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Filmmaker returns to Placer High with inspirational message, movie

“La Source” co-producer Brandon Vedder encourages students to pursue their passion
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Filmmaker Brandon Vedder found his passion in filmmaking.

The Class of 2000 Placer High graduate returned to his alma mater on Friday to encourage students to find their own passion in life and then pursue it to make a better planet.

Vedder’s documentary “La Source” is making a difference on a national and global scale as it tells an uplifting story of a Princeton University janitor from Haiti and his attempt to fulfill his own vision of bringing clean water to his town.

Vedder, 30, said the film took on an added dimension early in its making when Haiti was struck by a horrific earthquake. Vedder and co-producer Patrick Shen ventured into the tumult six weeks after the quake to film Josue Lajuenesse’s struggles and triumphs in a quest film reviewers are calling “a real life fairy tale” and “a feel-good documentary.”

Showing clips and fielding questions, Vedder returned to the Auburn school Friday for presentations to several classes of students, strolling the halls he walked more than a dozen years ago as a self-described mediocre student.

Chemistry teacher Barbie Miller welcomed Vedder back to class for talks with several classes Friday, remembering him as a kind and popular student who earned a “C” but was obviously brighter than the mark indicated.

“The kids are completely inspired,” Miller said. “As I’ve spoken with them after the presentation, they’ve told me they’re really inspired to go and try to tackle some new things.”

Vedder told students that he found his passion for film after high school at community college in Chico and honed his video chops on the road with Pearl Jam, a band fronted by his cousin Eddie Vedder.

That work on the road filming with the Seattle band provided the money for film school at Long Beach State and a start in a career that led to his co-producing, co-writing and co-filming of “La Source,” a documentary narrated by Oscar-nominated actor Don Cheadle.

Vedder said he was glad to share his story and the story of “La Source” with students.

“This is where I went to school so it’s been great to bring it back and engage the kids about these issues,” Vedder said.

As part of his visit to Auburn with showings of “La Source” at the State Theater on Saturday, Vedder is also making the screening part of a fund-raising drive to provide one village in Haiti with a water-well.

Another Placer High School graduate, Bob Haydon, CEO of Community 1st Bank, dropped in for one of the talks and said he was impressed with the message and the response from students. The bank is underwriting the showings at the State Theater.

“He was on a quest like that and to find it and share it is very special,” Haydon said.