By Laura Ramos, Community Engagement Associate

The Central Valley Community Foundation is thrilled to present the 4th annual The Big Tell; a film contest featuring undiscovered stories from the Central Valley. These 5-min mini documentaries tell the stories of places and individuals in our Central Valley from Merced, Mariposa, Madera, Fresno, Kings, and Tulare counties that might have never been told.

When it comes to a topic, the sky is the limit. Do you want to bring awareness to an issue happening in our community or spotlight an individual you see making a change? It’s really up to you! 10 filmmakers have been chosen and granted $5,000 to produce their film and present it at our Showcase on October 25, 2019 at the Tower Theatre.

We asked our previous The Big Tell grantees/filmmakers to share some insight on their experience! This is what they had to say…

What would you tell someone thinking about applying for The Big Tell?

“If you’re thinking about applying for The Big Tell, I’d say absolutely go for it. The worst thing that can happen is your film isn’t selected, but if you don’t submit, it won’t be selected anyways. The great thing about TBT is the fact that unlike any other film festival/showcasing, you’ll actually receive a small production budget to help get your film made.” – Orlando J. Gomez, Needle & Thread, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

 Apply with some footage if you have any. Make sure to be detailed in your vision of your short film.”     Sarah Gonzales. Raisins Made with Love, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

 “This is a great opportunity to both learn new skills and tell your story from the Central Valley!”  –Laura Gromis, Transformation in the Central Valley, 2018 TBT Grantee and Floyd Sanchez, Filmmaker

 “I would tell them they should absolutely apply. There are so many stories in the Valley that need to get told.”    Jes Therkelsen, One Step at a Time, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

“One Day at a Time” filmmaker, Jes Therkelsen (right), Alex Soto (center), and Jason Duong (left) at The Big Tell 2018 Showcase.

 “Do it! Send in your idea and bring your vision to life. Diversity matters, especially when it comes to storytelling and often times there is a truth that you know or an experience with your community that you have had that can shed light to viewers and expose narratives that would otherwise go unnoticed.”  – Rippin Sindher, SEVA, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

“Do it. There are countless stories to be told about the Central Valley and your idea is totally worthwhile. There’s a reason it’s called the Big Tell, and that’s because our stories matter.” Antony V. López, Avenal, Oasis in the Sun, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

“For someone who does a lot of commercial or client work, the Big Tell is a great opportunity to create a project that’s all yours from start to finish.  Your idea, your style, your story.  CVCF gives you the freedom to create the film you want, the film you described in your application and they don’t micromanage the process.” – Zach Green, Preying on Innocents, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

 What do you wish you knew before starting your film?

“I wish I knew how to interview more effectively before I started the film. Any experience would have helped. I feel like my questions could have been crafted in a way to better get the responses I was looking for. It was hard not to talk over the interviewee like you do in normal conversation.” – Sarah Gonzales. Raisins Made with Love, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

 “Nothing really, perhaps that 5-minutes isn’t all that long to dive too deep, unfortunately.” Jes Therkelsen, One Step at a Time, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

“I wish I would have known earlier about this opportunity: I had one week to come up with a story and apply for the grant. I had lots of ideas that I wanted to integrate, and could not fully incorporate every aspect. So, while it seems like you need a lot of story material, five minutes are not a long time, so we had to cut it down to the basics of all our film material and eliminated full sections of what we were looking to cover. Next time I would spend much more time on the storyboard to focus on my main message and story I want to tell.” – Laura Gromis, Transformation in the Central Valley, 2018 TBT Grantee and Floyd Sanchez, Filmmaker

“Budget enough time to get more footage than you need, and prepare to make sacrifices with your video. Our stories are too big for one documentary, and I know every project struggles in the editing room to cut down your video to the limit. Don’t worry, just means you can share a long cut without any strings attached.” Antony V. López, Avenal, Oasis in the Sun, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

Tell us about the most rewarding and challenging part of creating your film.

“The most rewarding part was creating something that has real utility in the community.  Something that we were able to share and continue to share in dozens of screenings.  The impact our film has had is hard to quantify, but we hope it has helped our community in some small way.  The challenging part was to determine what we could actually do with a short 5-minute window of time.  Our film has a story that can be expanded to a much longer length, but the concise 5-minute final film is actually very useful in presentations.”  – Zach Green, Preying on Innocents, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

“Seva” was an ambitious project and one that grew quickly as I started speaking with various subjects. The beauty of documentary filmmaking is that you start with an idea and with the help of the community around you, it leads you to someone else and so and so forth until you have this incredible amount of footage full of gems from real-life experiences and then you take it to the cutting room. The challenge for me was to keep this piece to five-minutes for the showcase while still keeping the scope of my vision alive and sharing the work of the Sikh community in Central California.” – Rippin Sindher, SEVA, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

“The most challenging, yet rewarding, part of creating “Needle & Thread” is definitely trying to drill down and shape the final narrative to fit within the 5-minute duration limit. Once we got going on our interviews, we learned so much about Dr. Marius that I actually changed the throughline narrative 3 times. Ultimately, what we ended up on was the best story for us to tell in 5 minutes or less, but figuring that out, being mindful of developing plotlines and being flexible enough to evolve the story was a huge hurdle and what I think was the basis of success for the film.” – Orlando J. Gomez, Needle & Thread, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

“Needle and Thread” filmmaker, Orlando J. Gomez (left), Danny Cameron (center), and Cody Allred (right) at The Big Tell 218 Showcase.

