Better than a Championship

Invincible Bobcats helped resurrect a community

This morning, I suspect the players and coaches of the Paradise High School Bobcats are unhappy, but they should be proud.

What they gave the communities of the Paradise Ridge is something better than a Championship. I hope they know it. Through their disappointment, I hope they hear this.

In researching for Three Days in Paradise, I’ve come across dozens of old west mining towns in Butte County’s early days. Most of them are unknown.

I’ve found one thing separates settlements which become communities and those that fade into ghost towns. It’s schools.

All budding towns open bars, general stores, hotels and even a town hall. It’s the ones with schools that remain. Schools aren’t for the towns of today. They and their students are the town of tomorrow… the citizens, leaders, business people who will enrich and improve the town long after all the founders are gone.

Schools and the families they make possible, are the thing that separates a collection of buildings from a civilized town. Schools are how a town shows hope.

In the days, weeks and months after the fire, I interviewed dozens and met hundreds of survivors, recovery workers and public and private leaders. On camera and off they talked about, worried about, wondered about whether a community like Paradise could rise from the blow we had taken.

Yes, people vowed to rebuild, some businesses opened, but in whispers and wonders from across the spectrum I heard real worries from smart, informed people about the possibility Paradise would fade.

Then the schools re-opened in August, and it was a good sign.

But for many, it was the first game of the Bobcat’s Football Season on August 23 which made what remained of Paradise feel like what we remembered of Paradise. As survivors watched, coached and played in ame after game, our battered optimism reasserted itself.

Listening to the cheers of the crowds, watching the exploits of Harrison and Blood, Bettencourt and Hartly, Velasquez and everyone else made Paradise feel like a hopeful, happy place again. Through every regular season game, they won, finishing with a 10-0 record.

Their run helped us remember we could do this. We could clear the debris, claw through the heartache and remember those we had lost, and could have a town that felt like a place again. The Bobcats brought our eyes to the horizon again and let reminded us there is something more than ash in the future.

So they the players and coaches may not have gone to where they wanted to go this year.

But they gave us all something more dear. To do that you have to be something better than a champion.

You have to be Paradise Invincible.

 

We’re still here and we’re still listening

If you’re like me, the first anniversary of the Camp Fire was a cyclone of emotions.

There was shock that so much time had already passed and the shock that a whole year could feel like just a few days. The pain and bewilderment of the fire’s aftermath was made vivid again as the anniversary arrived, now mixed with an honest hope for the future and a bittersweet regret at all those who have been forced by economic and emotional circumstance to leave Butte County in the last 365 days.

And if you’re like me, only now are you really ready to talk openly. That’s why I’m writing today.

Since the one-year commemoration, I’ve noticed more survivors sharing their stories for the first time. I’ve also had more than a few say they will talk only to our Three Days in Paradise team, because we lived through it too.

I’m here to say we’re still here, we’re still listening, and we’re interested in hearing your stories as long as you’re content to share them.

While many documentaries have finished shooting and departed the county, Laura and I, along with our Three Days team, are still here. We’re living in Chico while our hearts remain on the ridge.

I know you or someone you know may have been too nervous or in too much pain to share your story of the Camp Fire over these last 12 months. Memories of the Ridge as it was may have been too much to talk about without tears.

Something about the first anniversary has prompted some people to finally share their experiences, and that’s why we’re still here.

We want to hear everyone’s stories. We want to know what happened to everyone, what is still happening, and where we go from here. And when our documentary series is done, when our interviews are donated to the Gold Nugget Museum, we want the world to hear our story and understand it as we do.

So if you or someone you know is only now wanting to talk, we’re here. If you find yourself chatting with loved ones over Thanksgiving dinner, at some Christmas party or some other holiday celebration, please keep us in mind. 

We’re here to listen.

You can contact us here:

Email:

Info@ThreeDaysInParadise.tv

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/ThreeDaysInParadise

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/3daysinparadise

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/threedaysinparadise

Find out everything at:

https://threedaysinparadise.tv

Or call 530-680-7125

Helping the Gold Nugget Museum and Three Days in Paradise

Hey friends, neighbors and readers,

We come today with the happy announcement long in the making: Our Three Days in Paradise production team has entered into an agreement with the Gold Nugget Museum to donate all materials contributed by the public to our production to the Museum poste haste.

