Mountainfilm came into my life at a pivotal moment, changing my trajectory forever. My dad made films; they were on shows like “60 Minutes,” “20/20” and “FRONTLINE.” His films were powerful, award winning and had impact. I grew up understanding that you can tell stories that make a difference, but there was always a distance that came with watching a piece on TV that I could never quite get beyond.
Mountainfilm was different. It was in my face. It momentarily swallowed me, and the emotion I felt was real. It wasn’t just the films that reached me, it was the community — the cliché of the gathering of tribe rang true, and I wanted in.
I met Ben Knight at the Telluride Daily Planet. He hired me into the photo department (even though I was shooting with a Nikon at the time). Over the course of a year, we talked about the beauty and emotion of films that we took in at Mountainfilm. We were both in awe of the power of film to create change when paired with passionate people and a cause worth fighting for.
The decision to try our hand at filmmaking came naturally, despite a complete lack of experience or any formal training. We just had the lasting inspiration from the year’s festival and an early Panasonic digital camcorder. The only explicit goals of our first film were to premier it at Mountainfilm and hopefully keep a bit of water flowing in the Gunnison River. It took us two summers of shooting insects, trout, flyfishing and incredibly poorly lit interviews, but we made a short film in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison called The Hatch, which was selected for the 2005 Mountainfilm festival. Seeing our short, little film on the big screen during the festival was transformative — I think Ben and I both were surprised how much it meant to become members of the Mountainfilm community.
An addiction was born. Ben and I never actually thought we would become “real” filmmakers, but the feeling of screening a film in front of the Mountainfilm audience was unlike anything either of us had experienced, and we yearned for it again and again. We continue to make films, each a little better than the last. We keep screening them at Mountainfilm and coming back for more.
Happy 35th birthday Mountainfilm. Thank you for everything you have done for us.
*This year will mark Mountainfilm's 35th festival, and we feel fortunate to still be going strong. We owe our longevity to many people: volunteers, staff, audiences and, of course, many filmmakers, artists and guests. Some people who have taken the stage have helped shape Mountainfilm in Telluride. To celebrate their longtime involvement, we asked a few of these creative types to write something about their relationship with Mountainfilm. This blog by Travis Rummel of Felt Soul Media is the first in a series. (See Felt Soul Media’s work and learn more about their projects.)