January 19, 2018
The Most Valuable
Information Free To All

Letter from California

Dear friends and family,

The past ten days have been harrowing. But in spite of some close calls, we are safe and Big Picture Ranch is still standing. Our beloved town and community of Ojai were surrounded by the Thomas Fire and many of our loved ones lost everything.

On Monday Dec 4th, Sean Keenan, one of the editors working on the Kiss the Ground movie, drove through the Ojai pass on Hwy 150 and he posted a fire warning on Facebook. High Santa Ana winds + 5 years of drought + fire so close to us were bad signs. We made a list of what to grab in the event of an evacuation: the kids, the cat, the goldfish, our passports, wedding album, but most worrisome - the Kiss the Ground Movie. The movie exists as a complex web of wires, servers, hard drives, and computers and it's tricky to move. We got the kids to sleep, the power went out, and we could suddenly see the fire making it’s way across the mountains.

At 1:30am ten close friends from Elevate Films and their dog showed up at our door. The fire was headed towards their house (which burned down the next day and for whom there is a fund drive), they needed to evacuate but all roads out of Ojai were closed. Another bad sign.

We took shifts napping as the others watched the flames grow on the hillside. The chaos had begun: no power, sketchy information from officials, conflicting reports of road closures, displaced dogs, cats, kids etc. By morning, the flames were creeping down the hill towards town.

While Josh and Darius raced to tear apart our movie studio, Rebecca grabbed a couple of days worth of clothes. We had no clue that we should be packing for a month.

We piled in and took off. The next two hours were stressful. 5 miles an hour, 2 kids and a cat, bumper to bumper traffic and a fire that looked as if it was closing in around us.

The next morning, Los Angeles was on fire. Meanwhile winds back in Ojai were growing and the fire had encircled Big Picture Ranch.

At 1pm Wednesday, our dear friend Mikki, who had lost his home, went back to Ojai to save more items that we needed for Kiss the Ground. He called to say that he was evacuating our property, the fire had reached the hillside by our house and the wind was blowing it straight towards our neighborhood. His last words before he hung up, “I’m so so sorry”. Click.

An hour later, he told me water helicopters were above Big Picture Ranch.

Ojai had a “ring of fire" around it, but miraculously, our property, and most of the town (including Johnny Cash’s home) had been saved by Firefighters.

Meanwhile, our whole team had gathered in Los Angeles and we were quickly setting up a makeshift studio to get the Kiss the Ground movie done in time to submit to the Tribeca Film Festival.

We’ve become this funny, displaced crew working around the clock to finish a film about how we can prevent all humans from becoming climate refugees, ironically while we have been forced to evacuate our own homes.

Our whole team, our families; 3 children, 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 bunnies and the goldfish, are all okay. A bit traumatized, but super focused. We are committed that the Kiss the Ground movie be the solution that ignites people to save our climate and prevent climate related disasters from displacing millions, possibly billions of humans worldwide.

In the face of this disaster we are reminded that, like our friends at Elevate films, our family, film company and our mission is not given by place, home, or a street address. Rather, in this time of global uncertainty, we are defined by our community, by our common dreams for a better world and by our love of our little ones. It’s in their eyes that the bigger message for this new epoch of humanity is clear:

We are all in this together.

We love you,

Rebecca, Josh and the entire Kiss the Ground movie team and Big Picture Ranch gang