Preview: 5Point Film Festival Ignites This Weekend in Carbondale, CO

This week the tribe of adventure artists, athletes, and activists is gathering in Carbondale, Colorado, for the 7th annual 5Point Film Festival. The ever-evolving four-day event welcomes a broad and eclectic array of films and presenters to not only share their stories of exploration but inspire all those who attend to actively participate in the protection and preservation of the places close to home or around the world they love most.

Executive Director Sarah Wood, now in her second year with the festival, says the 2014 event will premiere a wide assortment of creative pieces meant to tell the story of the world’s modern adventurers—with several original films supported directly or in part by 5Point. But Wood says 5Point is hardly a place just for those interested in the passive indulgence of high-quality filmmaking. She and the organizers of this festival want attendees to also participate and get involved.

“The get-involved activities are really focused around being inspired,” she said in an interview. “You’re out there. You’re active. And now take the steps toward working to preserve that place or understanding the challenges that it faces.

No fewer than 12 interactive projects, sponsored by both local and national non-profit organizations, will give 5Point attendees the opportunity to experience the natural wonders of the Carbondale recreation community. But show-goers can also roll up their sleeves and lend a hand in the hard work of maintaining them. Wood says she hopes this year’s festival will inspire audiences to not only seek out adventure but to get involved in the many issues around the outdoor world.

In advance of this year’s 5Point Film Festival Sarah Wood shared her thoughts in this interview.

James Mills: A lot has happened in the world of adventure since last year. And there have been some truly exciting projects both in exploration and film. What are some of the highlights we can expect to see at 5Point?

Sarah Wood: I think overall at the festival and in the films this year it’s another great mix. For us that’s really important to show not just these amazing athletic endeavors, but the stories and the spirit and the heart behind them. Some pieces that stick out for me—that are great and have that mix within themselves—are like the film Through the Lens with Rob Machado Taka’s Treehouse. It’s part surfing story, part give-back story, part art story through this guy Taka who basically made treehouses for kids who are overcoming the shock of the tsunami in Japan. It’s that mix that these athletes are connecting with local stories where they are recreating and exploring and then helping to tell those stories back to an audience like ours. I think that film in particular is a good example of that.

JM: It looks like there are quite a few films this year that will celebrate their premieres, being shown for the first time in front of an audience, some that haven’t even been seen online. Can you tell about a few of those?

SW: Some of the premieres I’m pretty excited about. Huayhuash by Joey Schuster and Nobody’s River from Skip Armstrong and Amber Valenti, are two films that we played a part in at 5Point. We supported these projects with our film fund. And they are I think a good representation of really honest, good adventure and exploration. These are stories about people following their passion to go out and explore a place through a medium they love. For Joey, it’s mountain biking. For Amber, it was kayaking. Both of them doing it in their own style and coming back to tell their stories. There’s a lot of heart in both of those people, and I’m excited to have them at the festival because these are filmmakers we know and love. And we’re excited to see what they come out with. These two pieces are still in the editing room!

JM: Along the lines of projects that you helped support the film 14.c that features the young African-American climbing phenomenon Kai Lightner is a story that 5Point helped to create. What does it mean to you to have someone like Kai who is relatively new to the industry come out to Carbondale and share his story?

SW: Kai’s story is definitely one of our premieres and it’s great to have him here in person and also to get him out to Rifle for a day to go climbing for the first time. We’ll get him connected to our local climbing community here and get him with some kids. What’s important to us from that process and for this film is what we love about where we’ve been in the festival world. We are able to take some risks with emerging filmmakers and some young talent. We can give them the opportunity to shine at our event as a guest, as a story, as an athlete. And part of the role we like to play, if we can, is that of a connector. If we can put the right pieces together to tell that story and make a film for our festival that helps them ultimately, it’s a win for everybody.

JW: One of the events that is kicking off the weekend is the Van Life Rally. That’s a new addition to the festival and a hallmark of the event with an image right on the cover of your program. What’s it all about and what do you hope it will bring to 5Point?