That means anything you give to us to use in our series, to tell the local and larger stories of the Paradise Ridge and the Camp Fire, will find a home in the Gold Nugget. We’re proud and touched to be allowed to help in this small way to rebuild an institution that means so much to our Ridge.

We’re looking to do two things: 1). Help rebuild the historical images of the Ridge from the 1840s to November 7, 2018 and 2). Create the most complete, fully sourced archive of Camp Fire related images, video, audio and more.

That means we’re looking for everything: Phone videos, home videos, historical pictures, Polaroids, modern phone pics, Beta Tapes, VHS tapes, slides, news station footage & 8 mm films… Everything.

We will scan or digitize you originals and get them back to you. We will then pass on museum quality digital copies to the Museum for their archives.

We came to this decision when we realized the needs to make our series… historical images and what we all saw and heard on November 8 and in the aftermath, matched neatly with what the Museum would be needing for the future.

There are a few ways to get us footage.

1). If you’ve got physical images or material… video or audio tapes, home movies, old pictures, anything, give us a call (530-680-7125) or email and we’ll set up an appointment (Info@ThreeDaysInParadise.tv).

2). Get on our computer and go to this link and send us material via DropBox. When asked, enter your name and email (this will tag each video you upload with your name so we know who contributed it). Only we will see the video you send. Here’s the link:
https://www.dropbox.com/request/XoKYqh7YQe5IHhPx1qPF

3). If you’re on an iPhone, select the photos and send us an iCloud link. You can send the link here: Info@ThreeDaysInParadise.tv

4). If you’ve got an Android, select the photos and send us Google Photos link here: Info@ThreeDaysInParadise.tv
Or…

June Update & Announcement: A Rough Stretch of Weeks

Our June update comes at a time where, and it could just be us, the summer is starting with some harsh blows.

Maybe this month is not much different from those since the fire, and the hardships could just be a coincidence. But some rough run of luck seems on a tear for many of the Camp Fire survivors (us included, see below). Regardless, we’ll all push on together.

As we’ve all heard, Phil John, chair of the Paradise Fire Safe Council (and husband to Paradise Unified School District’s Superintendent Michelle John) passed away June 11.

As with many of our emotions these days, to pinpoint just why this event hit us harder than others is difficult to say. Maybe it’s that it’s the kind of normal heartbreak we all feel, but absorbing it under the shadow still cast by November 8 places just a few more straws on the camel’s back.

Or for us working on Three Days in Paradise, it’s echoed by more ‘normal’ heartbreaks on the home front. Producer Laura Smith (my peerless wife) has seen her father pass away May 26–two weeks before her mother moved into assisted living with Parkinson’s.

Then there was the development I’ve announced to the crew and now I’m letting you all know. I’ve been diagnosed with Bells Palsy, a temporary condition brought on by a variety of factors. While it’s stroke-like effect on the muscles of a person’s face can be unnerving, my doctors have expressed their hope for a full recovery (though it could take up to six months).

So what does this mean?

In the long run, nothing. We continue to work. We continue to write and edit. We continue to plan for more interviews (on top of the dozens we’ve already done).

We are still convinced Three Days in Paradise will be a documentary on Butte County and the Camp Fire unlike any other.

But in the short run, it’s taken some rescheduling while we consult with doctors about the best way forward in terms of recovery and work. The sizzle reel we’d hoped to release in June will now be out sometime in July. The push for funding (including showcasing some editing passages of various episodes of the series) will now be a few weeks later than originally hoped.

So we work while we mourn. We work while we heal. We push on because as we know, that’s what we all have to do now.

Bittersweet Rebirth of Bobcats Football

So our Paradise High School Bobcats are on the front page of the Los Angeles Times.

It’s bittersweet to see their work and grit and hustle recognized, but under circumstances we would never choose.

Here’s an image of the front page, and a link to the story. It had me tearing up in the middle of a restaurant, so be careful.

The LA Times is not sold in Northern California, so yes see what we can do to get all the players/coaches their own copies.

Tell your Tales from the Paradise Ridge

Like many of my fellow Camp Fire survivors, I have been torn up since the morning of November 8, 2018.

The filmmaker in me… that part that’s worked to tell stories since Star Wars and Snow White and Ken Burns’ Civil War kindled my love of cinematic storytelling… wants to tell the whole story of what happened to our Paradise Ridge communities.

