Tiny – The Movie

Tiny Houses and their construction have been an obsession of mine for several years now.  The concept of maximizing the minimum has been a theme that I have returned to throughout my life.  I love creating and seeing how others create unique storage solutions as well as simultaneously striving for minimalism.

This world of tremendous excess, with a focus on more and bigger being synonymous with better, the overt commercialization and perversion of the American Dream as well as the glorification of busy has created a bubble that is bursting at the seams.   Personally I am having a visceral reaction that rejects this paradigm.  I want less stuff in my life and more meaning.  I don’t pretend to be unique, so I imagine that others feel this way as well.  Thanks to the internet, I know at least a few do.  Many of these people make up what is quickly becoming known as The Tiny House Movement.

In general these people live in homes that are under 300 square feet and some even under 90 square feet.  They are vibrant people who live deliberately with a tremendous sense of purpose and dedication to living within their means.

A couple of years ago, Rob and I decided that when we own our first house, we truly want to own it.  No banks, no mortgage, no real estate bubble.  We can’t think of a better way to truly own our house than to build it with our own hands.  We plan to build our very own Tiny House!

To those ends we have sold or gotten rid of the majority of our stuff and moved into our travel trailer for two distinct purposes. 1. To practice living tiny and immerse ourselves in what that means before we take the plunge, buy our land and build our house.  2. To save money so that we can shed the shackles of debt, buy our land and build our house without loans.

There are quite a few blogs and books dedicated to this topic.  I have done my research and learned who is who in the Tiny House World…. But I got really excited when I learned that there was a documentary called Tiny being made on the subject.  I wanted to see it immediately!  “Can I download it? Can I stream it?  Can I buy the DVD?”  No, I had to wait. It was still being made. (I found out about the film in the time between when their Kickstarter had ended and the editing was being done.)

I have some experience with Independent Film.  I know that these projects often are forgotten about and left unfinished. People run out of steam, and money and move on to other projects et cetera. Thinking that this could happen with this particular film, Tiny, made me tremendously sad.  I had to stop myself from constantly checking on their progress and ignore its existence for some time as not to “worry” about someone else’s project.  It was kind of ridiculous.

I am happy to report that Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith finished Tiny and I had the great fortune to find out that it was premiering right here in Austin at SXSW (when I discovered this information, I was as excited and hopeful as a six year old with the prospect of going to Disney World being dangled in front of them.) Even more fortunate, I was able to meet Merete and Christopher and they graciously gave me a pair of their filmmaker tickets!

I have met my fair share of celebrities and honestly I was more excited to meet these down to earth tiny house builders than any celebrity I have encountered with the obvious exception of Patrick Stewart, of course.  Clearly, I do not think like a blogger yet, because if I did, I would have taken a picture with Merete and Christopher.  Suffice to say that in the limited time I interacted with them I found that they are really sweet, humble and kind people who were very willing to interact and answer our burning questions, like, “What do you do with your grey water?”

The film, Tiny, is even more beautiful than I had imagined, both visually and in narrative content.  It is extremely inspiring and informative too, which I think is the point.  It is a timely and relevant film that asks questions that are important not just today but questions that have been and always will be important to humanity, like, “What is home? And how do we find it?”  Once you start to think about it, the answer is not as obvious as  it may seem.

I love that they were able to interview other Tiny House dwellers from around the country and get their insight too. This particular aspect of the film contributed greatly toward educating people not just about their own building process but about Tiny House culture in America today.  It is both diverse and growing!

This film also successfully answered one of my biggest questions, “can a couple with no prior building experience successfully build a home, a livable structure with four walls and a roof?”  The answer is yes, which is exciting, particularly the electricity bit…

Throughout Tiny there were several questions and themes that drew me in as a viewer, 1. would Christopher Smith finish this huge project that he started and what would it look like if/when he did?  2. How would Merete and Christopher’s different ideas, about what and where home is, play out?  Could/would they stay together?  3. What materials would they use?  Would they use any salvaged or reclaimed materials and if so where would they get them? 4. How would their sewer and plumbing work?

