June 11, 2015

A Big Hunk of Gratitude

After spending a few days here, I’ve decided what your festival really needs is to be a few days longer.

After some much needed rest, I can finally exhale fully and reflect upon my first festival. There hasn’t been time for self-congratulating for becoming the executive director of the coolest, most inspiring, kick-ass nonprofit out there. There hasn’t even been time to pin up a family photo on my office bulletin board. From my very first day, I was in a race with time to learn as much as I could before the festival arrived.

Having always been motivated and guided by mission, my position at Mountainfilm gives me a way to participate in inspiring and, hopefully, motivating people to make changes and engage in ways that tap into their passions and tackle important issues. I called this my dream job, and as the festival approached I had the chance to see if it lived up to my romanticized dreams because so often those are dreams are better than reality.

My first Mountainfilm weekend became more than I could have expected or imagined. I was surrounded by not only extraordinary guests, staff and volunteers, but I was able to wrangle all of my responsibilities and still have those “Mountainfilm moments” that inspire me to work here. Whether it was the best hug ever from Frederick Ndabaramiye, finally meeting our outstanding sponsors and donors or having a great conversation with Cheryl Strayed, the incredible people added more depth and warmth to my weekend than I could have asked for.

At the closing picnic, Ben Masters from the film Unbranded* caught my eye and waved me over. I congratulated him on his Audience Choice award, and he asked if I could handle some feedback on the festival. I braced myself for a good talking to about the number of folks we had to turn away from his film’s first screening. He said, “After spending a few days here, I’ve decided what your festival really needs is to be a few days longer.” I laughed out loud with relief and at how absolutely crazy that sounded after having spent the last seven months immersed in the planning of five festival days. At that moment, the thought of a few more days was dizzying, but at the same time I understood his enthusiasm. In past years, I’ve left Mountainfilm wanting more. Ben smiled and went on to tell me that everything made sense to him now: “These are our people here in Telluride, and we were meant to show our film here. It was all meant to be.” What he said was true. From their arrival, the extended crew of Unbranded was embraced, absorbed and celebrated by our entire community.

My job at Mountainfilm has just begun, but I’m eager for next year, ambitious and feel a big hunk of gratitude for being a part of something so special. I share the leadership of this fine organization with Festival Director David Holbrooke, who has grown the Mountainfilm programming to unmatched heights and has generously supported me through my first festival.

Sage Martin, Mountainfilm Executive Director

*We love Unbranded so much, we’re bringing it back for a July 5 screening at the Palm Theatre.

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