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Best of Fest!

I recently had the privilege of being selected to the 19th Bare Bones International Film and Music Festival in Muskogee, OK with my documentary about the Joplin tornado and recovery. It’s touted as the friendliest film festival and in my estimation they lived up to it. From the moment I first met the founders at a VIP reception, they greeted me and my wife with a hug and a selfie and a comment about driving through Joplin and seeing some of the rebuilding.

I also got to do a radio interview at the local station.

 

But let’s skip to the awards night… I knew going in that I was one of four nominees for the Best Feature Documentary award. The DJ at the radio, who is also a storm chaser, watched my film and seemed convinced that I would win. But I wasn’t too sure and tried to not get my hopes up too much. The awards ceremony finally arrives and the wait is over.  They are announcing the Best Feature Documentary, and I’m hoping to hear “Steadfast, directed by Gregory Fish.” But instead they called another film, I think it was called “The Big Secret.” My heart sank a bit, but I resigned to the fact that I had not won. The director went up and gave his acceptance speech about how they won in France and some other country, but this means more to them for bringing it home. I was at least thankful to lose to good competition. Then the presenter introduces the final award in the documentary section, Best of Fest, whether a feature or a short or micro, the best documentary of the whole festival is, and then I heard my film’s name! A moment of discouragement quickly gave way to exhilaration as I walked up to the podium, an award-winning filmmaker. You can hear in my speech that I was emotional:

 

What an amazing experience and an even better outcome! Thanks to everyone who has encouraged me along the way.

 

 

On Moore and Joplin and Social Media’s help

May 21, 2013 1 comment

joplin

May 22nd is a date that I will always remember. We typically remember dates that are special occasions, birthdays and anniversaries, etc. But we also remember dates surrounding events that were catastrophic. That is the case with me for May 22nd. This is the day when an EF-5 tornado ripped through the heart of Joplin, Missouri, the town I grew up in.

Unfortunately, the people of Moore, Oklahoma will now always remember yesterday’s date, May 20, 2013 for the same reason. All the news on Moore is just now coming out. I can’t really speak to it. But as I watched The Weather Channel’s Mike Bettes come onto the scene, he kept referencing Joplin from two years ago. In fact, before arriving he tweeted, “I do not want to see another #Joplin worst day of my life. #prayformoore.” And indeed, Moore looks very bad. Joplin’s loss of life was 161. Moore right now is 24, but it is still early.

Two years ago, I watched the news images as I did yesterday, but the difference was, I knew my hometown of Joplin like the back of my hand. I actually lived 1000 miles away when the tornado hit. I knew my family and friends were there. One third of the city was decimated. How about my loved ones? It was so devastating that cell phones were no longer a reliable means of communication. I recall trying to call and see if family members were okay. That was the story of so many.

A need to communicate effectively and share information arose out of this awful situation. Social media filled much of that role. My aunt, who heads up the library in Joplin, was asking on Facebook if anyone had heard from my grandmother. I replied that she was ok. She then came back asking where I got that information; did someone talk to her? My sister made the contact, and Facebook passed on the news to other worried individuals in a more reliable way.

There were many pages created to help after this disaster. Missing people boards, volunteer info, fundraising and donation instructions. The Joplin Tornado Info page, started up less than two hours after the tornado by 23 year old Genevieve Williams from Neosho, MO was honored as one of seven nominees for a 2011 Mashable Award in the Social Good Cause Campaign Category. It became the clearing house of information, staffed entirely by volunteers. It seems all of Joplin was on the page with 49,000 likes so quickly. I saw, yesterday that Moore Oklahoma Tornado Info page has gone live modeled after JTI to fill the same sort of role. It already has 32,556 likes. A much smaller page was also created yesterday called, Joplin Loves Moore. I know many from this area have already been deployed to lend a helping hand.

My hometown knows what Moore is going through. In fact tomorrow, we will stand in what was ground zero for a moment of silence exactly two years after that tragedy. The recovery has been nothing short of amazing, and is still ongoing. I was so impacted by everything that occurred and the stories coming out of Joplin that I moved back to the area, and completed a feature-length documentary that chronicles that fateful day and the year following- www.steadfastdocumentary.com.

