Films Focusing on Local Water

“Two water-wise documentaries by two different filmmakers are in the works in the Owens Valley.
Jenna Cavelle’s short documentary, “Paya – The Untold Story of the L.A.-Owens Valley Water War,” has met itsKickstarter funding goal and filming is under way with a projected August or early September completion date.
A new project headed up by the Owens Valley Committee and Bristlecone Media, with Cavelle serving as a coproducer,“Slake: Water and Power in the Eastern Sierra,” is in the fundraising stage.
Cavelle said “Paya,” which  is about two years in the making, aims to tell the story of Owens Valley Paiutes and theirrelationship and use of water before the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began exporting water in the early1900s.
“The year 2013 marks both the centennial anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct and America’s longest-lived waterwar,” Cavelle says on her Kickstarter.com page. “From critically-acclaimed films like ‘Chinatown’ to best-sellingbooks like ‘Cadillac Desert,’ for the past 100 years, the ‘LA-Owens Valley Water War’ narrative has centered around theviewpoint that L.A. went out and ‘stole’ Owens Valley’s water. But there is a greater story, an untold story that is rich inhistory and human achievement, a story that is as much a part of American memory as the creation of our great cities.
“This film documents the history of Paiute Native Americans who constructed and managed 60 miles of intricate irrigationsystems in Owens Valley for millennia long before L.A. secured its largest source of water through modern engineering acentury ago.”
Cavelle said she has been working closely with Harry Williams of the Bishop Paiute Tribe and other members of the NativeAmerican community to tell the story that she says has been overlooked since the LADWP began purchasing land in theEastern Sierra.
“We’ve been in production since March and we have several hundred hours of footage, and we’re still filming,” Cavellesaid.
When completed, the film will be a short, 20-minute documentary that will be eligible for submission in the short filmfestival circuit.
With so much information, and such a story to tell, Cavelle said she can easily create a full-length documentary about theOwens Valley Paiutes and their history and relationship with water, but her immediate goal is to create the short,accessible documentary and get the information out to the public.
“I just like the format of short documentary films – you can tell the story without making it too much and losing theaudience,” Cavelle said. “Some people from Hollywood have approached me about a full-length documentary film” but anyserious conversations about pursuing that will be held after “Paya” is complete.
Cavelle said the film will be distributed to a number of individuals who invested in the project, raising the $40,000necessary to complete the film. She is also hoping to hold a local premier and have screenings at various venues in InyoCounty. Ultimately, the film will be shown at the Bishop Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center on West Line Street along withan exhibit she is creating to accompany the documentary.
“This film was born out of a community service project that included (museum exhibits), mapping the Owens ValleyPaiute’s irrigation systems and literacy programs around water,” Cavelle said, adding that she is also working on amuseum exhibit for the Bancroft Library in Berkeley.
Through her project, Cavelle said she has developed a relationship with the OVC, which approached her earlier this year tosee if she would be willing to work on its documentary, “Slake.”
Cavelle said that initially, she refused because she was “so entrenched in ‘Paya,’” that she didn’t think she would have thetime or energy to begin work on yet another project.
But as “Slake” began to take shape, Cavelle said that she saw a need, namely in fundraising efforts, that she could fillthrough her media and social networking contacts.
Thus Cavelle joined the project as a coproducer, and began a campaign to help the OVC generate money and interest to getthe project off the ground.
Cavelle said she has helped raise between $4,000 and $5,000 for the ‘Slake’ project.
According to the OVC, the ‘Slake’ film series aims to document ongoing environmental struggles in the Eastern Sierra dueto continued water extraction by the LADWP.
“This project is timely as the 100-year anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct is being celebrated,” Cavelle said in a pressrelease. “Once complete, ‘Slake’ will be available freely on the web and to media outlets. In addition it will be screened togroups in Los Angeles, Owens Valley and greater California.”
The OVC has initiated an online fundraising campaign and is seeking tax-deductible donations to fund ‘Slake.’ To viewthe film project trailer and to donate to the campaign residents can visit www.indigogo.com/projects/slake-water-power-in-the-eastern-sierra.
OVC President Alan Bacock said that the group is hoping to raise about $30,000 for the film series, which will beginwhere Cavelle’s leaves off. “We will be looking at the original inhabitants of the Owens Valley and what happened withthat when the occupation of LADWP began,” Bacock said. “If the two films were tied together, (‘Paya’) would be like aprequel, and we’re moving more into the modern era.”
To date, the OVC has raised about $10,000, one-third of the amount it needs.
“We cannot make this important educational project happen without public support. Concerned citizens must join in oureffort. ‘Slake’ has the power to hold DWP accountable,” said Nina Weisman, communications director of OVC.
The documentary will be filmed by Bristlecone Media. Jonah Matthewson of Bristlecone Media said the project is still inthe fundraising stages, but, when complete, will include a number of different short films covering a variety of topics.”
“The story is part of Southern California’s origin myth, Los Angeles’ Original Sin: the Department of Water and Powertook water from the Owens Valley to fuel the city’s growth, dooming not only the desert landscape but its own,” the OVCsays on its website. “That story’s usually told in the past tense, but it still unfolds today, a century later. And a forthcomingvideo series from the OVC and Bristlecone Media intends to bring us all up to speed.”

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