"TINY: A STORY ABOUT LIVING SMALL," AT MOUNTAINFILM 2013

“Tiny,” gestation to pay dirt:

A writer and multimedia project manager based in Boulder, Colorado, Merete Mueller is laser-focused on environmental sustainability. She has worked as managing editor of “Elephant Journal,” as a project manager at a slow food travel organization, and at a mobile app software company.

Merete & Chris in front of their "Tiny" house

Merete & Chris in front of their “Tiny” house

Originally from Washington DC, Chris Smith has spent the last 11 years in Colorado working as a graphic designer and videographer. He holds a degree in cinematography and producing from the Sydney Film School, as well as a masters degree in public administration. Using his experience in the media, Chris endeavors to call attention to the twin issues of social and environmental justice.

Merete and Chris co-produced and directed “Tiny: A Story About Living Small,” about a BIG IDEA that grew out of Mountainfilm in Telluride. “Tiny” is among the roughly 70 films featured at the 35th annual gathering of the tribe.

“Three years ago, we were just beginning to toy with the idea of making a documentary about our process of building a Tiny House from scratch,” explained Merete. “We met two filmmaker friends for lunch in Boulder to get their advice about where and how to begin, and this is what they said: ‘Go to Mountainfilm!'”

With the Festival happening just a few weeks after that meeting, the enterprising young couple bought two passes, booked a cheap room, and came to town.

"Tiny" house under construction

“Tiny” house under construction

“We weren’t quite prepared for just how inspiring it would be. I remember Christopher saying, in all seriousness,’I have found my people.’ We were surrounded by a community of like-minded do-gooders, cinephiles, and adventure seekers. From that Memorial weekend on, we had one goal for our fledgling documentary: we wanted nothing more than to make a film worthy of being accepted to Mountainfilm.”

“Tiny” grew into a feature-length documentary that found its audience at many film festivals around the world, SXSW, Independent Film Festival Boston, and Hot Docs among them.

“While we have been thrilled at our inclusion in such film festivals, it wasn’t until ‘Tiny’ was accepted to Mountainfilm that we really felt like we achieved something. And to celebrate how special this weekend is for us, we’ll be bringing our completed Tiny House along for the ride too! The house will be on display in downtown Telluride during specific times over the weekend.”

About the movie and its makers:

After a decade of travel, Christopher is approaching his 30th birthday and decides it’s time to plant some roots. He impulsively buys a five-acre plot of land in hopes of fulfilling a lifelong dream of building a home in the mountains of Colorado. With Merete’s support, he sets out to build a Tiny House from scratch – despite having no construction experience.

From 1970 to 2010, the average size of a new house in America has almost doubled. Yet in recent years many are redefining the American Dream to focus on flexibility, financial freedom, and quality of life over quantity of space. These self-proclaimed “Tiny Housers” live in homes smaller than the average parking space, often built on wheels to bypass building codes and zoning laws. “Tiny” takes us inside six of these homes stripped to their essentials, exploring the owners’ stories and the design innovations that make them work.

When Christopher decides to join the movement and build his own Tiny House, he dives into the tension between settling down and staying adrift, between preserving a parcel of land that he loves and developing it. Merete begins to ask her own questions about settling down. Both walk away with unexpected lessons about the meaning of home, the importance of place, and the personal impact of sticking with a project that became bigger than they’d ever imagined.

“Tiny” is a coming-of-age story for a generation that is more connected, yet less tied down than ever, and for a society redefining its priorities in the face of a changing financial and environmental climate.

More than anything, “Tiny” invites its viewers to dream big and imagine living small.

Tiny House FAQs

Tiny Houses are popular across the US and Canada. Some of the regions with the highest concentrations of people living in Tiny House include the Pacific Northwest, the San Francisco Bay Area, Vermont, Texas, Colorado and North Carolina.

Globally, we’ve found high concentrations of interest in Tiny Houses in Japan, northern Europe, Australia and Great Britain.

What is a Tiny House?

Tiny Houses, as referred to by the media and in the documentary, “Tiny,” are typically less than 200 square feet, slightly larger than the average parking space.

Merete on the couch in the "Tiny" house

Merete on the couch in the “Tiny” house

 

Why are Tiny Houses Built on Wheels?

Tiny Houses are often built on wheels as a way to bypass building and zoning laws. Though codes vary by county, many counties in America have adopted the International Residential Building Codes, which state that houses must be at least 600 square feet. When Tiny Houses are built on wheels, they count as temporary structures and these laws do to not apply.

How do people make Tiny Houses?

There has been a proliferation of companies that custom-build Tiny Houses, but most people who live in these structures prefer to build their own. Some people purchase plans or kits. Others, like Christopher Smith in “Tiny”  learn construction techniques on the fly from the many blogs, e-books, and YouTube videos about Tiny House construction that are available online.

Why do people live in Tiny Houses?

Most people who live in Tiny Houses are motivated by financial factors. It’s common for a “Tiny Houser” to own his home outright with no monthly mortgage or rental fee, which is appealing to many people in the wake of the housing crisis. Others are motivated by living simply to decrease their environmental impact. Whatever their reasons for choosing this lifestyle of minimalism, most “Tiny Housers” claim that their quality of life has increased as they are able to focus more of their time and energy on relationships and experiences instead of on home maintenance or their physical belongings.

To preview “Tiny,” watch the trailer:

TINY: A Story About Living Small (Teaser Trailer) from TINY on Vimeo.

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