What can you do to help? If Joplin is an indicator, a good place to start would be Moore Oklahoma Tornado Info’s Facebook page and other social media channels for real-time information.

Excerpts from Steadfast

It was just about two years ago that an EF-5 tornado ripped through the heart of Joplin. I will write more about it soon, but it’s obvious that it was an event of tremendous impact on so many. I was so moved by what I saw that I spent a lot of time and energy over the course of a year to produce a feature-length documentary that tells the whole story. It was really a labor of love, and I’m so happy when people watch it and report that it’s helped them heal in some way. That was my goal after all.

While I can’t show you all 90 minutes right now, I do have these four excerpts and the trailer to share with you. To see the rest, and about 30 minutes of extras, you can order the DVD, which is on sale right now for the month of May, for only $10 +shipping.

Check these out and more info at www.steadfastdocumentary.com.

A Prayer for Joplin (two years later)

prayer4joplin

 

What people are saying about “Steadfast”?

January 2, 2013 1 comment

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The following are comments from the 2012 DVD release. The new version is even better!

A superb documentary! “Steadfast” not only tells the story of Joplin’s indomitable spirit after the tornado, but also resonates the faith, hope, and love that brings out the best in all of us. Hats off to you for putting it together in such a professional, entertaining, and uplifting manner! –Tim Bartow

While other writings and films about the tornado focus on events, this film focuses on people. “Steadfast” is an inspiring story in the midst of tragedy and devastation. – Jacque Gage

Absolute Blessing!!! Thank you so much for this Documentary, left there feeling HOPEFUL and UPLIFTED!!! –Michele Lucas Fry

I was very moved by this documentary and was waiting for a flood of tears and sorrow, but it was a great mix of heroes, loss, and even some much needed light-hearted moments to remember that we (Joplin) survived and are thriving despite the tragedy! –Bryan Davis

A beautiful story of hope! It’s about an ugly day in our lives, that turned into many beautiful and encouraging days of God’s works! –Linda Jarvis Teeter

I thought Greg did a wonderful job! I was a bit nervous because we haven’t really watched many videos or even looked at the books. I felt very blessed when we left and will watch the DVD again. –Sonja Hoover-Harper

Watched it all—very well done! Thank you for doing this. It is emotional, but I am glad I set aside my fear of dealing with these emotions and watched it. You should too! It will help you heal. –Jane Dye

Amazing film, Gregory Fish! Thank you for telling Joplin’s story. You did an awesome job of capturing the emotions. Thank you, again. –Deborah Morris

Most excellent!! –Pam Braxdale Harrington

Amazing! Thank you for all of your hard work! –Kristin McCarthy Perry

It was tremendous. –Elaine Francis

It was beautiful, Greg. Congratulations! –Tammy Nelson

Awesome job Greg!!! Steadfast was touching, funny and heartfelt! 5 Stars! –Pam Corwin Dudley

Steadfast, the documentary was precious, powerful, touching, moving and honoring of our town, our God and those who lost loved ones and homes. Thank you for your work, your heart, and your gifts! –Tammy Benson

Excellent job Mr. Fish! Glad I was able to be a part of the showing tonight. You really captured the tragedy and the resilience very well in a short 90 minutes. Looks like ya had a great turn out too, so that was awesome. Sleep well. Ya did good tonight, kid, real good! –Jay Tepe

Excellent Job! –Spencer Aggus

“Just attended the premiere of “Steadfast: The Documentary” and it was GREAT! Very touching and inspiring! It reminds me yet again of why I love this town and why I’m so proud of this community. I highly recommend it. Thanks, Gregory Fish, for all your hard work and congratulations on a job well done!” –Mandie Jennings

2 thumbs up and 5 stars for an awe-inspiring debut of “Steadfast, The Documentary”, which played tonight to a packed house at College Heights Christian Church in Joplin. Thank you, Greg, for using your divine talents to serve and bless so many people. –Van Benson

It was a hair-raising documentary, that left you speechless and awe struck at the devastation and the resilience of a community. –Scott McGill

The “Steadfast” documentary highlighted a God-honoring response by a community hit by one powerful tornado. –Dave Case

