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Filmmaker seeks ‘Shasta Stories’

Autie Carlisle is looking for people in Siskiyou County, California, with stories to tell.

Carlisle, 34, who grew up in Mount Shasta City and returned to Siskiyou County after a decade as a fashion designer in San Francisco and New York — “and am much happier” — is touring areas of the county for “Shasta Stories,” which she hopes will become a 12-part documentary series about people and places in “nooks and crannies” throughout the county.

“I’m excited about our county and our stories,” said Carlisle, who will hold listening sessions Wednesday, Nov. 9, in Dorris with a 3 p.m. session at the newly refurbished Dorris Bank Building, and at 7 p.m. at the Butte Valley Community Center. Another gathering will be at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, at Tulelake City Hall.

Two more sessions are Saturday, Nov. 12, at 11 a.m., at the Siskiyou County Museum in Yreka, and at 6:30 p.m. at the Hornbrook Community Association. From Nov. 13 to Dec. 4, more listening gatherings will be held in to-be announced communities in western Siskiyou County. Listening sessions have already been done in Mount Shasta City, Dunsmuir and other areas of Siskiyou County.

Although Carlisle said she has little firsthand knowledge of Butte Valley and the Tulelake Basin regions, she hopes the listening sessions will help her learn more about the region. “I’m curious to get to know the area better. I want to hear your stories.”

Carlisle, who is traveling in a camping van with two other volunteers, said the Dorris and Tulelake listening sessions will open by showing a five-minute video “illustrating the ethos of the series and the quality of our filming. After this we will open up the discussion into what stories the community feels they might want to share through documentary film at a later date — we will not be filming the listening event.”

She hopes people will speak on topics such as local history, cultural traditions and the idea of “home.” For example, “We might ask, ‘Is there a piece of history that makes this place special to you? When did you decide to make this area your home? What’s been the hardest challenge since you’ve lived here? Is there an untold story that should be told? What stories about your town would you like to be told?’”

“This is a first step to get into communities,” Carlisle said of the sessions, noting that at previous listening sessions, “People are really coming away with a reborn sense of pride for their areas.”

She said listening to stories, especially from longtime area people who have experienced years of subtle and sometimes significant changes, benefits her and others.

“It’s a good experience to sit in somebody else’s shoes.”

Carlisle envisions Shasta Stories as a “documentary series highlighting the humanity, history, humor and fortitude of the individuals and communities of rural Siskiyou County in Northern California. Each episode focuses on one individual or theme and ranges from 10 to 30 minutes. The series explores the area’s diversity while helping bridge the divide across the county through storytelling and commonality via the topic of ‘home.’”

One of the completed episodes features the historical ski area on Mount Shasta, including one that opened in 1959 and operated for 20 years before it closed following a massive avalanche in January 1978 that destroyed the Green Butte chairlift.

After this fall’s listening tour, Carlisle said filming will begin next spring. When editing is completed, Carlisle and her team will host community screening events showing new episodes in “an interactive format in small gatherings throughout Siskiyou County.”

The listening sessions are being funded through grants, including the Ford Family Foundation. Carlisle said efforts are being made to obtain grants to fund a dozen segments.

The project developed, she said, during the COVID-19 pandemic when people, including her, experienced isolation and disconnected from others. “I had a lot of healing by going out and meeting people. … There are just so many stories.”

To learn more, see autiecarlisle.com.

Reach freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net or 541-880-4139.

Autie Carlisle [Photo by Taryn Burkleo]