“I was in the fortunate position to share a story I feel passionate about without having film creation experience and worked together with a film maker in getting our vision realized. It was challenging to communicate the vision we saw for the short film, and super rewarding to learn about the different perspectives we have on this place we call home and the people that make a difference. I learned a lot about the backside needed to create a great short story, and even more about great interview techniques.” – Laura Gromis, Transformation in the Central Valley, 2018 TBT Grantee and Floyd Sanchez, Filmmaker

“Most rewarding part was getting my community together to share their stories and artifacts to include in the documentary. You realize everyone has a story to tell and how important it is to record them. Most challenging was knowing how to craft the stories in a compelling way so that audiences that know nothing about your topic become interested.” Antony V. López, Avenal, Oasis in the Sun, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

“Avenal, Oasis in the Sun” filmmaker and production team Jose Chavez, Noah Naranjo, Enrique Aguirre, Miguel Hernández, José Barazza and Antony V. López (left to right) at The Big Tell 2018 Showcase.

 What’s at least one thing you recommend budgeting for?

“When budgeting, one of our big-ticket items was a lav mic and it saved us. Plan ahead for complications you might have. We interviewed one subject while a farmer neighbor was creating massive amounts noise and you can’t even tell in our film because we had the proper microphone.” – Sarah Gonzales. Raisins Made with Love, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

“Do not compromise sound. You can have great footage, but if the sound quality and mix isn’t done, it pulls the viewer away.” – Rippin Sindher, SEVA, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

“I recommend having a plan for music, because you need to find music that you can license, and that can cost anywhere from $100 to $1000 depending on what sites you use and how many songs.  My preferred site for music is Premium Beat, where songs will cost about $60 each.” – Zach Green, Preying on Innocents, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

“Preying on Innocents” filmmakers, Zach Green (left) and Shelley Ellis (right) at The Big Tell 2018 Showcase.

 “When it comes to budgeting, I recommend having that all lined out ahead of time. If you’re trying to stay within the grant budget and not come out of pocket, it’s good practice to only budget 80-90% of your total production budget is. This way, if something pops up or goes wrong, you need to rent extra gear, pay for a location or prop, or any other one of the thousands of unforeseen expenses that can arise on a production, occurs, you have a little extra set aside to cover that. In the end, if you have money left over, you can distribute it however you see fit. It’s a lot better than being stuck without any more funds and you need to find a way to finish your film.” – Orlando J. Gomez, Needle & Thread, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

 How did participating in The Big Tell help your filmmaking career?

“The Big Tell provided me with the budget to make “Seva,” an idea I was passionate about but hadn’t had the chance to pursue prior. It also gave me the chance to explore documentary filmmaking in my own community and empowered me to share the stories of Sikhs in Central California. This encouragement and support from The Big Tell has been fundamental in laying the groundwork for the expanded vision I have for “Seva.” Since making the film, I’ve written my first feature film adaptation and am currently a directing fellow on Ryan Murphy’s upcoming show, “Ratched,” for Netflix.” – Rippin Sindher, SEVA, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

“Seva” filmmaker, Rippin Sindher (left) and her brother and producer, Gurinder Sindher (right) at The Big Tell 2018 Showcase.

Participating in The Big Tell helped my career by giving me a new audience to showcase my work to. Outside of that, being a community centric event and telling community stories also opened the door to a lot of new networking in areas of the community I wasn’t even fully aware of. Even if it doesn’t directly bring new work opportunities, it’s a good way to work on creative development, storytelling and producing a documentary. And to top it off, you’ll have some cash to do it!” – Orlando J. Gomez, Needle & Thread, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

“It’s helped launch a project in my community: The Avenal Voices Project, where we continue to record the stories of our residents and share them online.” Antony V. López, Avenal, Oasis in the Sun, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

 Is there anything else you’d like to share?

“I’m glad this exists and I hope more storytellers emerge!” Jes Therkelsen, One Step at a Time, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

 “Nowhere else will you find an opportunity like the Big Tell. It was an honor to be a part of something so special.” Antony V. López, Avenal, Oasis in the Sun, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

 “Both producing the video myself and watching the other Big Tell Movies was highly rewarding: first you are so focused on telling your own story and get it all right, and then you see your result among all the other short films with different interpretation of Central Valley stories. It was a very enriching and humbling experience and helped me to understand this place and it’s people better.” – Laura Gromis, Transformation in the Central Valley, 2018 TBT Grantee and Floyd Sanchez, Filmmaker

“I personally love The Big Tell. I wasn’t able to submit the first year it came out because of other work obligations at the time, but I knew that when it came around again, I was going to make sure I submitted. I love storytelling and celebrating the art of filmmaking, but the fact that it’s built to also encourage community engagement and telling local stories just makes it exponentially better. TBT allows filmmakers to build their craft while simultaneously building their communities. I was to be a part of The Big Tell as long as they’ll let me!” – Orlando J. Gomez, Needle & Thread, 2018 TBT Filmmaker

The Big Tell 2018 Showcase at Tower Theatre in Fresno, California.

Well there you have it! Thank you everyone who applied this year and good luck! View our Top 10 2019 The Big Tell Finalist by clicking here.

CVCF wants to thank all our past grantees/filmmakers who shared their experience and advice. To watch all the past The Big Tell min-docs head to TheBigTell.org. You may want to grab some tissues and popcorn!

Follow CVCF on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to stay in the know about all things The Big Tell!

All photos by Craig Kohlruss Photography.