About this project
"OLOMPALI: A CALIFORNIA STORY" is a feature-length documentary that recounts the remarkable story of wealthy businessman Don McCoy, who starts a hippie commune in the 60s at what is now called Olompali State Historic Park.
Site of the oldest surviving adobe structure in the northern Bay Area, Olompali encompasses a continuous flow of California history. From the Miwok Indians to Victorian aristocrats to psychedelic rock band the Grateful Dead, Olompali has been called home by a fascinating cast of characters... not least of whom is Don McCoy, who drops out in the 60s and establishes the Chosen Family commune there. What starts off as a utopian dream soon unwinds into a series of tragedies that leave an indelible mark on the park's rich legacy.
Despite being slated for closure, Olompali continues to survive and remains an important part of California's past, present and future.
The film will be narrated by noted actor Peter Coyote, who has appeared in such iconic films as "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial," "A Man in Love," and "Erin Brockovich." Coyote is a preeminent documentary narrator whose credits include Ken Burns' PBS series "The Dust Bowl" and "Prohibition," and "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" for director Alex Gibney. His memoir, "Sleeping Where I Fall," is a fascinating account of his experiences in the counter-culture movement in San Francisco and elsewhere during the late-60s and 70s.
Produced by McCoy's oldest daughter, Maura McCoy, the film will be directed by her partner, filmmaker Gregg Gibbs, whose previous documentary "The Treasures of Long Gone John" premiered at South by Southwest Film Festival in 2006.
WE NEED YOUR HELP! In the two years that we've been financing this project on our own, we've accomplished a lot. We've conducted multiple interviews, done extensive research, and discovered valuable archival materials that we were fortunate to unearth. But there is much more that needs to be done to complete the film.
The money we raise will allow us to focus our efforts in the coming months and push the production into high gear. We'll be able to complete the filming of principal photography; collect additional research; and gather more archival materials such as photos, film clips, and headlines that are critical to a historical documentary. We'll also need to secure the rights to popular music of the Sixties-era. Last but not least, these funds will enable us to work with our editor to craft the material we've gathered and complete a finished cut of the film to submit to major film festivals.
Any money we raise above and beyond our goal will allow for enhanced post production and prerelease marketing, with a possibility of self-distribution.
Your support is crucial to the success of this project and will give us the tools and resources we need to deliver an epic story that is informative and entertaining.
"THIS PROJECT IS A LABOR OF LOVE; a daughter's love for her father, and a community's love for a treasured historical landmark. This film is my way of remembering my father, who passed away in 2004. It is also a tribute to a place that holds a special significance in my memory and in my heart, and which has an incredible story of its own." - Maura McCoy, Producer
If you are interested in helping us tell this story, please become a KickStarter supporter. Any amount is appreciated!
THE INCREDIBLE HISTORY OF OLOMPALI The name “Olompali” comes from the Miwok native language and likely means “southern people.” Dating back 6,000 years, Olompali was at one time one of the largest Miwok villages in Marin County and an important cultural and trading crossroads.
A rare 1567 Elizabethan-era silver sixpence coin discovered there may indicate that the villagers had contact with Sir Francis Drake when he visited the San Francisco Bay in 1579. With the coming of the Spanish missionaries in the early-19th century Olompali's population was decimated, but one who survived and even thrived was Camilio Ynitia, the last of the Miwok chiefs. In 1843, he was given the only land grant ever made to a Native American.
Ynitia's adobe was the site of the "Battle of Olompali," a famous skirmish in the 1846 Bear Flag Revolt that led to the establishment of the state of California. He later sold the property to James Black, the largest landowner in Marin County, who gave it to his daughter, Mary, as a wedding present when she married the first dentist in San Francisco, Dr. Galen Burdell. The Burdells transformed the site into a magnificent country estate, complete with elaborate formal gardens, fruit orchards, and a 26-room mansion which they built around the original adobe structure.
After being sold by the Burdells in 1943, Olompali began a long period of decline from its former heyday, its beautiful gardens and orchards going wild and the mansion showing signs of age. It was ultimately purchased by the University of San Francisco, who used it as a Jesuit retreat, leased it out as a health resort, and later rented it to various occupants such as local rock band The Grateful Dead.
In 1967, Olompali was leased to local entrepreneur Don McCoy. Born in Pasadena, McCoy was a 5th-generation Californian from a socially-prominent family. At the age of 24, soon after meeting and marrying San Francisco native Paula McCoy, he came into a large inheritance, which he used to start a number of businesses. After the birth of their 3 daughters, McCoy moved his family to Marin County.
In addition to his ongoing enterprises, McCoy got the idea to go into the houseboat business, and was soon renting to the up-and-coming entertainers of the day. The mid- to late-60's was an exciting time in the Bay Area, and he was in the thick of it. With his marriage falling apart and the stress of running his business, he decided to transform his life and dropped out. Together with a small group of his close friends and their families, he searched for a place where they could all live together. They came upon Olompali, with its large mansion, swimming pool, and expansive acreage, and decided it was the perfect place.
They decided to form a commune and, during the first year, it thrived. They started a school, built a bakery to provide free bread, and structured a close-knit community based on the principles of collectivism, peace, and spirituality.
But with increased media attention and unwanted visitors, things started to change for the worse. The commune was busted twice by the local police department, and shortly thereafter part of the mansion burned in a devastating fire caused by faulty electrical wiring. The damage to the building revealed the original adobe structure from the eighteenth century.
The subsequent drowning of two young girls in Olompali's pool turned out to be the last in a series of tragedies that spelled the end of McCoy's idealistic social experiment.
In 1977, the state of California purchased the land and ultimately turned it into a State Historic Park. Today, despite being on Governor Brown's list of park closures, Olompali remains open thanks to the strong-willed support of the community.
"Olompali is an 8,000 year cultural landscape that tells five different cultural stories, one mixing into the other as time transitions. There is no place else in California where you can do that. This is the single unique spot in California where you can tell the full story." -Diane Einstein, Chairperson, The Olompali People
Risks and challenges
Making an independent documentary film is very rewarding, but as with any big project, there are a lot of moving parts and potential obstacles. Some of the risks and challenges we face are:
-Securing clearances for music, which can be expensive!
-Finding and clearing additional archival materials and documentation.
-Securing the services of a first-class narrator.
-Getting the film into film festivals and ultimately getting it distributed.
With your help, we plan to meet these challenges head on. We very much appreciate your support and for believing in us!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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