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"Madness in the Hills" directed by Rob Lowe
“Madness in the Hills” directed by Rob Lowe

The new documentary Madness in the Hills marking Rob Lowe’s documentary directorial debut, will premiere exclusively on Peacock this Friday, October 9th. In the documentary Lowe offers a gripping, emotional account of the deadly mudslides that devastated his neighborhood in Southern California in 2018.

In Madness in the Hills, Rob Lowe offers a gripping, emotional account of the deadly mudslides that devastated his neighborhood in Southern California on January 9, 2018. Lowe lost friends and neighbors in the disaster that killed 23 people.

To help his community heal, Lowe asks survivors and first responders to share with him their harrowing personal experiences. And to help other communities avoid similar fates, Lowe explores the role of climate change in exacerbating the disaster (see additional context below).

The “madness in the hills,” as Lowe describes it, lurks all around the planet. The film is directed by Rob Lowe and executive produced by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Rory Karpf and Lowe’s production company, loweProfile. Bloomberg Philanthropies is a proud partner of the project.

“When a disaster of this magnitude struck so close to home, killing friends and neighbors, I wanted the world to know our story. It is one of the unspeakable (and perhaps even preventable) tragedies, yet one that shows resilience and hope”, said Rob Lowe. “And just maybe, we can learn a lesson or two to prevent it from happening again.”

In December 2017, a massive fire – the Thomas Fire – raged through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, destroying more than 1,063 buildings over 40 days. The fires scorched the soil, weakening its ability to absorb rainwater.

When a major rainstorm arrived a month later, it triggered the deadly Montecito mudslides that are the subject of this film. Wildfires have been causing increasing devastation across the American West, fueled by hotter, drier weather caused by climate change – and highlighting the urgent need for bold action to reduce the greenhouse gases that are warming our planet. At the same time, it’s important to note other factors, including regulation and oversight of power utilities. Ventura County Fire Department investigators, along with teams from Cal Fire and the US Forest Service, found that the Thomas Fire was started by two power lines that slapped together during high winds – suggesting that the tragedy could have been avoided.

On Friday, October 9, The Paley Center for Media will present a PaleyIMPACT program featuring a discussion on Madness in the Hills, moderated by acclaimed journalist Katie Couric, and featuring Rob Lowe; John Owen Lowe; Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., President & Founder, Hip Hop Caucus; Mary Anne Hitt, National Director of Campaigns, Sierra Club; and Kevin Taylor, Montecito Fire Chief. This informative conversation can be viewed starting at noon EST on the Paley Center’s YouTube channel. PaleyIMPACT programs explore how media influences attitudes, behaviors, and actions, as well as shapes public discourse on important social issues.

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