The Outdoor Film Tour

It was the end of April and pouring rain in Portland, Oregon when five women packed into the Airstream and hit the open road for a jam packed summer!

Making our way south, our 23-foot space became home to Allie and me, Anna and Emily of Under Solen Media, and Jenny of iLCP.  With Allie at the helm, and me as the co-pilot, I can recall a moment where I looked out the rear window as the edges of the glass filled with the snow, as did the truck bed.  I could barely make out the three girls bouncing along in the Airstream in tow, but I could see that they had switched to down jackets and sleeping bags to stay warm back there.  We’d been planning for months, and this was what our first day looked like.  Rain and snow.  That’s when Allie had the most ingenious idea.  She simply stated, “We need to wake up in the desert.”

We were quite the sight to see as we rolled over mountain ranges and across deserts, bundling up in the snow one day, and letting the sun kiss our cheeks the next… doing handstands and cartwheels at every stop!

So what had this silly cast of characters gotten themselves into?  An outdoor theater tour, of course!  23 Feet is a film about a community of people who are living simply to do what they love in the outdoors, so it didn’t feel right to show the film inside.  Allie and I spent the spring planning our route, and designing the theater set up for the Airstream, and we had convinced our dear friends to do the first leg with us.  Before we knew it we were in Colorado, the place that inspired the film!

We pulled into Carbondale, CO for the 5 Point Film Festival to support fellow filmmakers and friends, as well as stock up on inspiration and creative juices.  It was an incredible weekend, but still the tour was on the brain, and we were both psyched to kick it off in Boulder.

Jenny left us after the festival, but we hit the road with an Airstream record high: 7 people!  Red Reel, Under Solen Media, and now the Baffin Babes, a group of Scandinavian women adventurers who we became friends with in Carbondale.  As we packed up Roma (the Airstream), we realized pretty quickly that the Babes would fit in just fine with our silly, jumping, hodgepodge group of road travelers.

It was starting to feel like your typical road trip… good chats, loud tunes, snacks… but coming into Boulder, Allie and I quickly snapped out of the vacation mentality we were slipping into.  It was go time!  We had three shows lined up in our first week, which meant we needed to tie up lose ends, and we needed to do so fast!  All the questions of “What if” and “Maybe we should try this” vanished as it was time to go with what we had.

Our first showing was a private party that an editor for Women’s Adventure Magazine had thrown for us in celebration of an upcoming article about the film.  As we rigged up the screen to the awning and set up the projector, the only words echoing in my mind were, “Fake it ’til you make it, Menzies!”  Everything went great!  We had done it!  This idea that Allie dreamt up months prior of projecting 23 Feet against Roma had come true.  And not only that, it was the beginning of what is now our reality, our “normal.”

Boulder was a busy week.  We did another private screening with the organizer of the Pearl Street Music Festival.  Two words: magical night!  Two of the bands from our soundtrack, The Head and the Heart and The Lumineers, not only came to the screening, but they played music!  We all climbed up the top of a nearby hill and fell into a trance of amazement as we listened to the sounds that we used in the film fill the night air.

The following night was the big premiere.  The day leading up to it was filled with nerves as we had no idea what it would look like.  We kept reminding ourselves that we would be excited if even 10 people showed up.  The day went on; we put the kegs on ice, set up the speakers, the screen, the Christmas lights… then we heard it.  The buzz of conversation and laughter that only a crowd of people could make.  We peered around the screen to see the parking lot filling up with people!  We got the film rolling, then stood behind to do a silent celebratory dance.  Strangers were here to see our film… and a lot of them at that!


That was it.  We were now officially on tour.  Next stop was Estes Park.  A beautiful place that we wish we could have stayed longer in to explore the mountains.  The outdoor show was canceled due to strong winds, a natural element neither of us had considered before setting out on an outdoor theater tour.  We quickly moved the show into the Estes Park Mountain Shop, and had a great show indoors.

We woke up the next morning to 6 inches of snow.  That put the brakes on our outdoor show in Fort Collins.  We hunkered down for a few days in a friend’s cabin, letting the weather pass.

Once reaching Fort Collins, we got all geared up for a show at New Belgium Brewing.  This was a really exciting show!  Great turnout, wonderful hosts, not to mention Roma had a friend in Abbey, the brewery’s resident Airstream.

We headed south from there, going through Colorado Springs with a screening hosted byUpadowna.  Then to the Arkansas Valley.  Snow welcomed us to Buena Vista, difficult weather to have an outdoor show in.  But we took to warmth and coverage of the community center, and filled the room with raft guides and locals a like.  The clouds moved on as we went south to the nearby Salida, CO.  Nothing but sunshine and blue skies at the Salida Cafe where we did a show with the river only a few yards away.

We had found our rhythm at this point.  Our set up for the showings were quicker and more precise, and life on the road had become normal.  We pulled into Durango and a whole new side of Allie came out.  These were her old stomping grounds, the town of her college years.  With the river pumping and friends nearby, I could tell she was in her element.  Our show in Durango was especially unique.  We met at a park downtown and did a critical mass bike ride to Ska Brewery where the show would be.  There were 20 or 30 of us biking through town.  It was incredible!  We got to the brewery, and Allie and I quickly started setting up.  Waiting on Trial, who is in the soundtrack of 23 Feet, was there playing music before the film started.  The crowd was filled with both familiar and new faces, making for a pretty magical night.

Heading out a day or two later, we went through Delores.  Osprey Packs hosted our show there, which was held at the community center.  The sounds of the river were the perfect background for the film.

We were then bound for Telluride.  It was the weekend of the MountainFilm Festival, and we were excited to get up there and see our friends.  We parked Roma at a beautiful farmhouse just outside of town, and held a private screening for sponsors and friends that would not be able to see the film on tour.  With the mountains silhouetted behind Roma, and a bonfire behind the crowd, we settled in for an intimate screening with close friends surrounding us.

The film festival was a wonderful energy boost where we both were inspired by the amazing films we saw.  Once it came to an end, and friends filtered out of town, we stayed for an extra few days calling the farmhouse home.  But we picked up a straggler.  We convinced Anna of Under Solen to come back in the Airstream for another week before heading home for Portland.  We winded down the mountain passes, stopping at any chance we could for a romp in the flowers.  We found our way back to Durango where we finally got on the river for record high flow.  Next up was Santa Fe where we  would pick up the second half of the tour.

It wasn’t until I saw the “Welcome to New Mexico” sign that it hit me – two months on the road at this point and we’ve only just begun!