Ralston Independent Works Palace of Fine Arts and Ferry Tower, San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge


Making a Documentary Film

What makes a great story, anyway?

A setting: San Francisco, one of the most fabled cities in the world.

A period: 1916, when Europe was mired in the longest and most destructive war in history; when Ireland was revolting against centuries of British rule; when President Woodrow Wilson ordered General Pershing into Mexico to chase guerilla leader Pancho Villa; when San Francisco, in the words of journalist Ernest Hopkins, "was a city neurotic with civic and labor strife" where "nobody could be quite sane."

An event: The Preparedness Day Bombing, Saturday, July 22, 1916, that killed ten bystanders, wounded and maimed forty more, outraged San Francisco, and inspired calls for Vigilante justice.

A cast of characters: two labor figures, Warren Billings and Tom Mooney, who became symbols of something far bigger than themselves; a corrupt, incompetent district attorney, manipulated by businessmen who were determined to crush San Francisco's labor unions; a popular mayor who refused to acknowledge hard facts; five governors who did likewise; a brilliant young lawyer who took on California's legal establishment; a relentless newspaper editor who defied his own publisher to expose perjury and the perversion of the judicial process; two presidents of the United States; demonstrators all over the world.

An ending: Pardon and vindication for Billings and Mooney after twenty-three years imprisonment.

Warren Billings, Rena (Mrs. Tom) Mooney, Tom Mooney, at habeas corpus hearings, 1935.

All this and more will be told in the documentary The Incredible Case of Warren Billings and Tom Mooney, a production of Ralston Independent Works. Keep checking this site!




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