The citizen in me… that part of me who raised a family with my wife on Scottwood Road, took our boys to Paradise Elementary, watched little league games at Egleton Field and fled the town with neighbors and friends… wants to make sure the world remembers what befell us. I want our stories told whether or not it’s me telling them.

It’s that part, the town resident, that wants to help my fellow citizens tell their story to every worthwhile reporter, author, documentarian, director, etc. who cares to listen with respect. That’s why as we’ve been working on Three Days in Paradise, we’ve been looking to partner with other storytellers to ready to tell the story of the Camp Fire as we knew it.

Which brings me to Lizzie Johnson, the San Francisco Chronicle. She’s a reporter known for her coverage of wildfires. We’re happy to announce we’re partnering with her on a new initiative to capture your stories.

In a book she’s working on, Johnson is working to tell the story of the fire and what it’s meant to us all in facts and prose. In our documentary series, we’re looking to do the same thing in images, music and sound.

So we’ve created an easy to use document you can fill out to start telling your Camp Fire story. What happened to you. What you went through. What you saw and what we should all remember. We’ll be using those to get in touch and make sure your story is known.

So please take a moment to add your story. We want to hear it, and take it to the rest of the world.

And the Gracie Goes to…

As we cross the T’s and dot the I’s on some announcements coming up, we wanted to shine a special light on one of our team: Jenna Lane.

Lane reached out to us shortly after we announced this project to volunteer as part of our production team. With every project reaching to make something special, every ounce of hard work and talent needs to be assisted by lucky breaks and gifts of fate.

When Lane joined us, we knew fate was lending a hand.

See, she’s a reporter for KCBS 740 AM in the Bay Area. A great reporter, a hell of a researcher and the kind of team member you wish for on a project like this, she’s task oriented, optimistic and smart.

We’re saying that to say this: Congratulations Jenna Lane. In April she was recognized by the Alliance for Women in Media with a Gracie Award for her coverage of the Camp Fire. The Gracies recognize achievements in all forms of media across the country, so landing one is no mean feat.

We’re excited to get back to work with her and honored she’s here to help us tell the story of the Paradise Ridge and the Camp Fire the way it should be told. To get a taste of what she’s done to deserve it, take a listen here to some of the work she did in the wake of the Camp Fire.

 

A word about shady documentary crews in Butte County, Part 1

Hi friends,

After coming home from a very emotional series of Gold Nugget events today, I wanted to share some hard-earned wisdom with my fellow Paradise (go Bobcats!) and other Butte County neighbors.

There may be documentary crews asking your to sign something that sounds reasonable, but will actually exclude you from our story in many ways. It may also be a barrier to rebuilding some of the institutions we all love.

I’ll explain.

I came to Butte County in 1993 for college and in some ways never left. I chose to live here, my wife and I chose to raise our kids here. I love Butte County.  But much of my professional work has been in Hollywood.

Because of this I know the openness, earnestness and honesty (well, mostly, LOL) we all love in our Butte County neighbors. I also know the openness, earnestness and honesty (more than you’d assume actually) of people who work in Hollywood.

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s I made my living as an entertainment journalist (journalism degree from Chico State 1996. Go Wildcats!). I interviewed many of the people who inspired me into filmmaking. I got to talk to directors, writers, actors. I talked to Will Farrell about his first movie (Superstar). I talked to M Night Shyamalan the week before he released The Sixth Sense. And I interviewed to Ron Howard as he prepared to release Ed TV (yes, he’s as nice as his reputation). But by this point, you don’t need me to tell you that.

In the mid-2000s until now I’ve been running my own production company out of Butte County, dividing my time between making my own documentaries and educational programs while also contracting out for various companies across the nation for various reality TV and documentary crews.

So I’m not coming at this from assumptions or things I’ve read. I know my way around Butte County and I know my way around the film and TV industry. What I learned was this: Almost all TV and filmmakers in Hollywood is trying to do a good job to make something people will enjoy. For the crews working on those films and shows, it’s a lot like any other job: People are just trying to get through their day.

And like every other job, there’s some people who just make things hard for everyone. We’ve all had that bad boss, that dullard co-worker, or that schemer who makes office politics awful.

That’s why I’m here now.

