Getting old is not an excuse. That’s what Michelle Smith hopes that people will take away from her movie The Frenchy, which will debut at 5Point Film Festival during Program One on Thursday, April 19. The 14-minute film tells the story of Carbondale local Jacques Houot, a well-known athlete who can usually be found on skis or a mountain bike. He often competes on the cyclo-cross race circuit and has the medals to prove it. Oh, and he's 82 years old.
Smith is the studio manager and editor for Roaring Fork Valley–based Pete McBride Productions. This film, her second, took more than a year to finish.
She always wanted to make a character profile and came across Houot when she was working on promo videos for a cycle-cross series in the fall of 2016. “He just kept showing up right in front of my camera,” she says of the 5-foot-4-inch Frenchman. “He wasn’t afraid of it at all. He told stories and was so animated and interesting. I thought, 'I have to make a film about this guy.'”
The story Smith tells shows what an indefatigable athlete Houot is, but it also shares the story of a man with a contagious love for life who makes an impact on his community, all while managing to survive several life-threatening medical conditions.
“It doesn’t matter what your age is. You can still have fun in life, still do anything and everything you want to do if you don’t give up and you put your mind to it,” Smith says of the inspiring message Houot lives by.
Since Smith moved to Carbondale in 2012, she’s long wanted to show something she created at 5Point. “I always leave the festival feeling charged up and ready to tackle anything,” she says. “It took me all of this time to have something of this caliber. It’s super exciting.” The Frenchy finished just in time. Afterward, the film will continue on to other festivals.
Along with being inspired by Houot’s love for life and his disregard for age, Smith hopes the audience will laugh a lot during her film. Because, as Houot says, every time you laugh, it adds an hour on to your life.