The Trail Running Film Festival Goes Virtual

Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you liked this article, read even more of Tayte’s articles on our website.

Watching trail running videos is one of the best ways to learn about the incredible people and stories in our community. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many trail running film festivals in the U.S. have had to cancel or postpone their summer show dates. In this article, I interview Abram Dickerson from the Trail Running Film Festival, which has decided to switch their summer film series to a virtual format. I learned how a virtual film festival works and why you should consider registering for their show coming up on Saturday, June 6.

[TAYTE] Tell us about your organization and how has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way you organize the film festival.
[ABRAM] Since 2013, the Trail Running Film Festival has brought the most relevant trail stories and visual artistry to theaters across the country. Traditionally, the Trail Running Film Festival consists of a 3-day event in Seattle WA, followed by a select reel of films that tour theaters across the country. These films tell some of the year’s most inspiring stories of adventure, heartbreak, and expressions of the trail running spirit.

This year we’re adapting and responding to “distant socializing” with a 2-hour live stream event of never before seen films, commentary, inspiration, and prize giveaways. As a fundraiser for the YWCA COVID-19 Emergency Relief and Community Resiliency Fund and a virtual gathering of thousands of runners across the country, this event represents the best of how the trail community is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with resilience, love, and creativity.

[TAYTE] How does a virtual film festival work and where did you get the idea for this concept?
[ABRAM] We live stream our show on the video sharing platform Vimeo. Folks purchase tickets on Ultrasignup and 24 hours before the show we send them the link so they can tune in. The live version is modeled after the traditional theater experience, but streamed from the living room of James Varner, the founder of the film festival. After the show’s over, it’s available to watch for all ticket holders for another week.

The idea to do the show virtually was simply a reflection of the current situation created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Races are cancelled, trail runners are missing their communities, group runs, and normal life. We wanted to bring the trail running community together to celebrate and be inspired by great stories and films.

For our first virtual show on May 1, we had both some incredible successes and technological failures. We sold over 7,500 tickets and raised over $31,000 for the YWCA COVID-19 fund. We had great films and thousands of folks tuned in for the live show. However, we didn’t expect that an hour before the show, during a tech-run through, James Varner accidentally deleted the link to the show. We had to get a new link out to thousands of runners just minutes before the show started. We will not be making that mistake again! We also plan to pre-record some elements of the show to ensure that we’re clearly and concisely getting the information out to our audience. It’s a challenge to digitally host meetings and events on screens without any group/audience feedback, so we’ll make some improvements in that area for sure.

[TAYTE] What was your process for choosing individual films, collections of films and was it influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic?
[ABRAM] The virtual “episodes” of the Trail Running Film Festival is our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve laid out a theme for these episodes each month. For June, we’ve chosen the theme, “Running through Adversity” featuring stories of people who’ve leveraged their running practice to navigate hard times. July will be our “Classics” edition, in which we look back over some of the greatest trail/race/adventure films that we’ve shown in the past. August’s theme is “EPIC”, and we’re telling fantastic stories of accidents, mayhem, and overcoming huge obstacles as runners play the edges of their abilities. Each month the film lengths vary, but we focus on new content and the best stories that are coming out of our community.

[TAYTE] Tell us about your show coming up on June 6.
[ABRAM] In addition to several race and adventure films, we’ll be featuring; Woke the Monster, a documentary film that captures U.S. Army veteran Shawn Livingston’s struggle to overcome addiction and PTSD through ultra-running. Shawn’s redemption with and through running is a vivid reminder of the many forms that adversity takes in our lives. It’s also a reminder of the sacrifices made by many service men and women for their country and others.

Next month We’re excited to lend support to Band of Runners, a Texas-based non-profit, whose mission is to share the community of trail running and the physical and psychological benefits that running in nature provides with veterans and their surviving family members.

The May show raised over $31,000 for the YWCA COVID-19 Fund so we’re excited to continue this philanthropic work and see the good our community can do on behalf of these veterans and their families. We’ll have prizes, a very active chat feed, and we’re working on a virtual “scavenger hunt” style questionnaire linked to giveaways and additional prizes. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased on

Can’t get enough of #trailrunning film festivals? See my highlights from the 2019 Ledlenser Trails in Motion Film Tour in Denver, Colorado held last June. You can also check out the films that were part of the 2018 Trail Running Film Fest Fall Tour.

Editor’s Note: Be safe as we continue to navigate the uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic. Please continue to follow the recommendations and updates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including proper hygiene practices. Also consider reading iRunFar’s COVID-19: A Trail Running and Ultrarunning Community Guide.

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