Just watched Steadfast. Excellent production of the May 22, 2011 tornado and aftermath. To all my friends who have been here to volunteer…you will want to see it. -Desiree Keyes Limkeman

Great job Mr. Fish!! Impressive!! –Misti Terterman Tackett

Well done, young man!! Well done!!! –Jim Cruzan

A great story. Very well presented! –Elizabeth Robertson

Proud doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about my little brother and the work he did on this documentary. I had seen over half of it, but he wrapped it up beautifully and I was moved to tears along with hundreds of other people that watched Joplin’s story unfold before our eyes. Good job, Gregory Fish! –Charissa Robinett

Excellent documentary on the Joplin tornado: uplifting, inspiring, with moments of levity, and seriousness. Good job, Gregory Fish! –David Fish

It was beautifully done! I know there are so many of us that will never be the same because of the tornado and all that we went through. Greg did a wonderful job of capturing the experience of the tornado. We are all forever changed for the better. Experiences like the tornado are never easy but sometimes through painful times we really grow. Thank you for all your hard work and for sharing the film with us! –Christine Segal

Thank you for telling Joplin’s story– a story of hope, of faith, of God! The only way we can make it through and will continue to live and move and have our being is in Him! –Pamela Praytor

You did an outstanding job, Greg! Thanks for all your hard work. -Gary & Randa Reed

Steadfast is a tool that should be in the library of all grief counselors! -Lance Hostetter

New Documentary Trailer

I’ve been hard at work, shooting, editing, conceptualizing, editing, and editing. I’m almost done with the Documentary. The end is in sight. So granted, it was time for a new trailer. Here it is. As it says in the trailer, the release date is set for November 19. That will be right at one and a half years since the tornado. Actually, the 22nd is the precise day, but that’s Thanksgiving. I will be thankful to have completed this massive undertaking, but it has been a privilege to document such amazing stories. I hope the end result is a blessing. Here’s the new trailer:

[vimeo 50940321]

Joplin Documentary Site is Live

A big part of this last year for me has been the Joplin tornado. I was not in Joplin during that fierce storm, but being from there, my heart went out for this place. I shortly arrived with supplies, money and aid, like so many of other volunteers. One area that I felt I could be of most use was in documenting what I saw. Several trips later, we find ourselves living back in the area. With the passing of the first anniversary, we now are done filming and are in the production stage of “Steadfast- The Documentary”.

There is a short trailer and more info live at www.steadfastdocumentary.com. You can sign up for updates there, as well as pre-order a DVD. Half of all profits will go to rebuilding Joplin. Thanks for supporting this project and Joplin.

Miss Minnie and the Storm

January 21, 2012 Leave a comment

My good friend, Sid McGregor (Postmay Films) and I were in our hometown of Joplin shortly after the May 22nd EF-5 tornado to lend a hand and give our support. While there, we documented some of the complete devastation. We stumbled upon a Samaritan’s Purse team helping a lady demolish and clean up her home lot. We shot some footage with their permission. I used some of those clips in my Beautiful Things video of Joplin. I believe we came by later (oh, yes, we were looking for Sid’s sunglasses among the rubble!). We had previously talked with the owner of the home who survived the tornado inside the ravaged structure. We asked if she would like to share her story. I’m glad she did, and I’m happy to share it with you.

Joplin still need a lot of help. Miss Minnie’s story will be a blessing in your life.

Ask yourself how can you be a blessing in the life of a survivor like her?

[vimeo 35407886]

A House that Stands for HOPE

In my last trip back to Joplin, I took several more pictures. These, however, weren’t pictures of devastation. Joplin is already rebuilding everywhere. I ate at the brand new Chick-fi-la where the old one stood. There is also a brand new Walgreens where the old one was destroyed. I didn’t get a chance to document much of the building process. I also wanted to take pictures of the signs everywhere that said “opening soon” or something to that effect. I didn’t have the opportunity. But I did go by one house to take pictures. It a house I had snapped a photo of on my first trip back, and it was even in my “Beautiful Things” video. This time, it stood out like a sore thumb.

