Ryan Ernstes (left) humbly accepts a $15,000 check for winning the first-ever 5Point pitch event. She will use the funds as startup money for her upcoming film "Diagonal". Courtesy photo

In a much-anticipated event at last weekend’s 5Point Adventure Film Festival, the first-ever 5Point Adventure Filmmakers Pitch Event was christened.

Ryan Ernstes was announced as the winning filmmaker at the Saturday night film program. The award ensures Ernstes’ film “Diagonal” will have its premiere screening at next year’s 5Point festival.

On Saturday afternoon, Ernstes presented her film-to-be in front of a packed house at Thunder River Theatre. In a “Shark Tank” style format, a pitch was made and questions were answered from a panel of three jurors. Her film was one of seven entries, and as the winner was awarded $15,000 in funding from Stio and 5Point Film.

Originally from Georgia, Ernstes has lived in Colorado for about eight years; the first six in Steamboat Springs and the last two in Boulder. Colorado has offered her “different landscapes, different cultures and different experiences overall,” she stated.

Ernstes volunteered with 5Point Film a couple of years ago and said, “working with them inspired me to keep working towards this goal of being a filmmaker.”

Last August, Ernstes enrolled at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU), pursuing a master’s degree in journalism. She sees journalism “as a way to get into documentary filmmaking. I thought of it as my entry point,” she reflected. “I think journalism, maybe even more so than documentary film, has strict standards for telling people’s story truthfully and accurately and not spinning it to get a better story.”

The title, “Diagonal,” represents a backpacking journey India Wood took across Colorado in 2020, hiking from the state’s southeast corner to its northwest corner. On May 13, Wood will begin the other diagonal route – from the southwest corner to the northeast corner of the state.

Ernstes met Wood, the subject of her film, through a mutual friend about six weeks ago, after Wood had invited them both over for dinner. 

This will be Ernstes first venture into filmmaking. Because she refers to herself as “an aspiring filmmaker,” she was pleasantly surprised that she won the pitch event, having been among a field of solid and intriguing film pitches.

When asked if she has a production team on board, Ernstes said, “It’s just me at the moment. I’ve had a little bit of mentorship through one of my professors at CU, but this funding gives us some options to bring in more people that perhaps have expertise in areas that I don’t.”

Wood and Ernstes spoke by telephone on Sunday, after Ernstes arrived back home in Boulder. The purpose of the call was two-fold: first, to announce the 5Point win and second, to gear up for the May start date. “I spent a good bit of time with her talking about our next steps and planning how we go forward from here – we have a lot of work to do,” Ernstes said.

Ernstes and Wood decided to work on the film project only about a month ago. “We’re relatively new to working with each other. So, it’s been a pretty quick journey for us, but one that we’re really excited about,” Ernstes shared.

Wood, a nonfiction writer who “loves maps,” pinned up a map of Colorado in her bathroom years ago. Then, she took a piece of yarn and marked a diagonal line across Colorado’s diverse habitats.

In 2020, Wood felt stuck in her day job and, along with the country’s increased political polarization, she felt the need to change things up. 

She went back to that piece of yarn on the map and thought, “‘Well, I wonder if I could hike that?’ and it unfolded from there,” Ernstes conveyed. “She recently said to me that her first trip was somewhat about running away from things and for this trip, it’s more about running toward.”

“I’m grateful to both 5Point and Stio for supporting aspiring filmmakers in this way. The events 5Point put on were helpful; just meeting other filmmakers, learning from them and getting inspired,” Ernstes told The Sopris Sun. “This award, going forward, has a lot of potential for impact.”

Liz Barrett, Stio brand director, along with fellow jurors Britta Erickson and Taylor Rees, ducked into Peppino’s “for a little slice of pizza, as we chatted through all the pitches,” Barrett recalled.

They checked all the boxes and while Barret said, “there were so many good entries,” they arrived at a winner.

Barrett stated that all of the entries reflected the shared brand values of Stio and 5Point Film. “I am so proud of this event. This has been a passion project for a while that we’ve been talking about internally at Stio,” she added. “Our mission is to inspire connection with nature, but it’s also to be good stewards of the mountain life.”  

Barrett offered this to any filmmaker who may have doubts about entering next year’s pitch event, “A great film will start with a great story; and you don’t have to be a filmmaker to have identified a great story. So, if you’re a storyteller and you feel passionate about wanting to bring a story to life, then the beautiful thing about this event is that there is a community that will support getting your film made.”

See you at 5Point next year, filmmakers!