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:

Watching the Camp Fire in Real Time (Day 1, 06:44 am-12:00 am)

There’s a panoply of flowery quotes about why humans love storytelling as they do. All of them boil down to our need to answer these tangled questions:

Why do people do what they do, and why do things happen as they happen?

The Camp Fire is the most impactful thing ever to happen to my family and our community. As a storyteller, doing my part to tell this story is impossible to resist. Why we all acted as we did on November 8, cowards or heroes, valiant or vain… these I’ll answer in time.

But as our team works, conducting interviews and research, gathering everything a person could know, sometimes we come across something we feel the need to share now. This is one.

It comes from a company called Simtable a company which makes animations and simulations of complex physical events based on real data. This one shows the progress of the Camp Fire. The embedded version below is eye opening, but the link below might be easier to see.

To see the progression at a slower rate,  click the link below.

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

For me, the best view was found clicking on the Map Base Layer button and choosing the Bing Hybrid option. It allows you to see road and landmarks laid over satellite photos of the actual landscape.

Something about seeing minute by minute (the timestamp can be seen in the lower left, going minute by minute) is both comforting and goulish. I can’t explain it, awful as it is, some part of me wants to see what actually happened when our lives were all hurled off course.

Now I know my home was destroyed around 12:30 or 1:00 p.m.

Nothing to add to a sentence like that.

January Update 2 – A bit about Three Days in Paradise

Amid the tumult unleashed starting November 8, the geiser of information we are tasked to absorb is something beyond what any of us have experienced.

Keeping so many things straight… insurance claims, FEMA information, cleaning up our communities and most importantly remembering the over 80 people we lost, it is more than understandable a project like Three Days in Paradise has escaped your notice.

So for those far and wide, here’s a little bit about who we are, what we’re doing, and how (hopefully) you can get involved.

Three Days in Paradise is a documentary series not only about the Camp Fire but also the communities we all knew before the fire and what we’re working to rebuild. It’s being written and directed by an Emmy Award-winning local filmmaker, Christopher Allan Smith who lived in Paradise until November 8. Like almost everyone in town, he fled from his home with his family and when he returned only ash remained.

Since the week of the fire Chris and a small, dedicated crew has been shooting footage, interviews, doing research and gathering historical files to put the thousands of disparate threads in this story together in a meaningful, understandable way.

This project is eyeing two audiences. Those of us who live and lived in Butte County and experienced this disaster and those around the world who need to hear our story. So yes, we’re trying to make something to move everyone. Not only will we be touching on the topics we’ve all witnessed in recent years (worsening wildfires, longer fire seasons, the struggle to make Paradise, Magalia and Concow safe to evacuate and more) but when people see this, we want everyone to see our communities as we did. That way, they can  love the communities we knew before November 8, they can cheer and help our rebuilding afterward, and we can claw back from the fading past just a bit of what we lost.

We’re confident with Chris’ experience and the filmmaking talent available, both local and out of the area, we can create something to stand shoulder to shoulder with any production going on this subject. There are people working on Camp Fire documentaries with better resumes, but none with better experience to tell this story.

If you’d like to help, or make sure we include a story you think is vital, check out the links below:

There are two ways to get us footage.
1). Get on our computer and go to this link:
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.
Or…
2). Contact Chris below and he’ll get in touch about getting your footage.
Twitter: @3DaysInParadise
Chris’ personal page: facebook.com/RocketSpots
Or call 530-680-7125

January Update 1: Thank you for your footage… from the crew of Three Days in Paradise – A docuseries about those of us who lived here before, through, and after the #CampFire

What a year it has already been. From the growing production team at Three Days in Paradise, we thank you and wanted to give you an update on our progress what 2019 has already brought.

We just jumped on here to say thank you.

We’ve recently put out several calls for footage, asking for the video, pictures, voicemails and more our fellow citizens created that shattering day. What we’ve received is simply amazing. We’re confident when we begin to show teasers, trailers and scenes people will see a story so far untold.  Even after the wave of media from networks, papers and world-wide media organizations to say nothing uploaded to YouTube, Facebook and Instagram videos about the Camp Fire, most of this story remains untold.

So thank you for all the materials you’ve been getting to us your media, and keep them coming.

If you’d like to help send us your videos, your pictures, or most important stories you think should be included, please follow the links below.

To tell this story right, we need your stories, video & pictures. In addition to interviews and footage shot by our crew, we’ll be using footage from the entire range of sources, past & present: Phone videos, home videos, historical pictures, Polaroids, modern phone pics, VHS tapes, slides, news station footage & 8 mm films… Everything.
Get in touch with us and we can convert your images if needed.
To send digital pics or video from your phone or camera, here’s how:
There are two ways to get us footage.
1). Get on our computer and go to this link:
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.
Or…
2). Contact Chris below and he’ll get in touch about getting your footage.
Twitter: @3DaysInParadise
Chris’ personal page: facebook.com/RocketSpots
Or call 530-680-7125
#paradisestrong #magaliastrong #concowstrong #buttecountystrong, #campfireparadise #wildfires #paradiseca, #filmmaking #paradisefire #chico #chicoCA  #ResilienceIPA