All the other houses around it have been bulldozed, but it remains a battered mess. However, there is furniture set out in the open air. There are markers available. And on every surface…I mean every single surface of the house- floor, walls, frame, etc. are written words of encouragement from people all over the country. What a sight! This is what I documented. I set these pictures to what I deemed to be fitting music and I sincerely hope and pray that it will spread hope through that special city.

Here’s Well-wishes for Joplin:

UHO – Unidentified Hovering Object

September 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Around 3 weeks ago, my wife was visiting family from Joplin, MO. Of course, you know that an EF-5 tornado ripped through the heart of that town on May 22. What you may not know is how many stories of divine intervention there are when you talk to people from there. This horrible tragedy claimed 160 lives. The city is rebuilding at an incredible pace, I believe, in part, to honor the memory of those people. As I saw the devastation, though (search “Joplin” on this blog to see videos) I wonder how that number is not higher. So many people are talking about God in the storm and even angels rescuing people from certain death. I don’t pretend to understand why some would die and others would survive the tornado’s path. It is a curious thing.

That brings me back to our item of interest. One day while my wife was with her parents in Mt. Vernon they noticed these lights in the sky, right over the direction of Joplin, 30 min. away. I’ll coin the phrase “Unidentified Hovering Object” because they say that they were not flying, they were stationary for about 15 to 20 min. No drifting or anything. My wife grabbed the 7D and a cheap telephoto lens and snapped some pics, like this one zoomed in below:

I will let her describe the scene here:

My parents and I were sitting in their driveway in the early evening watching the kids ride their bikes.  Mom said, “Look how blue the sky is!”  Dad and I looked up and noticed it was a beautiful shade of blue.  Maybe the bluest sky I’d ever seen.  All of the sudden dad pointed to the sky and said, “Look at that!  Do you see that?”  He was pointing at a bright object.  My first thought was a plane, but it wasn’t moving at all.  Can’t be a plane.   It was too early for stars.  We hadn’t even eaten dinner yet.  Then because I’m a conspiracy theorist I thought about aliens.  So I grabbed my camera and started taking pictures.  If this was a space ship I wanted pictures of it.  I don’t know who noticed the second object, but suddenly we were looking at two bright objects in the sky.  Neither were moving.  They were changing colors though.  The top one was brighter and changing from white to blue and back and forth.  The bottom one was white and orange.  We looked at it them for about 20 minutes before the clouds took over the sky and we could no longer see either object.  Later when I looked at the pictures on my computer I noticed something weird.   When I zoomed up on the picture it had a shape to it.  I couldn’t see the shape when I was looking at it in person earlier, but the pictures showed a definite shape.  The shape of an angel.

Again, I don’t really understand this stuff. I know what it looks like. Others look at it and say, “Looks like an angel”. The other pics look so similar too, with the same features. Well, it looks like the stereotypical image that we have of angels. How accurate is that? Well, how did that look come to be a stereotype? It has to be for a reason that everyone depicts angels this way. Sure, the Bible also says that we can entertain angels unaware. They, as God’s messengers could probably appear in many different ways. But then, we have the descriptions of angels in the Scripture. It describes a bright light, seen even in the brightest day. Hmm. Interesting.

Am I saying that this UHO, as I’ve come to call it, is in fact an angel? I’m saying that’s what it looks like. I wasn’t there, but I’ve see all the pictures and heard my wife’s testimony. I think that we who are sophisticated and educated have a much harder time accepting this Ephesians 6 type of truths. I grew up on the mission field, but in a sophisticated city. I have been to more remote places where people are more sensitive to the spiritual forces of both good and evil.

2 Kings 6 comes to mind. Eugene Peterson paraphrases it in this way:

15Early in the morning a servant of the Holy Man got up and went out. Surprise! Horses and chariots surrounding the city! The young man exclaimed, “Oh, master! What shall we do?”  16 He said, “Don’t worry about it—there are more on our side than on their side.”  17 Then Elisha prayed, “O God, open his eyes and let him see.”    The eyes of the young man were opened and he saw. A wonder! The whole mountainside full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha! (2 Kings 6:15-17 MSG)

Could it be that we too have our eyes closed to these spiritual realities?

What do you think this UHO is?

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