EDITOR’S NOTE: Sam Furie (BFA/Creative Producing ’16) is a passionate individual. When he first emailed us about his film, we could tell this was a subject that was near to his heart. He, and a group of other Chapman students, are making a documentary about the California Drought, one of the worst droughts in history.

Even thousands of miles away from my home in LA, I was still thinking about it. I vividly remember eating gelato, and wandering into a shop in Florence with my study-abroad friends at my side. I kept reading articles, and the more I read, the more I wanted to do something about it. Even though I’m not a scientist, politician, or farmer, I wanted to help.

The California drought is the worst of its kind in recorded history. It affects over 40,000,000 Americans. What can be done in a situation like that? What could a Creative Producing major like myself do?

Actually, it wasn’t long before I was talking to my cousin, and fellow film student, Jacob Morrison. So much of my time at Chapman has armed me with the knowledge and skills to produce documentaries so it seemed like the right thing to try. At first, we were thinking about making a short film, just covering some small aspect.

Sam Furie and Brian Weisboard shooting on location

Sam Furie and Brian Weisboard shooting on location

We recruited many other Chapman students, as well as alums. Tucker Cowan (BFA/Creative Producing ‘15) began to produce the film with me. Brian Weisboard (BFA/Film Production ‘16) started to shoot it, as well as Jason Segal (BFA/Film Production ‘16) and Sam Sarokin (BFA/Film Production ‘17).

Yet as we started production, our fundamental understanding of the situation began to spin. As one of our favorite interview subjects, Jon Herrick of the South Delta Water Ageny, said, “There is perhaps a 10 year learning curve to understanding the water situation in the state”

Every time time we learned something, something new came along to contradict that information. As Herrick went on to say, “Whatever you hear from someone, take it with a grain of salt, because they are either biased or lying to you.” And he wasn’t wrong.

Before we knew it, we were making a feature film.

We truly believe that this is a story that needs to be told, Many of us conserve, but do we really know what our impact is beyond our home or our city? The drought sheds a harsh light on water users, but that drought-shaming mentality often misses the point. Yes, agriculture uses 80% of the state’s water, but makes up less than 2% of our GDP.

filmmakers in field filming a man

Quick stories lead to small thinking, and what we need is big thinking. What is clear is that the problem affects everyone. If there is any party who is mostly responsible for misusing water during a shortage, it is the state agencies with whom we ask to control and protect our water. They are essentially taking more water than their allotted amount, and exporting to cities during the shortage. In doing so, we are making our fish extinct, and will soon lose every river in California. We were never environmentalists, per-say, but this is not something we can stand to see.

I think one of the biggest assets Chapman provided me with was arming with the practical knowledge and know-how to get this production up and running. I was able to take my idea from script to screen in about a month. Classes like Production and Set Management taught me how to schedule and budget our entire film. Also, beyond the classes, Chapman was kind enough to offer us a grant under the mentorship of Professor Alexandra Rose. Even while class wasn’t in session, I found myself having lunch with Professor Rose talking about what direction we wanted to take the film in.

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