New film to depict 2018 Paradise wildfire

May 14, 2024

New Mexico stands in for California in Paradise wildfire movie

New Mexico is being used as a stand-in for California in a new film featuring Matthew McConaughey, depicting the 2018 Paradise wildfire.

As reported by AP News, Jamie Lee Curtis’ production company is collaborating with others to tell the story of a bus driver and a school teacher who rescued students during California’s deadliest wildfire.

The 2018 blaze resulted in 85 fatalities and nearly obliterated the community of Paradise in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

While some residents have returned to rebuild, others continue to be haunted by their experiences.

Curtis marked the five-year anniversary in November by posting on social media about the tragedy and the bravery of the residents and responders.

Film production details

Curtis is producing the film based on Lizzie Johnson’s novel, “Paradise: One Town’s Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire.” Titled “The Lost Bus,” the project commenced in 2022, and filming is now underway in Santa Fe, Española, and Ruidoso.

These areas have experienced their own share of wildfires, including a deadly one in 2022.

The film stars Matthew McConaughey and America Ferrera, with Paul Greengrass directing.

It focuses on bus driver Kevin McKay and teacher Mary Ludwig, who navigated a bus full of children through the wildfire.

Brad Ingelsby, Greg Goodman, and Jason Blum’s Blumhouse are producing the film alongside Curtis’ Comet Pictures.

The story of heroism

In 2018, Marc Kessler, a science teacher at Paradise Unified School District, described to the Associated Press how he saw smoke plumes grow near the school early on the morning of the wildfire.

Teachers, aides, and bus drivers quickly evacuated over 100 students as the wildfire approached, driving for hours through smoke and flames to reunite them with their families.

Kevin McKay responded to an emergency call, picking up 22 students from Ponderosa Elementary School as the flames drew near.

Teachers Mary Ludwig and Abbie Davis helped to comfort the children during the ordeal.

New Mexico’s role in the film industry

The production will employ 480 crew members and 2,100 extras from New Mexico, according to the New Mexico Film Office.

The state has become a popular filming location due to its diverse landscapes and incentives for filmmakers.

Curtis expressed her deep connection to the story, stating in a 2022 interview with Deadline that as a lifelong California resident, she watched with profound sadness as the ferocious fire consumed Paradise.

She aims to highlight the human elements, tragedies, and acts of bravery from the wildfire through this film.

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