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Last Days At Paradise High

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Last Days of Paradise High is a short film made by Emily Thomas and Derek Knowles.

After the most destructive fire in California history destroys the town of Paradise, the end of the school year takes on added meaning for two seniors, Harmony and Kody, and their beloved teacher, Mrs. Partain. As the end of school approaches, these displaced teens grapple with their fading youth like their peers across the country —
struggling to stay motivated in class, fighting to be heard, capriciously asserting newfound independence, and deciding what to do after graduation. But these moments of classic teenage drama are routinely ruptured by jarring reminders that they have lived through one of the greatest disasters in their country’s history. Told from the perspective of America’s youngest climate refugees, Last Days at Paradise High is an intimate portrait of fading youth and the search for home after it’s gone.

Directors’ Statement
Increasing traumatic events around the nation and world—from school shootings to COVID-19—are bringing a new generation of young adults into adulthood with inherited trauma. These events are creating a generation of survivors with a shared understanding of the impermanence of our world, anxiety about impending disaster,
and a resolve to embark upon radical change. As filmmakers, we hope to honor and highlight their stories so that they not be forgotten. The ultimate aim with this film is to include the good with the bad, the familiar with the unexpected, to broaden the perception and deepen the understanding of a disaster and its unforeseen impacts. We want to show both young and old generations how
they might live beyond the grim issues of the day, to remind them of the complications and joys of youth, and to demonstrate, through the examples of our subjects, the opportunity for collective healing
List of film festival screenings SFFILM, DocLands, DCEFF, Alexander Valley Film Festival, Sebastopol Film Festival’s, Declare Your Independents program.


Emily is a nonfiction filmmaker and cinematographer driven by a passion for documenting the human experience. Her work is rooted in the belief that stories are the most powerful way to connect people, bridge cultures, and embolden the voiceless.

She is co-director of Last Days at Paradise High, a documentary chronicling the end of adolescence in the wake of the devastating wildfire in Northern California that burned down the town of Paradise. The film screened at film festivals around the country and was originally published in The New Yorker. She is currently working on her first feature-length documentary, The Price of Freedom, a vignette film that illuminates the hidden worlds at the gates of the criminal justice system. Her work can be seen on Frontline, CBS, POV, The Guardian and many others.

Derek Knowles is a documentary filmmaker whose work has been featured as a Vimeo Staff pick and on outlets like The Atlantic. He prefers to focus his work on people’s unheralded, often overlooked experiences, and has been a part of projects for Frontline, National Geographic, CNN, POV, and The Documentary Group. Recently, he
was an Artist-in-Residence at “the camp” in the south of France where he developed an interactive intergenerational project aimed at connecting young and older generations. His recent film, “After the Fire,” winner of the Tribeca Film Institute’s “If/Then” Shorts Award, follows three residents of his hometown in the months
following 2017’s historic wildfires. It aired on California PBS stations in August 2019.

Derek graduated with honors from Stanford University in 2011 with a degree in American Studies.

Peter Richardson’s thoughtful and compelling documentary work has gained widespread recognition, including the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary and an Emmy Nomination for Best Documentary for How to Die in Oregon, his second feature. The film was broadcast on HBO, and the Chicago Sun-Times noted that “it will likely be viewed as one of the most historically significant
documentaries of this decade.” Richardson’s first feature doc also premiered at Sundance and was broadcast on the Sundance Channel. Richardson has worked extensively on premium documentary series, most recently show running two seasons
of QB1: Beyond the Lights, a 10-part documentary series about high school football, executive produced by Peter Berg. Prior to his work on QB1, Richardson was Series Director of Dark Net and Co-Executive Producer of The Circus: The Greatest Political
Show on Earth, both for Showtime Networks.

A Film By:
Emily Thomas and Derek Knowles

Virginia Partain
Harmony VonStockhausen
Kody Loesch
Jennifer Lyle

Executive Producer
Peter Richardson
In Association with Blue Chalk Media and Lemon Tree Productions

Derek Knowles
Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas
Derek Knowles
Blue Chalk

Executive Producers
Greg Moyer
Pam Huling

Greg Snider

Assistant Editor
Kashi Hall

Post Production Manager
Amy Polansky

Color Grade
Kashi Hall

Audio Mix
Jim Cooke

Original Music
Adam Gunther

Additional Music
Alice Bauman

Consulting Editor
Dan Sadowksy

Production Assistant
John Toner

Additional Camera:
Levi Baker
Basil Glew-Galloway
Craig Hickerson
Chris Smith

Isiah Anderson
Mackenzie Anderson
Megan Brewer
Faith Brown
Thomas Corcoran
Sofia DiBenedetto
Emily Headman
Vicki Kelleman
Isiah Kent
Anthony Kern
Marissa Metker
Tiril Mong
Sarah Peters
Juliette Salls
Autumn Spoolman
Kaylee Sunega
Rachel Warren

Thank You:
Staff and administrators of Paradise High School
Paradise Unified School District
Juan Arboleda
Samantha Clark
Michelle John
Margaret Katcher
Debra Knowles
Dan Krauss
Lawrence Lerew
Gabriel Long
Stacie Martin
Sofia Melo
Jeff Plunkett
Serghino Roosblad
Mark Schapiro
Lauren Schwartzman
Spencer Seibert
Conor Spicer
Elliott Thomas
Toner Family
Luke Wigren
Kirt Woodman

Funding Provided By:
Berkeley Film Foundation
Erin and Francis Collins


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