By Kevin McClintock
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Three documentaries about the May 22 tornado will debut this month.
Chip Gubera’s “Joplin, Missouri” will premiere at 7 p.m. Friday, May 11, in Taylor Auditorium at Missouri Southern State University.
On Saturday, May 19, Seneca native Erica Tremblay will debut her film, “Heartland,” at Central Christian Center (the former Fox Theater) at 415 S. Main St. in Joplin. Doors open at 3 p.m., and the film will begin around 4 p.m., she said.
A third professional documentary, “Deadline in Disaster,” will make its debut at 7 p.m. today at the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, 203 S. Ninth St. in downtown Columbia. It will be shown in Joplin at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 24, also at Central Christian Center.
All three films are free to the public.
Gubera, a Joplin native, said he has invested hundreds of hours in his 92-minute documentary.
Aside from being an independent filmmaker, Gubera also is a visual effects artist and a University of Missouri instructor in the College of Engineering’s computer science department.
“What’s unique about this project, unlike some of my film projects, I had to wear many different hats because there were so few people” helping, Gubera said. He financed it, filmed it, did the editing, and arranged and conducted dozens of interviews.
He was in Columbia on May 22 when a local weatherman broke in during a broadcast and talked about part of Joplin being destroyed.
“I was staring at the television, thinking, ‘That’s an odd thing to say,’” Gubera said. “I asked myself, ‘Did he just say Joplin? Joplin, Missouri?’”
He was in Joplin within three days, initially as a volunteer. Only later did he think about making a film.
In one scene, Gubera spliced police scanner audio over video of the storm’s devastation.
“I lost it several times” while filming, Gubera said. “I’m getting emotional just talking about it right now. But it really helped to have the camera there in front of me, and a job to focus on.”
A limited-run, special-edition DVD will be available for purchase the night of the screening for $20, Gubera said. About 20 percent of the proceeds will go to rebuildjoplin.org to support long-term recovery efforts.
The documentary also will be shown in Columbia and Chicago, and he is looking at taking the film to Seattle, Denver and Dallas, among other cities.
Tremblay was living in Los Angeles on May 22. She worked phones for 13 hours before confirming that her friends and family were safe.
A producer friend encouraged her to “go home, to film what had happened, to tell the story, to show what (Joplin) had gone through,” Tremblay said.
Six weeks later, she did just that.
Tremblay, who works as a digital producer for the Los Angeles-based creative agency David & Goliath, had a vision for the documentary but was stunned by the level of devastation.
“When we drove into ground zero, it was just — shocking,” she said. “There’s no way to really describe it. You just can’t put that kind of devastation into any sort of words.”
Tremblay and her crew spent nine days in Joplin filming survivors and their stories.
“We knew a lot of people would (film) stories” about the rescue operations, “and they would tackle it in a great way, but we wanted to tell a different kind of story,” she said. “So we went into the homes, and we told the stories from the perspective of the people. I wanted to mourn the loss of life, but I thought it equally important to mourn the tremendous personal history lost when the storm swept away the homes, neighborhoods and landmarks that anchored our lives.”
After the documentary makes its debut in Joplin, Tremblay will screen it in California. She said she hopes it will hit the Los Angeles Film Festival circuit. She also believes the film should receive distribution and be available for sale on DVD. Should that happen, a portion of the proceeds will be given to JET-14 Joplin Eagles Television, she said.
“DEADLINE IN DISASTER,” co-produced by the Missouri Press Association and Scott Charton of Charton Communications & Consulting, follows The Joplin Globe’s editorial staff after the May 22 tornado as it worked to get the word out about the disaster.