Hollywood has been referred to as plastic by people like Andy Warhol, and Davis gets a lot of recycling done. Similarities galore.
Maybe not, but at least Little Thunder Films gets to stand out among the few independent film companies striving to make it in Davis — as opposed to the many that compete for attention by showcasing their work in Tinseltown.
Little Thunder Films, which was created in the summer of 2012, is a local team of 11 (and rapidly growing) aspiring filmmakers and producers that are working within the medium of dramatic and documentary film.
The group is spearheaded by UC Davis graduate Asata Radcliffe, who has pursed a career in both writing and in the movie industry. The impetus for the formation of Little Thunder Films came when she needed assistance on a documentary, “The End of Books.”
“But I never imagined it would become what it is today,” Radcliffe said. “I just thought I was recruiting a bit of help for this little documentary. … Everything has pretty much been a snowball effect from that point on.”
Radcliffe first developed “The End of Books” out of a frustration over the decline of traditional book retailers and publishers in the age of digital content.
“When Davis’ Borders disappeared, and then Sweetbriar disappeared, I started to ask questions,” she said. “I decided — as a volunteer for Davis Media Access — that I wanted to do a piece that explored it.”
As the story was augmented through research and interviews — with local establishments like the Yolo County Library and The Avid Reader as the subject — a cast of supporters was expanding alongside it. Eventually, the group warranted a more official title; thus, Little Thunder Films began.
Collaborators in the film company range from Davis Media Access employees who are lending technical prowess to script-savvy alumni from UCD writing programs. Together, the small team is following production of the book-centric documentary with a short-form fictional movie, “Rain: An Interlude.”
Apropos to the motto of Little Thunder Films, which is “creating films that inspire,” the story focuses on a woman with suicidal tendencies working in hospice to change her perspective of the value of her own life.
While the production for “The End of Books” has been temporarily put on hold, filming for “Rain: An Interlude” is underway. The crew has been shooting at various locations in Davis such as the Pence Art Gallery, Urban Body Tattoo and even the Davis Senior Center (used as a makeshift hospice).
Radcliffe said her crew has found the community more than welcoming in their endeavors, and rich with interest.
“Everyone just seems happy to see us making a film here,” she explained. “I actually think (Davis) is well-suited for a film company. There’s a strong technocultural studies program at (UCD). When you have a school that has film classes and Aggie TV, you have a lot of students eager to make films.”
In January, the filmmakers traveled to chronicle the “Idle No More” gathering in Sacramento, which was part of an ongoing protest by the aboriginal peoples in Canada to fight alleged legislative abuses.
The 10-minute-long documentary that will come of the footage will be the first of the company’s three projects to reach post-production and be ready for an audience viewing. There’s no completion date set on “The End of Books” nor “Rain: An Interlude.”
Not only have the team’s films been shot locally, Radcliffe plans to have the films screened here as well. Radcliffe said she’ll be showcasing “Idle No More” at the Veteran’s Theater, 203 E. 14th St., in Davis on June 23, during UCD’s annual film festival.
Radcliffe’s more long-term goal is to establish a body of work as a way of making a name for Little Thunder Films, as well as continuing to bring passionate people on board. Assistant director Kamila Kudelska is one of those.
“I never thought I’d do film, actually,” Kudelska said. “This is a new thing for me. The documentary side of it really interested me. … It fuels my passion when I know that a whole community can be affected by something.”
Biggest of all is Radcliffe’s plan to remain as an independent, low-budget film production company. She can cite their accomplishments thus far in response to how that’s feasible.
“People are now taking a look at us and saying, ‘Hey, they’ve cranked out three projects in nine months, how’d they do that?’ ” she said. “When I stop to think about it, we have done a lot. And there’s still more to come.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at [email protected] or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett