Meet the 2013 SXSW Filmmakers #8: Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller Build a ‘Tiny’ House and Make a Film About It

Meet the 2013 SXSW Filmmakers #8: Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller Build a 'Tiny' House and Make a Film About It
Meet the 2013 SXSW Filmmakers #8: Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller Build 'Tiny' House and Make Film About It

Christopher Smithand Merete Mueller venture on two DIY missions together in their documentary “Tiny: A Story About Living Small”: building a tiny house from scratcg with no building experience and documenting it in their very first film. The film also profiles other families who have downsized their homes for financial and environmental purposes, while contemplating questions of what home means and how we come to find it.

What it’s about: One couple’s attempt to built a Tiny House with no building experience raises questions about sustainability and the changing American Dream.

What else do you want audiences to know about your film? Tiny Houses are such great eye candy, but the issues they present go beyond the novelty of their cute and efficient designs. We live in a time when the financial and environmental climate is uncertain. Older generations are re-considering the American Dream because it’s no longer as financially feasible and many younger people are rejecting that dream in favor of greater flexibility and freedom. The result is a housing landscape that’s more diverse and more creative.

Tiny Houses provide a lens to look at the questions that people are asking themselves about quality of life and Home. This is definitely a feel-good film and it has its fair share of cute moments, but these questions reach to the root of so much that’s important to every single one of us.

What’s been your path to filmmaking? There are two of us: Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith.

With a background in writing and editing, Merete’s interest lies in story structure and documentary narrative. She’s been the Managing Editor of a magazine and worked with environmental journalist Simran Sethi, and publishes essays and creative non-fiction.

Christopher studied Cinematography and Producing at the Sydney Film School in Australia, and has worked as a graphic designer and videographer in Colorado and Los Angeles. He also has an Masters degree in Public Administration and is particularly interested in environment of the American West.

What was your biggest challenge in bringing “Tiny: A Story About Living Small” to the screen? Not only were we making a film, we were also building a house from scratch! In the early days, Christopher would set up a shot and just keep it rolling while he was working on the house by himself. As the project grew, Merete came out to help more often and our friend Kevin Hoth also contributed some camera work. But the hardest part was definitely focusing on building the house, while figuring out how to capture the process at the same time.

This is our first film and we dove into the indie, DIY filmmaking process, learning how to make a film and navigate this business as we went. We were both holding down close-to-full-time jobs in addition to the film, so it’s been a long two years for both us. But so worth it. We’ve learned a ton.

What’s the film that most inspired you? We were inspired by other first-person narrated documentaries, like “Gasland” and “180 Degrees South.” When we were working on our original score, we kept coming back to the feel of “Brokeback Mountain.” The Western landscape was a big inspiration for us, and “Brokeback” captures it so well, even though the content of that story is obviously very different from this one.

What would you like SXSW audiences to come away with after seeing your film? We like to think that our film doesn’t tell anyone what to do or how to live, but brings up a lot of worthwhile questions. What is Home? How do you know when you’ve found it? Is it about people or place, or something else altogether? These are questions that we’re still figuring out in our own lives. Tiny Houses offer a great case study because everything is stripped down and condensed to the essentials.

Indiewire invited SXSW directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013 festival.

Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on March 8 for the latest profiles.

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