Filmmakers Carrie Hunter and Austin Hermann don’t want people to forget about Hurricane Michael.
In their upcoming documentary, “Blue Tarps,” they tell the stories of people who are still feeling the effects of the storm as the one-year anniversary approaches.
People like 21-year-old Nancy, who is living in a tent encampment with her family in the north part of Bay County after her father’s house was destroyed by the storm.
“It’s kind of dirty in here, because of the dust … I have to dust off my bed every day because there’s spiders,” Nancy says in a film clip. “It’s kind of dirty, it’s nasty — I don’t like it.”
Hunter and Hermann were working on a promotional video for a Panama City-based artist just before the hurricane hit. As she was visiting family in Pensacola, where she’s from, she watched the news coverage of Hurricane Michael and couldn’t recognize the area.
“It looked like a Third World country,” she said.
Watch clips from "Blue Tarps" here.
Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle as one of the most intense hurricanes to make landfall in the contiguous United States. The storm reached winds as high as 160 mph, reaching Category 5 status — the first Category 5 storm to hit the contiguous United States since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
The storm caused 16 deaths and an estimated $25 billion in damage to the United States.
Hunter has spent the past few years working on film sets in New York City and Atlanta, but felt compelled to tell a story closer to home. In April, she put a call out on her Facebook page asking people to share their experiences of trying to rebuild after the storm and got hundreds of responses.
“I was starting to get so many calls that I had to build a spreadsheet,” Hunter said.
Tyndall Air Force Base and the beaches were getting plenty of news coverage, Hunter said, which is why she put the film’s focus on “real, human stories.”
“A lot of the places we visited in Jackson County are low-socioeconomic areas,” said Hermann, who co-directed the film with Hunter. “Hurricane Michael was just too much. There’s the domino effect … people can’t live in their homes, they can’t find jobs so they move, but when kids move away from schools.”
“Literally every person we talked to said they felt forgotten,” added Hunter. “This was one of the most powerful storms to hit and it hit some of the poorest and rural parts of Florida. Help and safety nets are not reaching everyone.”
Hunter spent some of her savings and relied on volunteer work to film and promote “Blue Tarps.” She and Hermann plan to submit it to film festivals, but Hunter said she doesn’t expect to make money from the film. Instead, she’d like to use it to raise awareness. On Sept. 15, “Blue Tarps” will be screened for the public at the newly-renovated Suds N Cinema in Fort Walton Beach. Tickets are free, and a portion of the concessions sales will benefit Innovative Charities, based in Marianna.
“The people in this film need to be heard,” she said. “This is the only thing I can give them. This could’ve been me and my family — I’m very aware of that.”