What: Spirit of the Outdoors Film Festival
When: Submissions due by April 10; festival at 6 p.m. April 17.
Where: REI Boulder, 1789 28th St.
More info: spiritoftheoutdoorsfilmfestival.com
Taage Dressel-Martin, age 8 (at the time), chose his sister, Sophie, age 6, for the starring role in his first film, which celebrates a big snow day in their backyard in Wheat Ridge.
“She’s a good actress and a good subject,” Taage said. “Most of the time she does what I tell her, she’s cute and she’s funny.”
“Snowy Sophie” premiered at the 2009 Spirit of the Outdoors Film Festival, at REI Boulder. The festival embraces an all-inclusive, YouTube-era take on filmmaking — children, amateurs and professional filmmakers have all shown their work at past festivals.
It started three years ago when a staff member at REI’s Boulder store — who was enthusiastic about video — asked about starting a film festival, said Sarah Leone, outreach specialist for the store.
“We’re always looking for ways to get the community involved in outdoor recreation,” Leone said. “It was a neat way for folks like you and me to show what they love about the outdoors.”
The festival invites anyone to submit a five-minute film that simply shows why you love the outdoors, what inspires you.
“As a filmmaker, I’m really excited to see film festivals like the REI Spirit of the Outdoors and others come about,” said Marianne Leviton, longtime filmmaker and founder of the Boulder Filmmaking Incubator. “For someone like me who makes films, it adds another dimension, but more importantly, it encourages other people who are interested in film pick up a camera.”
Taage’s father, Scott Dressel-Martin, said the atmosphere at last year’s festival was true to that inclusive spirit.
“There were films made by professional filmmakers there and an 8-year-old filmmaker, and everyone was really generous about viewing the film for what it was,” he said.
“It’s the most positive thing. It’s like a big group hug. I think everyone walks out of that room feeling pretty good about themselves.”
Leviton said the festival “takes filmmaking and marries it with community.”
“People come together and sit in the same room and share it as a community,” she said. “That’s the extra step that I think has real value.”
For a professional like Leviton, a non-professional festival was an opportunity to create something different — something playful, less serious.
The script for Leviton’s film, “Olivia, Naturally!” was an essay written and dictated by her neighbor’s 6-year-old daughter, Olivia. Leviton filmed Olivia climbing trees, dropping rocks in a creek and making blankets out of flowers near her Boulder home.
“Instead of doing extreme sports and things, I liked the idea of twisting the outdoors theme a bit and bringing it down to a child’s eyes,” Leviton said.
Steven Vanek, of Gold Hill, has been doing videography work since he retired as a teacher. But the festival was an opportunity to make his own movie and feature his friend Barry Oreck’s song about their hut-trip adventures. (Vanek has been skiing in to 10th Mountain Division huts for 34 years.)
Vanek said he wanted to avoid the adrenaline-soaked side of outdoors filmmaking.
“Some people go for adrenaline hits, and you see a lot of movies about that,” Vanek said. “But some people want to connect with nature.”
For “Hut Trip Lullaby,” his submission to the 2008 festival, Vanek wanted to capture the beauty of the flow of telemark skiing.
“The flow, for me, is just more of what I enjoy about skiing,” Vanek said. “When I ski in powder, it’s that feeling of floating on earth that you don’t always get to experience. And watching others do it and capturing it at a distance and seeing what kind of lines they make — because the lines they make, you can almost see what they’re thinking in the moment.”
For the Film Dailies, a Denver-based group of musicians and filmmakers, the Spirit of the Outdoors festival was a first step for “SLED,” a documentary about Steamboat Springs dogsled racer Krista Halsnes that featured original music by Dailies musicians.
“‘SLED’ was chosen to be part of the Adventure Film Festival, which is a bigger, more national-slash-international festival, and that was really cool,” said Michael Lloyd, a member of Film Dailies.
‘SLED’ was the first film he, Molly Cherington and Hannah Vanderlan made, but they’ve since made a concert-length film of their live show and footage of Denver.
It’s easier than it used to be to make a film. Dressel-Martin said 8-year-old Taage shot and edited “Snowy Sophie” almost entirely on his own.
“The deal we made with him was, if he wanted to do it, he had to do it all by himself,” Dressel-Martin said.
And he did. Taage shot the film on a camera his parents received as a gift when he was born.
Other than helping him find some iMovie tutorials and giving him access to some royalty-free music he had for his own work as a photographer, Dressel-Martin didn’t help Taage. He was amazed by how quickly his son put the film together; it was a matter of a few hours.
“Literally, he watched a tutorial, did a few things, and made a movie,” he said, adding that since the festival calls for movies of five minutes or less, it was more accessible for his son.
Taage, now 9, is making another film for this year’s festival, while he’s on spring break in Florida. Sophie and the rest of the family, including his grandparents, will star in this one.
Vanek said he hopes the festival grows.
“I like the idea of a neighborhood festival where people can just enjoy each other’s work and not feel like you have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get your work seen.”
“There are always going to be those levels, but there should be grassroots things, too, that can expand from there.”