Like many independent filmmakers, Potrero Hill’s Bill Gollihur has big plans for the movie he’s working on. His in-progress documentary, The Islais Creek Film, is an ecological history of a vital water source of early San Francisco that exists today, in diminished form, as a small stream within Glen Canyon Park, then an underground culvert, and finally, just before emptying into the Bay, as a broad, gray channel crisscrossed by overpasses.
Advertising “the story of San Francisco’s forgotten waterway,” the film’s teaser trailer shows images of the creek – now incorporated into the City’s sewage system – surrounded by graffiti and litter. It includes a quotation from American naturalist, Joseph Wood Krutch, “If people destroy something replaceable made by mankind, they are called vandals; if they destroy something irreplaceable made by God, they are called developers.”
A January View article described Gollihur’s ambition to create “a cautionary tale” that would prompt audiences to “think more deeply about their surrounding urban environment.” Today, Gollihur imagines a six-part narrative that’ll begin in precolonial San Francisco and follow the Islais Creek through the early Spanish and American settlements, the Gold Rush, and the 1906 earthquake, detailing the changes wrought upon the waterway in each successive era, before examining its present-day state and making conjectures as to its future.
The film’s current challenge is funding, an ongoing issue since Gollihur began the project three years ago. So far, Gollihur and his team have raised about $10,000 of an $86,000 goal. Some shooting has been completed, but according to Gollihur more money is needed to pay for interviews, archival footage, and “older photos that show the history of the creek. We need to be able to purchase those from libraries and private collections.”
For the benefit of the film’s financial supporters, The Islais Creek Film registered as a nonprofit organization, Islais Creek Film Incorporated. Donations are tax-deductible. The organization boasts a five-person board of directors.
The nonprofit has hosted house parties, educational creek walks, and a social event at Dogpatch’s Harmonic Brewing. It’s solicited donations at the Potrero Hill Festival and Potrero Hill History Night, instituted an annual year-end letter-writing campaign, and applied for a multitude of grants. Its online crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, which offered an executive producer credit, among other prizes, to anyone willing to contribute $1,000 or more, ended in October with $3,000 pledged.
The Islais Creek Film will be the first feature film by Gollihur, a professional photographer who has served as an assistant director, producer, and production manager for independent films like Redwoods (2009) and My Eleventh (2014), and directed a short of his own. He’s determined to finish his movie. “We’re going to continue on and make it as best we can with whatever resources we have,” he said. He expects to release the final product in September, 2018.
Gollihur recognizes the importance of what he terms “the long view.” He doesn’t want to “compromise the quality of the project just for the sake of getting it done in a timely manner. It’s important to me to be able to hire talented people and pay them a fair wage. My goal is to tell an interesting story with great cinematography, music and editing.”
In the meantime, Gollihur will be working to “get as much of the film finished as possible” while writing more grant proposals and continuing his fundraising efforts. His website, islaiscreekfilm.org, accepts donations through PayPal.