The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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May 19, 2012

Tornado documentary has Joplin premiere

JOPLIN, Mo. — There was a hint of Hollywood in Joplin on Saturday for the premiere of “Heartland: The Joplin Tornado Documentary” at Central Christian Center.

Those involved in the movie were photographed on a red carpet as they arrived.

Filmmaker Erica Tremblay grew up in Seneca, but has lived in Los Angeles the past five years, working as a digital producer for an advertising agency, making commercials and also some short films. “Heartland” is her first feature-length film.

She said she had returned to her apartment after running some errands last May 22 when she turned on CNN to see news of the tornado that struck Joplin. The following hours and days were spent trying to reach family members and friends. She said she felt powerless.

“Like most other people, I thought, ‘What can I do?’’ she said, before eventually coming to a realization: “I know how to make movies.”

She said she sought help from friends and put together financing, equipment and a crew, spending initially nine days in Joplin talking with tornado survivors about their stories. She later returned for another five days after recovery had begun.

She said the film will be taken on the festival circuit, where she hopes to find a distributor. Depending on the distribution deal, she said she hopes it will be available on DVD in the fall.

Her co-producer is Bernard Parham Jr., whose parents, Dr. Bernard Parham Sr. and Gwendolyn Parham, provided financing. He said after the premiere that he was pleased with the final product.

“The movie told the story we wanted to, and that’s the story of the survivors,” he said. “Hopefully, we left people with a hopeful feeling.”

Luke Lehart, 18, was in the movie, describing his experience after the storm.

“I thought it was great,” Lehart said. “It portrayed the urgency Joplin had immediately after the storm; not just me, but the whole town.”

He said he teared up a couple of times during the film.

His experience during and after the tornado has convinced him of his career choice of being a firefighter and rescue worker, something he mentioned in the film

“I’ve started my training,” he said after the movie.

Matt Rose and daughter, Reagan, also attended the premiere. He is shown in the movie describing his emotional phone call to his daughter during the tornado.

“I thought it was great,” he said. “I’m proud to be part of it. I’m glad it wasn’t just a storm-chaser movie.”

Rose said the film will provide him with some closure.

“I’m kind of ready to move on and put it behind me,” he said

The audience rose to its feet for a standing ovation as the credits rolled.

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