Tiny House, Big Project. {Kickstarter}

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Can Living Small Go Big?

“TINY” is a short documentary about one man’s attempt to build a tiny house from scratch, and other families who have downsized their lives to less than 400 square feet.

It began on a frigid day last February. I texted Christopher from work, around lunchtime to see what he was up to.

“Nothing much,” he replied after a while. And then: “Might go up to the mountains.”

He didn’t tell me what he’d really been doing until much later that night, over dinner. He had this half-excited, half-guilty look as he speared a brussel sprout and cleared his throat. “So…I bought some land.”

He didn’t have to explain.  I already knew the vision: the plot of land in the mountains, the small cabin he’d built himself, the pick-up truck, maybe a dog and a banjo in the corner and two chairs on the front porch—it was a dream that Christopher had pieced together over the years since he’d first moved to Colorado, back when he was 18.  The sort of idea that always gets pushed off to “someday”—”When I have money” or “When I have time.” “When I feel like settling down.”

He’d be turning 30 in just a few months and I knew he was thinking hard about the kind of life he wanted to grow into. “I don’t want to put it off forever,” he said that night when he told me about the land. “If I don’t do it now—then when?”

The plot of land is located in a desolate and picturesque valley outside of a town called Hartsel, a town so remote that my iPhone can’t find it when I look up the weather report. And on it? A tiny house. 130-square feet, that would be built on the back of a flat-bed trailer, by Christopher’s own two hands.

The project began. But not before I threw in a twist of my own:

“Great idea,” I said, “Let’s make a film about it.”

Almost nine months later, Christopher’s house is nearly complete and our film is well underway.

“TINY: A Story About Living Small” follows Christopher’s story of building his tiny house from scratch with no prior building experience, and also profiles the lives of other families around America who have downsized their lives into less than 400 square feet.

We’re interested in environmental sustainability—the average house size in America has almost doubled since 1970, which means that we’re consuming more resources than ever to construct, maintain, heat, power, and furnish our home.

And we’re interested in the ways that living small and simply allow people to focus their time and energy on the things that mean the most to them—without having to worry about maintaining a huge house or filling it with stuff.

Most of all, we’re interested in “home”—how we design our most comfortable spots and find the places where we feel at-ease. Throughout the film, we’re asking: What makes a good home?

Christopher’s story, after all, is as much about creating a life that feels right, as it is about the tiny house that will contain it.

Visit our Kickstarter page to back the project.

We’re currently raising funds to pay for post-production of the film (things like editing footage, recording the original score, sound editing, and sending it to a finishing house).

Visit Kickstarter to contribute, and to choose from a list of rewards—such as an invitation to the online premier of the film, access to Behind-the-Scenes footage, a signed DVD—even a weekend in the completed tiny house.

You can also follow our progress on our blog and on facebook.

We look forward to sharing the completed film with you all, in Spring of 2012!

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About Merete Mueller

Merete is a writer and filmmaker, and was once-upon-a-time the Managing Editor of elephant journal's print incarnation, from 2006-2008. Today, you can find her on Twitter @meretemueller and on her blog To The Bones. Her first documentary, "TINY: A Story About Living Small", about people who have downsized their lives into homes the size of a parking space, premiered at SXSW in March 2013.


9 Responses to “Tiny House, Big Project. {Kickstarter}”

  1. Love this! I've followed the story a bit & can't wait for the film to be out. Just shared vie the elephant main page.

  2. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Fantastic story.

    “The average house size has doubled since 1970.”

    So, what is it now? And I’d guess the avg number of people living in these giant houses is also fewer than in 1970.

    Here in Japan (over 30 years now) you learn to appreciate tiny. Tiny can be really nice. Tiny in the city means living like Japanese do. I.e., your house doesn’t need to be an entertainment center nor does every room need to serve one function only.

    Entertainment… Instead of home parties, small groups meet in coffee shops, larger groups rent out a place and let others do all the cooking and cleaning up. The only way to party!

    Fold up your futon in a corner and presto, your bedroom has become a study or computer room or even a living room. And hey, a futon on tatami is THE best way to sleep. (Just remembered, futon has evolved into something altogether different in the US. No frames for Japanese style futons).

    Nice job, Christopher, and the producers of this.

  3. Jill Barth says:

    Wonderful story, thanks for sharing it here. I've posted to the elephant green Facebook page.

  4. Phoebe says:

    Cool. It reminds me of Nipa Hut back home in the Philippines.

  5. […] TINY: A Story About Living Small. This is the gist of my original dilemma. We have so much––when is it enough? Bigger isn’t […]

  6. […] press everywhere from The Chicken Whisperer to Oprah.com (and of course from our good friends at elephantjournal.com). We feel so much gratitude to everyone who donated to the project, shared our link, and have made […]

  7. […] of you may already know about the tiny house undertaking that my boyfriend, Christopher, and I began about 11 months ago. With no prior building experience, […]

  8. ..It makes the work feel unnatural, and puts a lot of unnatural pressure on you…

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