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The Secrets & Magic of Mountainfilm

With Mountainfilm starting today in Telluride, I thought it would be the perfect time to share this post from Hal Clifford, the owner of Take One Creative- a 1% FTP member based in Boulder, CO. This story was originally posted on Mountainfilm’s blog and we thank them for sharing it with us! Have fun this weekend!

I stumbled across Mountainfilm in Telluride in the spring of 1998, a few weeks after I moved to Telluride, Colorado.

A door opened. For a few magical days I felt like an initiate to whom secrets and magic were being revealed. It became my favorite event of the year. Fifteen years later it still is.

I have often tried to explain Mountainfilm to Those Who Do Not Know. I tell them about the mechanics: the ice cream social, the growing number of screens, the fact that you’ll have a conversation with the photographer Aaron Huey or the artist Chris Jordan and it may change your life. But I am unable to convey the ineffable aspects, those things that are both the most evanescent and the most essential to Mountainfilm. They are the qualities that make the festival more than the sum of its parts. Trying to describe them is like trying to explain sex.

For the first few years I was a devoted attendee, living on PowerBars and Cowboy Coffee and too little sleep at that magical green-white moment in May when Telluride is slipping off winter. A decade ago joined the staff and tried to help, with debatable results. Somewhere in there I started to see the 1% for the Planet logo—maybe it was on the screen, or in the program, or on some gear in a local shop. It was just part of the ecosystem.

Then I moved East, had kids, missed a few years.

But the wheel turned. My business partner in Take One Creative, Jason Houston, hung a photography show here in 2009. He returned to Massachusetts with a distinct and recognizable look in his eyes and a similar inability to explain what he had partaken. We were working together at a magazine and so we started teaching ourselves to make videos there because nobody told us we couldn’t.

Our first video didn’t pass muster with the Mountainfilm selection committee (thank you, David, for saving us from ourselves). But for each of the last four years we’ve been able to premiere something on a Telluride screen. In doing so we are putting our creative work before the community we most admire. It feels like BASE jumping. Each time I do it I want to vomit. Then I want to do it again. The cash we give Mountainfilm through 1% is an offering, like the stone you place on a cairn at a mountain pass—just something for the next human to come through.

Last year at the biggest venue, The Palm, on the last morning, the film director Tom Shadyac preached – there’s no other way to describe it – to a packed house of 600. He began by summing up the afterglow we individually experience in the wake of Mountainfilm: We ask ourselves, in the best possible way, “What the hell just happened?”

I may not be able to answer that question, even for myself. But I know it’s important. It’s essential. And every year I can’t wait for it.

Other 1% FTP supporters of Mountainfilm include: Patagonia, Klean Kanteen, Outside, CLIF Bar, New Belgium Brewing, Felt Soul Media and Max Davis Company. 


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