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3 Filmmakers Highlight the Plight of California State Parks

3 Filmmakers Highlight the Plight of California State Parks

Director David Vassar and Director of Photography, Christopher Tufty set up a shot for the Backcountry Pictures production of California Forever in Yosemite National Park. Photo by Joeann Edmonds-Mathew – copyright 2011. (California Forever airs on PBS OC – KOCE on Saturday, September 8th at 8pm and 9pm.)

Films are proving to be valuable tools in the fight to educate the public about keeping California State Parks open.  Since September 2010, I’ve witnessed 3 filmmakers tell the story of the parks and share the immense beauty of these places in jeopardy of closure due to California State budget cuts.

1. Christopher Grant Ward from

  • Came on the scene: I first took notice of Christopher in September 2010 when he publicized his “45 Beautiful Reasons to Vote Yes on Proposition 21.”  He went on to produce a 7-part online documentary in 2011 called “Save the 70.”
  • Who: Christopher Grant Ward is a Bay Area blogger and filmmaker with a passion for advocating for our parks at a grassroots level.
  • Favorite Quote: “Because state parks shouldn’t have to prove their value on an annual basis.”
  • Where to see his films: YouTube Channel (free)

 2. Heath Hen Films: The First 70

  • Came on the scene: In May 2011, friends joined together to travel 3,000 miles and film parks closing in California.
  • Who: Jarratt Moody, Lauren Valentino and their longtime friend Cory Brown attended the Savannah College of Art and Design together before moving to the west coast. They earned the support of The California State Parks Foundation (Executive Producers) for this project.
  • Favorite Quote: From Director Jarratt: “State Parks are diverse landscapes of untouched wilderness that our civilization has chosen to protect for the tranquility and awe they bring to all who come to experience their majestic grandeur. The hard work of the individuals who had the vision and determination to preserve 70 of these precious places is being discarded.”
  • Where to see the film: You have find a screening near you or attend a film festival. Or you can buy the 30 minute film for $10 (digital) or $25 (DVD).

3. Backcountry Pictures: California Forever

  • Came on the scene: Filming took place in 2011 and trailers popped up online in 2012.
  • Who: David Vassar is an Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning film and television writer, director and producer with more than 30 years of industry experience. Backcountry Pictures is his production company. Sally Kaplan joined Backcountry Pictures in 2005. She co-produced California Forever. Major funding provided by Destination Cinema.
  • Favorite Quote: “If we lose our state parks, it would be the equivalent of losing all our great paintings of California, it’d be the equivalent of losing all the great poems that were written about California, all the great novels, all the great films, all the great architectural monuments. More importantly, we lose our usable past — the past that defines the present and the future. We’ll become a people adrift. A people not knowing who they were, where they came from, what mistakes they made and what things they did right. We lose the essential premise of stewardship for our culture if we lose the state parks.” – Kevin Starr, Author & Historian, University of Southern California
  • Personal notes: The first episode, The History of California State Parks, was appropriate to watch with school age children. It had historic re-enactments and introduces viewers to key figures and events in the history of the parks. I found it inspirational.  I thought he second episode, Parks for the Future, would focus on the park closure issue. I’d have loved to see a visual timeline and get a more in-depth picture of the issues.  I think it’s important to get a wider perspective than what’s found in individual newspaper articles. Instead, it was a series of vignettes highlighting ALL the challenges the parks face: solitude vs. recreational vehicles, wildlife preservation efforts, reclaiming land for parks in urban settings, and celebrates diverse cultures. The state budget deficit is only a 2 minute discussion at the end of the film. The content is not as appropriate for children as the first episode.
  • Where to see the film: Airs on PBS stations in September.  PBS OC (KOCE) is airing both episodes on Saturday, September 8th from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

More airdates:

PBS SoCal on Tue., Sept. 4 at 9 pm, Episode #1 and 10 pm, Episode #2; Sun., Sept. 9 at 7 pm, Episode #1; Sun., Sept. 16 at 7 pm, Episode #2; and Encore on PBS OC, on Sat., Sept. 8 at 8 pm, Episode #1 and 9 pm, Episode #2

KLCS in Los Angeles on Tue., Sept. 11 at 8 pm, Episode #1 and 9 pm, Episode #2; Sun., Sept. 23 at 9 pm, Episode #1; and Sun., Sept. 30 at 9 pm, Episode #2

KPBS in San Diego on Thurs., Sept. 20 at 9 pm, Episode #1 and 10 pm, Episode #2

KVCR in the Inland Empire on Wed., Sept. 19 at 8 pm, Episode #1 and on Wed., Sept. 26 at 8 pm, Episode #2


The California State Parks Foundation is urging citizens to take action. The CalParks Voices blog asks readers to: “Urge lawmakers to support AB 1478.”  It only took me 30 seconds to fill out the form:

“We need your help to urge lawmakers to pass AB 1478. With only a couple days left in this legislative session, lawmakers will be making final decisions on this bill by Friday. We urge you to use our online system to send a message to your legislators and the governor specifically urging them to support AB 1478.”

California needs all it’s residents to take an active role in protecting our parks!

Photo credit: Top photos courtesy of California Forever press page.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of California Forever for review purposes. I viewed The First 70 at a free SOKA University screening. I did not receive any compensation for this post, nor was I asked to express any particular opinion.