In many ways, Sarah Wood considers the Asheville version of the 5Point Film Festival, set for Friday, Aug. 14, and Saturday, Aug. 15, a giant token of gratitude to an area that’s been instrumental in her daily happiness. An Indiana native, Wood moved to Nashville for college and her frequent trips to the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests — where she learned how to whitewater kayak and was infused with mountain culture — served as her introduction to the outdoor lifestyle.
She then worked her way to Carbondale, Colo., and became the executive director of 5Point Film, whose annual four-day adventure film festival has enjoyed a successful eight-year run. The company has also established regional hubs in Somerville, Mass. and Bellingham, Wash., each which host two-day events. When the time came to choose a Southeastern site, Atlanta, Chattanooga, Nashville and Knoxville were all considered for their proximity to the mountains, but the Asheville community’s passion for art and outdoor recreation — an important combination that Wood also sees in the smaller Carbondale — was especially appealing.
To back up the personal preference with cold hard facts, due diligence was done in researching population size and local venues. Time was also spent on the ground to gauge the location’s overall feeling, the specifics of which Wood says are difficult to define but are clear when they present themselves. The sense that Asheville was ready for an event like 5Point and capable of growing it in future years sealed the deal. The full weekend of activities completes the circle of inspiration for the executive director. “Bringing something back to an area that’s given me so much — it’s given me my life — I feel really lucky to be able to do that,” Wood says.
What separates 5Point from other adventure film festivals is that it’s not merely a tour stop bringing Colorado to Asheville. It’s an event that celebrates the local community and endeavors to become part its fabric. Using her connections among outdoor industry and media sectors, Southeast event manager Micah Pulleyn made important first-year inroads. Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine and the Outdoor Gear Builders of Western North Carolina — believers in 5Point’s potential to entertain as well as inspire environmental stewardship and outdoor industry development — introduced Pulleyn to area athletes and filmmakers. The Downtown Asheville Association was also helpful in the planning process.
The result is two days defined by community involvement (see sidebar) and a pair of evening film programs at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Each night, 10-15 short films will be screened. While there is some overlap with the line-ups of the other regional hubs, the Asheville slate is unique and representative of the area’s interest.
“Bellingham is a kayaking community, too, so some of those films will overlap, but we won’t show as many ski pieces in Asheville,” Wood says. “That’s not something folks are doing readily. We will have a couple because we do like to show a little bit of everything and inspire people to maybe try something new.”
Embodying that spirit is Karl Thompson, a weekend warrior adventurer and the star of 55 Hours in Mexico, which makes its Southeast premier at 5Point Asheville. Directed by Greenville, S.C., native Thomas Woodson, the film follows Thompson and two friends as they fly from the U.S. to Mexico, hike its highest mountain (Pico de Orizaba), ski down and return to work on Monday. An inspiration to the 9-to-5 set, Thompson will be in attendance with Woodson, part of the concertlike experience that further sets 5Point apart from its peers.
“We’re very, very thoughtful about the emotion that each of these films evokes from the audience,” Wood says. “We feel that we’re best at putting that together in a way that people leave incredibly moved and inspired to find their own definition of adventure. So we really are careful about the way that we put each film back to back, how many times we have people up on stage or not and what guests we bring.”
Every film and personal appearance connects to the 501(c)(3) non-profit’s five namesake principles: balance, commitment, purpose, humility and respect. Wood and the 5Point staff believe that these are the core tenets for living the most inspired life possible — one that doesn’t have to be attained on skis or in a kayak, but that helps people rid themselves of excuses, push their own boundaries and pursue their individual dreams.