SW: Well the Van Life Rally, we had the idea last year and we just wanted to expand on it. We see a lot of people, not only in our community but in the greater outdoor community, kind of living a lifestyle of adventure and they have these vehicles that help them get to these amazing places. And sometimes these vehicles become their homes for months out of the year. It’s pretty amazing art to us when we look at how people have styled out their rigs to live in them, even if it’s just for a couple of nights or if it’s for months. We thought it would be cool to get this community together for our kick-off of the festival and have an “open house.” That way everyone can check out everybody else’s rigs and share stories of their trips. It’s community building.

JM: One of your special guests is Brendan Leonard, who is the author of a book about living out of your car called The New American Road Trip Mixedtape. Was his story helpful in your decision to formalize the Van Life Rally this year?

SW: Not really. It didn’t start there but we knew who we wanted to judge the rally. Brendan was part of the festival last year, and he’s become part of the 5Point family. We knew he’d be the right person to get involved in this event. He’ll be there to sign his book, not actually at the rally because he’ll be busy judging, but he will be signing copies on Saturday. He’s just such a great fit for not only that event but just the festival in general and living a passionate lifestyle.

JM: How about some of your other special guests. You have a really eclectic mix of interesting people presenting at the festival this year. Is there anyone in particular we should keep an eye out for?

SW: We have an interesting piece by writer Kelly Cordes called The Dark Hours. That is actually not a film and we purposely made that vague. We’d like to keep it a secret as to what it really is, but I just want to call that one out because it’s going to be very special and truly different from what you have come to expect from 5Point. And of course there’s the panel discussion on DamNation (the film about the issue of dam removal and the restoration of free flowing rivers). We put together such a wonderful group of the filmmakers and the characters from that film that you’re definitely not going to want to miss. Katie Lee is such an icon. And to be able to get her here at her stage of life it’s such as great opportunity to meet her and hear her talk. Just having that whole group in one place is going to be pretty incredible.

JM: Tell us about the recipients of the Dream Project grants. It looks like you have a great class of students this year with compelling new initiatives. Were there any standout favorites?

SW: What was inspiring to me through the process this year was how individualized these projects were. They were really things that were pulling from an intimate place for these kids. They weren’t cookie-cutter programs. They were things that they really cared about and that they wanted to be a part of. I think what was really interesting to me is the diversity this year. We have things that maybe are more aligned with our past with regard to projects that are more recreationally based with give-back components. And this year we have some that have no recreation background or base to them at all. We encourage them to choose whatever it is that they want to do. What really grabbed me this year were that these were well thought out projects that these kids are so passionate about.

JM: This is the 7th year of this event and your second as executive director. What do you see is the future of the 5Point Film Festival? Where do you go from here?

SW: 5Point continues to evolve. That’s our goal. I can’t see into the future as to how this particular event will change, but the way that 5Point moves forward is, number one, we never do the same thing twice. Overall our product is a quality, inspiring experience that hits a large demographic. We want to continue to push that. We want to continue to bring in stories that stretch the definition of adventure, like Heather Hardy from the film The Heat. Heather is coming and she is not someone we would typically think about when we think about an adventure athlete, but she is absolutely a 5Point character that just emulates our five guiding principles in the way that she has gone about her life and what she’s doing with her boxing career. Coming from a place of struggle and being a single mother. It’s a really inspiring piece.

So I think for us we want to hold on to that mix of heart and action and adventure and art and where all that comes together. But we want to also push our mission forward by doing a couple of other things. One is taking these stories to new communities around the country. We did that last year with 5Point On the Road. We’ll do a little bit on the road this year, but we’re focusing on producing 2-day events in places like Boston and Portland and we’re looking to do that in three major regions this year. We also want to continue to create a nice space online for folks to continue to experience this content and these stories throughout the year when there’s not a physical event to attend.

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