‘Phoenix, Oregon’ film raising funds for city mostly wiped out by wildfires


Film producer a resident of Phoenix, Oregon, was evacuated

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The filmmakers behind the 2020 comedy “Phoenix, Oregon” are working to raise funds for the city that the movie was named after and surrounding communities.

On the evening of Sept. 8, a fast-moving wildfire swept through the town of Phoenix, Oregon, in Jackson County, burning hundreds of homes and businesses, leaving almost the entire town flattened.

Several crew and family members of the producers of “Phoenix, Oregon” lost homes.

Producer Luis Rodriguez, who lives in Phoenix, saw family and friends lose everything as he worked to get them and himself out of the evacuation zone.

Izzy Rodriguez looks at her car after devastating wildfires destroyed much of the town of Phoenix, Oregon in early September (courtesy Joma Films)

“It happened fast,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “I rushed to my mom’s house to help her evacuate, confused and unaware that we were leaving behind a home she’d never see again. Thousands were completely blindsided this way, losing it all from one moment to the next. It’s extremely heartbreaking to see the devastation left behind, and without the extra support from near and far, many families will have an extremely difficult time recovering unless we rally behind them.”

The filmmaking team is raising funds to rebuild Phoenix, Oregon and the surrounding community. Funds will specifically be used to help at risk and vulnerable families, especially in the Latino community. The press release stated that many families in that community lived in mobile home parks that were completely destroyed and rarely covered by insurance.

Not only were homes lost but places of business as well. Evacuated families, some of whom are now living out of their cars, are struggling to figure out the next steps. It is believed that 50% of the Phoenix/Talent School District children lost their houses, according to a statement Superintendent Brent Barry gave to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

An aerial view of the Coleman Creek Estates in Phoenix, Oregon after recent wildfires devastated the town (photo courtesy @rotorshawn).

“Phoenix, Oregon” writer/director Gary Lundgren wrote the film as a love letter to the Latino community and family culture, with the story being influenced by his friendship with Rodriguez.

“I wanted to reflect the warmth and unconditional acceptance with which Luis’s family has welcomed and supported me over the years,” Lundgren said in a statement. “It is heartbreaking to see the devastation our neighbors are experiencing from these fires, and we want to do everything we can to help them get back on their feet.”

The “Phoenix, Oregon” movie team will be focused over the coming months on helping these families find housing, establish stability, and get their kids back in school and connected online (for distance learning).

There are two was to give to the cause:

  • RENT or BUY the film Phoenix, Oregon from its website and 100 percent of the proceeds will be distributed in cash and gift cards to families with urgent needs ($5 to rent, $10 to buy).
  • DONATE to the Phoenix Oregon Movie / United Way Fire Relief Fund via this website. Donations are tax deductible. While there are many great non-profit organizations doing the urgent work to meet immediate needs, the producers have partnered with the United Way of Jackson County to address the mid- to long-term recovery and rebuilding of the most vulnerable communities in Jackson County. The producers have direct experience with this on-the-ground team and have the utmost confidence that these funds will be directed to those most in need.
Jesse Borrego, left, and film producer Luis Rodriguez talk on the set of the 2020 film ‘Phoenix, Oregon,’ filmed in Klamath Falls (photo courtesy Mary Wilkins Kelly).

Back in May, the filmmakers behind “Phoenix, Oregon” partnered with Oregon Hospitality Foundation to raise more than $4,000 in virtual ticket sales to benefit sidelined restaurant workers across the state during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Phoenix, Oregon” is a critically acclaimed comedy film about two friends who seize an opportunity to reinvent their lives by quitting their service industry jobs and to restore an old bowling alley and serve “the world’s greatest pizza.” While it was inspired by the Oregon town of the same name, it was filmed in Klamath Falls. The movie had the distinction of reaching the number one spot in box office sales in America for a weekend in March and two weekends in April.

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