The Cinematography and use of the Western light of the Colorado sky is mesmerizing like a meditation.  The musical score sets the tone for the film perfectly somehow interweaving the sound with the color palette so that these two aspects become one.  The editing is great too.  The film is subtle, subdued and informative while simultaneously containing a fascinating narrative. It truly seems to represent the personalities and aesthetic of the filmmakers, which I very much liked.

To get a taste, check out the website and trailer for Tiny http://tiny-themovie.com/

The only disappointment I had was in learning that Christopher and Merete don’t actually live in the tiny house that they built as the subject of their documentary.  When I learned this, there was a moment where I felt as though Santa’s beard had been ripped off right in front of me.  I realize that this has more to do with my fantasies of Tiny House Living than their dwelling choices.  When I asked Christopher how much continuous time they have spent in the tiny house, he said, “just a few days”, though he says he does plan to live in it at some point.

Honestly I felt a little betrayed.  I had been looking up to them from afar and jealous because not only had they successfully bought their land and built the house but they made a documentary about the process as well.  I was already in love with every aspect of their project and I had formed an attachment to the idea that they lived in it.  Though we don’t have our land and we have not built our tiny house yet, we have been living the tiny lifestyle in our camper for six months now.  Do I need new heroes?

No. This actually made me realize that every Tiny House enthusiast has their own path, their own back story and their own plans for the future.  We may have some similar goals but we are all different and our processes and sequences of action in our “tiny” evolution are all different too.  There is no one way or right way to live the “tiny life” and the way we go about getting to our “tiny” destinations will look different every time.  In the Q and A that followed the showing of their film, Merete revealed that she has moved to New York to pursue writing.  I can only imagine that she is living the tiny life in a New York apartment.

I have such a deep respect and admiration for Christopher and Merete for building their tiny house and for making their stunningly beautiful documentary as well as submitting it to film festivals.  I am keenly aware that all of these tasks require a tremendous amount of time, effort and dedication.  Also their land is remote and their tiny house is completely off grid which is pretty hardcore.

I am so glad that we were able to see Tiny premiere at SXSW!  We have more knowledge and confidence now going into the building process of our own tiny house.  They have helped demystify the process for us a little bit and very likely many others. Christopher and Merete learned so much in the process of building and I am very much looking forward to learning those things as well.

Rob and I have been wanting to make a documentary for sometime now too.  Having the opportunity to meet Christopher and Merete and watch their documentary has inspired us to finally move forward with that!  Perhaps they could write another documentary about making a documentary to demystify that process for us too.

I will let you know more about that soon.  In the meantime definitely go see Tiny at a film festival near you.  I highly recommend it!!!  Demand wide-spread distribution and order a DVD when they become available!

The Corner Pieces – Part III – Living in Malibu

When Rob and I were asked to sing in our longtime friends wedding in Malibu, CA, we jumped at the chance to take our RV on a trip out West and park it in Malibu for a week.

Staying there for a full week really gave us the sense of living there and if I had the cash, I would move there in a heartbeat. You know what is expensive in Malibu?  Pretty much everything. Except, liquor.  For some reason, liquor is ridiculously cheap there.

The RV park we stayed at overlooked the Pacific and we could hear the waves crashing on the shore as we drifted off to sleep at night. You could also hear all of the action down on the PCH, it didn’t bother us though.  Looking out at the view, our morning coffee never tasted so good!  Sunny loved Malibu too.

 

We hiked at Leo Carillo State Park. We took surfing lessons and strolled along the beach in Santa Monica.  We hung out with some of the greatest people and friends a person could ever have or even hope to have and laughed until our faces were in pain.  It was glorious!  We also saw David Duchovny in the parking lot of CVS in Malibu, though I think he was probably coming from the Sushi restaurant next door.  I even got a chance to take a mixed aerial class atHollywood Aerial Arts with a dear friend,Sarah, from high school. All of this awesomeness and excitement and the wedding was still yet to come!

Rob and I even had the chance to entertain guests at our campsite twice! My filmmaker cousins April and Jordan came over one night for dinner and film project swapping entertainment.  A few nights later, we grilled fresh fish from the Pacific that we bought at the fish market that was just down the hill from the RV Park while taking in the scenery of the expansive Pacific Coast horizon with a great girlhood friend of mine from summer campSharon, and her husband, Brian.

