Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

December 23, 2013

California man filming tornado documentary

Jeremy Clevenger hopes film raises money for storm relief.

By Lindsey Ziliak Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Kokomo native Jeremy Clevenger felt helpless as he sat in a California post-production studio, staring at photos Nov. 17 of homes and businesses in his hometown that had been destroyed by a tornado.

“I saw the pictures and wanted to be there to help, but I couldn’t be there,” he said.

Clevenger lived in Kokomo for 18 years before packing up and moving first to Florida and then to the Golden State to pursue a career in film.

He now edits films at Therapy Productions, a post-production facility in Los Angeles. He was at work when he got word a tornado had ripped through his hometown.

His heart broke as he looked at photos and videos of the devastation.

In the days that followed, though, he heard people were banding together to help each other, just as he knew they would, he said.

That inspired Clevenger to help out in his own way, with a film to raise funds for relief.

He’s chronicling the city’s post-tornado journey in a 44-minute feature documentary called “Path of Destruction.”

The story will follow three people — someone whose life was dramatically changed by the tornado, someone who experienced both that tornado and the 1965 Palm Sunday tornado, and a young person in the community who has stepped up to help following the most recent storm.

“Through these people, there will be more emotional pull,” Clevenger said.

Clevenger is working with only a $10,000 budget, so that means he can’t make the trip to Kokomo to film the documentary himself. He has asked a team of people in the community to hit the streets and get footage of cleanup efforts. He wants them talking to people to find the amazing stories he knows are there, he said.

“There is a tremendous amount of story within this city,” he wrote in his movie pitch. “Our goal is to compile all of these amazing experiences into one film to help showcase the resilience and uniqueness of Kokomo, Indiana. Our city has something important to share and we want to bring this to life. Kokomo is a great city because the residents are always available to lend a helping hand.”

Now, he’s leaning on the city to help him make this film a reality.

His team is out in all of the affected areas getting cinematic footage. Clevenger said he will combine that with interviews and dramatic footage from cellphones to tell a compelling story.

When the project is finished, he has plans to sell DVDs and market the film to media outlets like the Weather Channel and CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

The end game is to raise money to help with tornado relief.

There’s not much time, though.

Clevenger said he wants to premiere the film in Kokomo in April 2015, on the 50th anniversary of the Palm Sunday tornado.

It’s only fitting since that tornado cut a similar path through the city, Clevenger said.

For now, though, all he can do is wait.

“It’s nerve-racking,” he said. “I’m relying on people in Kokomo now.”

Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune Life & Style editor, can be reached at 765-454-8585, at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com or via Twitter @LindseyZiliak.