Welcome to ‘The Big Tell’

One of this weekend’s big events is “The Big Tell” film contest (doors open 6 p.m., films start at 7, Friday, Oct. 20, Warnors Theater, 1400 Fulton St., Fresno). You’ll get the chance to see 10 winning short films that celebrate life in the central San Joaquin Valley, all screened in a festival format in a big movie theater — and complete with a red carpet.

The event is free. Tickets are not required, but you’re encouraged to RSVP by registering here.


Filmmaker Troy Ruff, whose work in “The Big Tell” is titled “59 Days of Code,” at work on another project. Photo / Central Valley Community Foundation

Here’s a rundown:

The idea: This is the inaugural “Big Tell” event, and it represents the Central Valley Community Foundation’s first major investment in the art of filmmaking. (One of the missions of the foundation is supporting the arts through grants.) “We have so many talented filmmakers in the Valley that we wanted to support them,” says Gretchen Moore, the foundation’s director of community engagement.


The selection process: To kick off “The Big Tell,” the foundation — in partnership with the Community Media Access Collaborative (CMAC) — solicited proposals from filmmakers for five-minute mini-documentary projects. There were 85 applicants. Out of these, 10 were chosen. Organizers were looking for representation from the six counties served by the foundation, along with a diversity of subject matter and experience level of the filmmakers. Applicants could live outside the area, but the subjects had to be locally focused.

The finalists: 10 of the applicants were selected. Each received a $5,000 grant. The filmmakers range from highly experienced professionals to several who took advantage of CMAC’s technology classes to increase their skills, says Bryan Harley, director of operations.

The subjects: Topics range from arts and culture to technology and education. One of the films is about a Syrian family and its settlement in Fresno. Another is about the Kings Cultural Center. Other topics include musician Lance Canales and 59 Days of Code. “We ended up with 10 films that are wildly different,” Moore says. (See the end of this story for a list of the 10 films and their descriptions.)

My personal angle: I’m actually interviewed in one of the films: “Unbound” (directed by Haley White), which focuses on Amy Querin, founder of the Fresno Dance Collective (NOCO). I talk about Querin’s contribution to Fresno’s cultural scene.

The workshops: Along with Friday’s big screening, there are several other associated events running Thursday and Friday. Workshops include appearances by Academy Award winner Michael Fink and Emmy-nominated documentarian Sascha Rice. And there’s a workshop for people who want to shoot or preserve 8mm film (which means you can learn to restore those old home movies you have.) I’m including the workshop schedule at the end of this story as well.

The poster: It’s pretty impressive (see for yourself below). And people who attend Friday’s event will get to take one home for free.


After the screening: Look for online links to all 10 films on “The Big Tell” website.

Looking ahead: The Central Valley Community Foundation plans to continue “The Big Tell” next year as an annual event, Moore says. Organizers are talking about expanding the concept beyond film, perhaps opening it up to storytelling, spoken word performance, songwriting, etc. “I think as this continues to grow we’ll add in more elements,” she says. But the primary focus will remain the same: telling stories about where we live.

“The Big Tell” film lineup

Armando Valdez: “Joaquin Murrieta, Tradition and Culture.” Arte Americas will capture the history and tradition behind the annual horse ride in late July of the Association de Charros to commemorate the mythical legend of Joaquin Murrieta, a controversial symbol in California’s early history.

Karen Dusek, Rebecca Adams: “Literacy Empowers.” Literacy empowers, as two volunteer tutors and learners in the Mariposa Library’s adult literacy program reveal in their inspirational stories about the experiences that brought them together. Learn how their efforts translate to a more sustainable, hopeful community.

Hashim Hassan: “Road to Hope.” The struggle and resilience of one Syrian family in Fresno who are among 10,000 Syrian refugees accepted in the United States since the war began.

Martha Yesenia Juarez, Carolina Gutierrez Alfaro, Jennifer Morales, Luis Alcazar: “On the Banks of el Canal.” A young Chicana uncovers the history of the land she grew up on. She discovers the beauty of this land and the richness of life of the migrant families that work the land.


David Kennedy: “The Blessing & The Curse.” The surprising and inspiring story of local folk, Americana and rockabilly musician Lance Canales, who rose from humble Central Valley farmworker beginnings to prominence in the international music scene.

Rebecca Miller, Troy Ruff: “59 Days of Code.” Technology is a tool people can use to change the world, for better or worse. Three students from Avenal, who care so much about the Valley where they grew up and the industries here, are competing in 59DaysOfCode’s annual competition.

Johnny Soto: “Library for London.” There may not be paved roads in the small town of London, CA, but that won’t stop one man from bringing to his hometown something he didn’t have growing up; a library. Follow his journey as he fights to bring accessible books and media to London, sparking interest and inspiring education and imagination in the hearts and minds of its youth.

Jose Muñoz: “The Promise.” A love story of Mr. and Mrs. Medina and the promise they made to give back to their community, thus leading to the creation of the Kings Cultural Center in Armona.

Haley White: “Unbound.” Amy Querin used dance to heal her own emotional wounds, and now she helps others do the same. From her own dance company to the work she does with the prisoners at Central California Women’s Facility through the Prison Arts Project.

Paula Yang: “Forgotten Veterans of the Vietnam War (Hmong Secret Guerrilla Units).” Three Hmong veterans serve the United States during the Vietnam War in Laos. This film showcases their life stories, their experiences during the war, and transition to American civilian life after their service.

sascha@camera copy

Mentor: Sascha Rice ia n Emmy-nominated documentarian. Photo / Central Valley Community Foundation

“Big Tell” workshops

Action! The Real Deal in Filmmaking
Thursday, October 19 at 4:30 PM
Bitwise Industries, 700 Van Ness Ave, Fresno

Making a film is so much more than pointing a camera. Get the real story from Academy Award winner Michael Fink, and Emmy-nominated documentarian Sascha Rice. Moderated by Tim Haydock of Youthwire, this panel discussion will focus on the ins and outs, and challenges and opportunities that exist throughout the process of making a film. FREE. RSVP:

Visual Effects in Film with Michael Fink
Friday, October 20 at 9:00 AM
Fresno State, Speech Arts Building Room 172, Studio A

Academy Award winner and USC Professor Michael Fink shares insights on the film industry through the lens of his own career, and explores the arc of storytelling from early cave drawings to modern Hollywood blockbusters. The discussion includes an in-depth look at Professor Fink’s films, followed by a Q&A. FREE. You can RSVP here.

Pro 8mm Workshop
Friday, October 20 at 2:00 PM
CMAC, 1555 Van Ness Ave, Fresno

The first-of-its-kind in Fresno, this is an amazing experience for anyone wishing to shoot or preserve 8mm film, or for those who are interested in learning more about how to capture the best shots on 8mm. Pro8mm, the experts in digital remastering of home movies on professional state of the art equipment with over 40 years of experience, is offering a free seminar which explores best practices. FREE. RSVP here.

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Comments (1)

  • Thanks for the info…. I had to post this to my FB page. The Medina Family are wonderful and KCC is such an asset to the community. Now following your blog….anything that helps me find arts information here in Kings County is so appreciated!!


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