneering an effort to do just that, transform the lives of underserved youth in her community. Her work has attracted significant attention and her efforts have become the inspiration of a movement that is influencing 1,200 Land Trusts throughout the country. Using this experience we will dissect and discuss how we developed the story through ethnography to make an emotional connection, how we brought the story to life through creative direction, cinematic, cinema verite documentary filmmaking, and how we're using the film to fuel a movement to transform an organization and impact communities around the country. view workshop details +

  • 8:15 - 9:15 PM

    Promo reel screening round II film reel|Closing Remarks |Award session

  • 9:15 - 10:00 PM

    Reel Closing Festivities


The Reel Impact Film Festival hosts an Awards program and presents awards to winning promo makers.


NOW ACCEPTING FILM SUBMISSIONS for the 2nd annual Reel Impact Film Festival.

Reel Impact Film Fest video screenshot
View RIFF REEL 2017

Use FilmFreeway to upload your film.

Here are some examples of promo reels: Medic Mobile, Weal Life, Kiva, and B Corp Anthem.

The mission of The Reel Impact Film Festival is to advance the practice of creating and distributing film and video to advance the goals of social enterprises. The festival connects social enterprise leaders and marketing and film professionals together to learn from each other, celebrate powerful works, and provide resources to social enterprises to best leverage film.

Get involved

Reel Impact relies on volunteers for pre-festival planning as well as the festival. Without our volunteers, there truly could not be a festival.


Reel Impact Film Fest video screenshot

Planning for the festival is a big undertaking and is already underway. We have a variety of internship/volunteer opportunities starting immediately for overseeing the submission process, assisting in event planning, PR & outreach, and fundraising.

The time commitment can vary from five to fifteen hours per week, and much of the work can be done from your home. Academic credit may be available upon school approval.

To learn more about the current pre-festival volunteer positions, send an email to

Follow us on LinkedIn, twitter & facebook, so you don't miss any of the latest news!


Our advisors play an integral role in providing direction to the program architecture and content, and marketing support.


Support the festival while getting great exposure for your brand with a festival sponsorship, through channels including, but not limited to:

  • Four-color ad in the festival program
  • Logo placement on posters, signage, and T-shirts
  • Featured slide or video on the festival big screen
  • Mentions on social media and in press releases
  • Year-round listing on the Palo Alto Impact Center - Reel Impact website


We are currently looking for donors, private and corporate sponsors. For more information please contact

A huge thank you to our sponsors for supporting the Reel Impact growing community of game-changers!

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