Watch Out For This:

When a documentarian talks to you, they’ll probably ask you sign what’s called a release.  Among other things, it allows them to edit you into their documentary without the fear of you suing them. Many networks, streaming services, etc. require releases for every interviewee in a documentary or they won’t air it. 

As I make Three Days in Paradise, I ask everyone to sign a release because eventually I want it on the biggest network or streaming service I can get. I want the world to know our story, to know Butte County, to know our history, and to know what this fire did to us.

But there’s another, shadier kind of release that screws things up for everyone. This kind of release is called exclusive release.

What an exclusive release says is you can ONLY talk to the documentarian for which you sign it. You can ONLY appear in their documentary. But what’s worse is it binds you even if they never use your interview. Documentarians shoot a lot of interviews they never use. So if you sign an exclusive release, that documentarian talking so nicely to you now can literally leave your story of the Camp Fire on the cutting room floor. No one will ever see your story. But here’s what’s worse:

If you sign an exclusive release,  you cannot give interviews to anyone else. 

You cannot talk to other local documentaries. Not just me, but the many others who need your stories.

You cannot talk to other non-Butte County documentaries, who we need to help keep our story alive.

You cannot talk to the many interviewers looking to record our stories for the Gold Nugget Museum, the Butte County Historical Society, or other local history institutions.

You cannot talk to the crews from Chico State looking to record our oral histories.

You cannot talk to the local news.

You cannot even talk to the video crews from our local high schools.

If you sign releases with exclusive clauses, you take your voice out of our local community. You are silenced.

Maybe that’s something you want to do. Maybe it makes sense for you. I’m not telling you what to sign or not to sign.

I’m saying I would never sign one myself.  I would never ask anyone to sign one. There’s no good reason for a documentarian to ask you to sign one. If you appear in Three Days in Paradise, it’s no skin off my nose if you also appear in any other documentary.

I’ve never seen a filmmaker I respect ask someone to sign an exclusive release for a documentary.

So if anyone asks you to sign an exclusive release, think long and hard about it. It doesn’t guarantee your story will be told. It DOES guarantee you will be silenced for local projects and may be silenced forever.

MARCH UPDATE: Production powers and some interesting meetings…

Since we began pre-production in December 2018, just days after the last embers of the Camp Fire were extinguished, we have been working tirelessly to gather the stories, moments and images to best tell the comprehensive story of what happened to all of us in Butte County.

We have already conducted dozens of interviews, shot at many county, town and public events and are looking to conduct dozens and dozens more interviews in the months ahead. If you’ve contacted us and we have not yet scheduled your interview, fear not.

The feedback and interest in Three Days in Paradise has been nearly overwhelming. But we will be here for the long haul, and currently are managing with a small and professional crew, so please know we will get back with all of you. It just may take a bit.

On that note, we want to let you in on some early indications for some very big things coming. While we cannot yet share details, the Three Days team has had some very hopeful meetings with parties well placed to get this series funded and then shown to the world in the way we all hoped.

Our ambitions are high, but our calling to tell this story is higher. We hope to be able to tell you more soon.

We are also working on a very interesting project which would gather imagery shot by all of us during the Camp Fire to help planning agencies see that this kind of disaster never happens again. We hope to have something to announce soon on that too.

Our final announcement is we’re revamping the way you can share your videos, pictures and historical imagery with us. That should be in the menu bar of this website in the next day or so. To tell the story of Butte County before, during and after the Camp Fire, we’ll need you.

Until then, thank you for your attention.

How it Burned: The Camp Fire from start to finish

Since posting the animation of the Camp Fire’s November 8, 2018 progress (from SimTable’s illuminating data visualization system) many people have asked if there was a way to see the entire fire.

I’ve now done some more digging on SimTable’s site and found two animations: one shows November 8 from the start of the fire until midnight. The second one shows the progress form about 5:30 p.m. on November 8 until the end of the fire.

I haven’t been able to find or tweak these links to show the whole fire in one animation at one constant speed.

With that said, here they are:

Day 1 from 6:44 a.m. to midnight.

Here’s the direct link:

https://www.simtable.com/apps/fireProgression/CampDayOne/CampDayOne.html?playback=240

And here’s the animation:

Day 1 (November 8) from 5:37 p.m. to Day 18 (November 25) 6:22 p.m.

Here’s the direct link:

https://www.simtable.com/apps/fireProgression/output2018/CABTU_016737_CAMP.html

And here’s the animation: