Mountainfilm Style Day 2 – Essential Gear for a Mountainfilmer

After a beau­ti­ful dri­ve through Col­orado yes­ter­day, the famous Moun­tain­film ban­ner and wav­ing Tibetan prayer flags wel­comed us into the pic­turesque town of Tel­luride and into the excite­ment of one of America’s longest-run­ning film fes­ti­vals. In its evo­lu­tion, Moun­tain­film has grown beyond a love for the out­doors to become a place for activists and pio­neers to dis­cuss crit­i­cal con­tem­po­rary issues and artists to share the sto­ries of our world.

But when prepar­ing to go to a fes­ti­val in a tiny moun­tain town, you need to pack more than a video cam­era and your ideals. Here are a few essen­tials for moun­tain­film­ing like a veteran:

Sun­screen – Tel­luride is at 8750 feet. It is both sun­ny and windy. Make sure to keep your skin happy.

Mug, bowl, spoon – Last year Moun­tain­film decreased its waste by over 80 per­cent by elim­i­nat­ing all to go con­tain­ers. Bring your own unless you’re cool eat­ing soup out of your cupped palms or for­go­ing cof­fee for the weekend.

Pen and note­book – with so many bril­liant ideas float­ing around, you’ll want to record every last bit. Some­thing that fits in your pock­et and sup­ports your efforts of scrib­bling in the dark is a wise choice.

Day pack – Per­son­al­ly, I think fan­ny packs are mak­ing a come­back. Weath­er you choose a back­pack, mes­sen­ger bag, purse or cool­er, you’ll need some­thing to car­ry your snacks and lay­ers through­out the day.

Camp chair – You’ll want one for the out­door screen­ings. Trust me, you do not want to be that jeal­ous per­son, star­ing at those around you all hap­py with their backs and bums sup­port­ed while you strug­gle to get com­fort­able on the cold grass.

Ban­dana – A true vet­er­an shared this secret with me. We’re talk­ing about some incred­i­bly mov­ing films here. You’re bound to shed a tear of joy, pain, fear, passion–you’ll want to have that ban­dana handy.


So far I have eat­en what locals say is the best Thai food in town, sipped a bit of whiskey and seen an award-win­ning film at the Horny Toad out­door the­ater. Not even two min­utes into the fes­ti­val trail­er and I was already moved–feeling the pain, exhaus­tion, excite­ment, fail­ure and suc­cess of the peo­ple and places in the images in front of me. Sit­ting there beneath the stars, bun­dled up in lay­ers of down and tucked into the moun­tains, I was absolute­ly stoked for a week­end of inspiration.

And Chas­ing Ice was a great way to begin it all. Direc­tor Jeff Orlows­ki spent five years fol­low­ing pho­tog­ra­ph­er, James Balog to put togeth­er this shock­ing, hor­ri­fy­ing and mag­i­cal film that makes it dif­fi­cult for any­one to argue the effects of glob­al warm­ing. Balog goes beyond sane lim­its to cap­ture calv­ing glac­i­ers around the world–often times this means stand­ing bare­foot in freez­ing waist-high waters, dan­gling him­self over frag­ile ice ledges and fight­ing extreme winds to set up his pho­to con­trap­tions. The film was a great indi­ca­tion of what’s ahead for the weekend.

The Mov­ing Moun­tains Sym­po­sium starts today so the streets will feel pret­ty qui­et while activists explore the impli­ca­tions of pop­u­la­tion growth and dis­cuss how we can all con­tribute to a liv­able future. Moun­tain­filmers will con­tin­ue to trick­le in through­out the day to make it for the first batch of screen­ings tonight.  First on my list is Bid­der 70, the film that chron­i­cles activist Tim DeChristopher’s dis­rup­tion of a land and oil auc­tion and the events that fol­lowed to even­tu­al­ly land him in prison for civ­il disobedience–a sen­tence he is cur­rent­ly serving.

I’m told the best way to expe­ri­ence Moun­tain­film is free from expec­ta­tions. Many of these films are mak­ing their world pre­miere this week­end and oth­ers have already gained pop­u­lar­i­ty on the fes­ti­val circuit–so the the­aters will no doubt get full. The good news is that if you miss out on one show­ing there is bound to be some­thing inspir­ing hap­pen­ing in a the­ater, gallery or cof­fee shop down the street. The trick is keep­ing an open mind and fol­low­ing the con­ver­sa­tions around you.

There’s still plen­ty of time to get here. Hop a plane, hitch a ride, pack up your bike–whatever you got­ta do. I’m just one day in and I can already tell you it’s worth it.