Larry Nimmer has spent the last 50 years making documentaries about everything from the Michael Jackson case in 2005 to the Berkeley protests in the 1960s.
But, the Carpinteria resident’s latest project is hitting much closer to home.
Mr. Nimmer partnered with the city of Carpinteria to produce a 12-part mini-series about how the coronavirus pandemic has changed day-to-day life in the small coastal town.
“Downtown Carpinteria would typically be buzzing with activity. Instead we find quiet streets with many shuttered businesses,” said Mr. Nimmer during the introduction of the first episode.
As he spoke, the camera panned across Linden Avenue.
Only a few pedestrians were captured on the sidewalk despite the bright and sunny day.
The city posted the first two episodes on its Facebook page.
The full series, which runs 48 minutes, is available on the city’s YouTube channel.
“I’ve done a number of historical videos about the area and I thought, gee, this is a historical situation, a pandemic. I wanted to document it, but I also wanted to do something now to help people and to get information out. Since Facebook is a useful way to share information, I thought I could do a series of short videos,” Mr. Nimmer said.
He added that he may put together a feature-length documentary in the future.
Last week, Mr. Nimmer pitched the idea to Carpinteria City Manager Dave Durflinger who liked the idea and helped him compile a list of residents to interview.
“We kind of wanted to get a cross-section of people who have kids in school, business owners, people who ran organizations, people who are well known in the community. Each (video) features a different person and some of the videos feature a few people,” Mr. Nimmer said.
He conducted the interviews over Zoom and used a combination of previously shot footage of the city and aerial shots taken from a proper social distance.
Perhaps the most powerful interview in the series is a segment featuring Trish Remley, a woman suffering from COVID-19. Mr. Nimmer said she provided a first-hand account of what living with the virus is like physically and emotionally.
“She gave some good information on what people should know about it (COVID-19). She coughed some on camera, perfectly on cue,” Mr. Nimmer said.
Ms. Remley said she came down with a cold on March 13 and was tested on March 27. She said she suffers from shortness of breath and heaviness in her chest.
“Stay home. If you have to go out, wear a mask,” Ms. Remley urged the viewers.
Mr. Nimmer said he has been videotaping storefronts around town while maintaining a safe distance from others for his own safety and the safety of the community.
“I also feel I am putting myself slightly at risk if I get too close to people, so I’m just being careful about it,” Mr. Nimmer said.
He explained that the project provides a window into the community for those that are homebound.
“I think the people relish the idea of seeing others in the community and seeing what it looks like in the community, if they are not getting around,” he said.
Most of the people Mr. Nimmer interviewed were able to remain positive about their situation despite the emotional and financial burden of the coronavirus.
“A common theme is, ‘We’ll get through this, we have a strong community and we help each other,’” Mr. Nimmer said.
“A number of the business owners said business is way down, you know, 50% or less than what it was, but they appreciate community members still trying to patronize them, food to go and that type of thing,” he said.
Corktree Cellars and Peebee & Jay’s sandwich shop owner Jessica Clark thanked the CARP Growers, a cannabis association, for making bulk purchases from local businesses like hers to help keep them afloat.
“We’ve been through things before as a community over the last two years… every time something like this happens, I’m blown away by the support of the community and how much we really care about each other,” Ms. Clark said during her interview with Mr. Nimmer.
Mr. Durflinger said he was moved by the stories, but was also reassured to hear the confidence in the community’s ability to weather the fallout from the pandemic. He said the city may revisit the series to follow-up with the people that were interviewed.
A list of Carpinteria-area businesses that remain open is available at https://carpinteriahub.com/listings.