When we saw Tiny making the rounds at the film festivals, we were psyched. Not only because it’s a great film, but because the project, in a lot of ways, grew wildy, passionately, and sometimes uncontrollably from an idea — like so many adventures do.
I think that not knowing how much work this would be was a blessing. We may never have started the project if we knew how big it would become. But really all you have to do is start. Once you throw yourself in and commit to seeing it through, amazing things can happen.
TINY is our Movie Monday pick! It’s currently streaming on Netflix. It’s also available on DVD and iTunes. Hope you have a chance to check it out.
Making TINY, a documentary film about people who live in houses smaller than the
average parking space, was a huge undertaking. But it began with a simple, on-the-spot
decision, when Christopher Smith bought a plot of land in the mountains just a few
months before his 30th birthday.
“Christopher’s an impulsive person,” co-director of TINY, Merete Mueller laughs, “so I
wasn’t that surprised when he told me he’d put an offer down on the land. I knew that
owning a house in the mountains had been a lifelong dream for him. But still, I was
surprised! He was still in grad school and working as a freelance graphic designer on
the side. He didn’t have any savings. Christopher’s way has always been to take a leap
and figure the rest out as he goes along.”
After purchasing the land, Christopher researched his options for building a small cabin
on the plot and discovered that his county—and most counties in American—has a
minimum house size included in its building codes.
“I wouldn’t have been able to build a larger house on my own and I would have had to
save up the money for a long while before I could get started.” He remembered a
magazine article that he’d read years before about Tiny Houses, small structures built
onto flat-bed trailers. Because the houses are built on wheels, they count as temporary
structures and local building codes do not apply. He adds, “Being an environmentalist, I
liked the idea of building a house that would have a very minimal impact on the land.”
Christopher wasn’t the only one who had big ideas. In his final months of graduate
school for public administration, he was daydreaming about a creative project and
hoping to return to filmmaking after competing his degree. Merete, a writer by trade with
a knack for recognizing a compelling story, suggested that he film himself building the
“I saw Christopher planning this project and knew that building the tiny house was his
way of working through questions about what kind of a home he wanted to create for
himself, what kind of a life he wanted to build. Questions that most people our age are
wrestling with,” Merete recalls, “I realized that following his story would be a great way
to explore some of these larger issues around home: how we define it and what we
Christopher agreed to take on the film project and asked Merete to join him as a writer
and co-director. As the couple began tapping into the online community of people who
are building and living full-time in these tiny abodes, they expanded the film to include
tours of other Tiny Houses as well as their own.