After The Storm

“Dear future disaster survivor. This is the story of what happened after my town was struck by a massive tornado, and everything stopped being the way it was before.”

While you might think the art of letter-writing is sliding into the past tense, imagine if you opened an envelope and out slid a stream of sound and moving pictures and still images, a mix of meteorology, webGL, tree rings.

After the Storm is such letter from Alabama filmmaker Andy Beck Grace to all those who find themselves emerging from the settling dust to stand blinking in the light of day.

This is a story about the markers that divide the way things were and the way things will be. An argument, or a death, a birth or some wanton act of nature, these are all moments that separate ‘before’ from ‘after’. Andy and his wife Rashmi lived through such a moment on April 27th, 2011, when a tornado touched down on their home city of Tuscaloosa, killing and injuring and destroying, and drawing markers for thousands.

Commissioned by ITVS (hats off to the amazing Cathy Fischer) and released through a partnership between Independent Lens and The Washington Past with generous funding from the MacArthur Foundation, After the Storm is a child of convergence, toddling around in a new landscape where formerly disparate media such as print journalism, television, radio, documentary filmmaking are all creating content for the same digital space. Film and code, sound and image, have all become inseparable.

“… and so, future disaster survivor, when you emerge from your hallway closet, to everything re-arranged, try and pay attention. Because you’re moving from one life, to the next …”

Underscoring this sense of convergence of time,  place and media, there’s a segment in the story that uses Google Streetview as a camera that travels through a destroyed Tuscaloosa neighbourhood. This camera can also travel back through time, through an interface that slides back to a point before the storm, when there were trees and houses, and people living there. But this is a camera within a camera: the on-screen interactivity has been captured on video. One has the feeling of using the same physical space as the narrator, the same point of view. When the narrator suggests a shared vulnerability to nostalgia, a weird feeling of transition arises.


After the Storm is a piece of that story that can only be told this way, in this format, and on this platform, which is why we like to be a part of this type of story-telling.

Check out After The Storm.