That’s a wrap for 5Point Film Fest founder Julie Kennedy |

That’s a wrap for 5Point Film Fest founder Julie Kennedy

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Julie Kennedy founded 5Point Film in 2007.
Courtesy photo |

After nearly nine years of immersing herself in the 5Point Film Festival — building it from scratch into a unique event — Julie Kennedy is giving up her baby.

Kennedy said Friday she is turning the reins over to Executive Director Sarah Wood, effective immediately.

“It makes me sad because we’ve done this together,” she said, referring to a collective “we” that includes scores of residents of the Roaring Fork Valley. “So many people in this community (assisted) 5Point. I was the lead cheerleader that got everybody stoked.”

Kennedy, 61, said it changed her life when she attended the Telluride Film Festival nearly 40 years ago and helped inspire her to pursue a variety of outdoor endeavors. She hopes that the films she has exposed people to through 5Point’s annual April film festival in Carbondale also inspired people. Her legacy is encouraging outdoor-adventure filmmakers to tell stories, not just show what she labels “outdoor porn.”

Kennedy said she accepted too many films the first year that simply showed bros ripping it up on the slopes, on cycling trails and in rivers. By the second year, she knew what direction she wanted the festival to go and became much more selective.

“Our expectations were very different from what, at that time, filmmakers were making,” she said. Local filmmakers such as Anson Fogel and Peter McBride are examples of people who thrived under the approach for storytelling and inspiration.

5Point came about after Kennedy had breakfast with Patagonia outdoor clothing and gear founder Yvon Chouinard in August 2007. She shared her desire to do something meaningful and inspirational, and she mentioned a film festival.

“He said, ‘Why don’t you just create it, and I’ll pay for it?” Kennedy said. Patagonia was the title sponsor for the formative years. Outdoor Research now is the prime sponsor.

The name of the festival refers to its five guiding principles: respect, commitment, humility, purpose and balance.

The four-day film fest in Carbondale has been the flagship event since year one, but 5Point has grown to include multiday festivals in strategic geographic points in the country, such as Asheville, North Carolina. The staff also holds an “On the Road Series” where it presents one-night tastes of its films. One of those events is held in Aspen (see related story on A3).

Kennedy and her staff also created the Dream Project, which awards five scholarships per year of $1,500 each to outstanding high school students from Aspen to Parachute. The funds allow the students to explore their own personal boundaries and dreams.

Kennedy said creating and nurturing 5Point helped solidify her awareness of who she is.

“It’s a golden light for me,” she said. “I put my heart and soul into it. It was all I could think about. This was my identity.”

While the experience was invaluable, it also was draining. She intended to continue running the festival through its 10th anniversary, but she decided now was a great time to hand over the reins because Wood and her staff are so strong. They have earned her respect and trust. Plus, she said, they deserve a break.

“I’m not going to lie — I’m not easy to work with,” Kennedy said, citing her tendency to be a perfectionist.

It also was a good time to bow out, she said, because the 2015 film fest “hit the mark to the highest level” with films that “took you on a higher level.”

Kennedy vowed she won’t hover over the staff at the nonprofit organization. She can let go, she said. She conjured up an image of her sitting on a bench with husband Michael Kennedy in their old age, watching the young crowd go into the festival. She will be triumphantly shaking a ski pole and cheering the youngsters on, she said.


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