One day I made the drive through Topanga Canyon to Burbank to have lunch with girlfriends from college, Mandi and Jen.  Jen is a very talented costume designer and stylist who took me to L.A.’s fashion district. Bolts of fabric as far as the eye can see!  

 

Rob stayed back at the camper.  He did everyday stuff like take pictures of a few items he had brought along to sell on Ebay and a load of laundry at the RV laundry facilities. He relaxed and made like The Dude, hanging out in Malibu.  That night we walked down the hill to the fish market next to our RV park. The fresh fish sandwiches were delicious and satiating!  The experience was most definitely a version of perfection.

                                                ^^^^^ Malibu Seafood^^^^^

At the end of our weeklong stay in Malibu, on our way out of town, we even met up with more friends for dinner, got a tour of Glendale and had a music related business meeting!

Now that I have actually typed out everything that we did on this trip I realize that we did a lot.  Interestingly, the one argument we had while on the trip was because I freaked out and panicked that we weren’t “doing enough” and “seeing enough people”.  It is true, I would have had to spend at least a month out there to have quality time with everyone that I wanted to see, hug and have a laugh with.  After all, they were working and we were on vacation. I did my very best to cram it all into a week.  I was saddest to miss out on invitation to go Rock Climbing atMalibu Creek State Park with my friend Sarah and her husband, Brandon.

Did I even mention the wedding???  We went to the best wedding rehearsal and dinner I have ever been to followed the next day by a beautiful wedding in Temescal Gateway Park. Rob and I sang, “Grow Old With Me” by John Lennon, in the ceremony, requested by the Bride and Groom, and made everyone weep. Then we partied and danced the night away with some of our dearest college buds.  The next morning we all went out for brunch in Santa Monica.  It felt like a dream that I didn’t want to wake up from.

Getting into a daily groove while far away from “home”, this was a turning point.  We realized that we were not missing any of the comforts of the 1800 sqft house that was back in Austin. We became aware that we were spending more time outside and that we were both happy and comfortable, this really made us realize that indeed, “we can totally live in this thing!!!”  “Also, moving into it will drastically reduce our monthly bills which will give us more opportunities do amazing trips like this one!”

AND a view of the water is really good for the mind, body and soul!

One of the reasons we moved to Austin is because it has a fine mixture of art, culture, music and outdoor pursuits readily available in addition to being a vibrant yet laid-back and friendly city.  You know what?  When we made that decision, we had never been to any cities in California, ever!  They have all of that, plus beaches with great surfing, plus mountains and snow skiing and multiple National Parks!  This pretty much describes paradise to me.

I know L.A. isn’t laid-back and many people don’t consider it friendly… But Malibu, in my experience, is.  And since the time I have spent in L.A. has been with friends, it seems very friendly.  Also, I am a grounded person without distortions surrounding fame and fortune, I see no reason that I can’t find a sense of peace in any city.  Fame and wealth don’t impress me.  A generous and kind heart does.  Those who make helping others a priority, those who know who they are and “work for their luck” impress me.  All of the people I am close to in L.A. have those qualities.

 We have wanted to spend more time on the West Coast for some time now.  We have played shows out there with our band, Before Dawn, spent time with our friends and family and always had nothing short of an honest to goodness amazing time.  I can truly, honestly, and completely free from sarcasm say that, I LOVE L.A.!  A big piece of my heart is there.  No joke. Rob reminds me that I feel this way because of all of the loving, artistically supportive, fans and side splittingly hilarious people we call friends out there.  He cautions, “trust me, the city is not what you love.”

In any case our most recent trip to L.A., the one where we lived in Malibu for a week in our RV overlooking the Pacific was a significant catalyst in our realization that it would be both possible and fulfilling to transition to full-time RV living.  I mean, what if we could even figure out a way to travel and work at the same time???  Fast-forward three months and we happily, though not without tremendous trials and tribulations, moved into our travel trailer.  We are getting closer everyday to cutting this tether of single location living.  You see, L.A. is already making our dreams come true!  Viva Malibu!

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”