Here's the Back Story on the 'Fresno Reborn' Video (With Eminem and Detroit Bonus Features)

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Over the weekend I mentioned the new video by our friends at the Bitwise tech incubator in Fresno, California, which exemplified the gritty spirit — “You think we’re losers? Well just watch” — that we’ve admired and described about the city.

I asked Jake Soberal, co-founder with Irma Olguin of Bitwise, how the video came to be. Here’s his answer, and after that two other notes about its tone and approach.

Jake Soberal writes:

As to the back story, it's a neat one. For some time we have been planning for a very grand opening. Our belief is that Bitwise South Stadium is a technology hub of global significance. Its opening demonstrates the credibility of our burgeoning technology industry--to locals and the world at large. With that, the grand opening had two aims: (1) celebrate how far tech has come in Fresno, and (2) inspire it to go even further.

The 1,200 people in black tie, wonderful food and drink, great live music, and fireworks certainly contributed to that. However, we wanted to make sure that there was something lasting; an anthem of sorts.

So we hired local filmmakers Gordon Howell and Pat Dill to create this video to serve exactly that role. They put together the storyboard, filmed everything you see, wrote the spoken word poetry and music playing behind it, and pieced it all together; they're a super talented duo.

The video was played on the big screen the night of the event, and then released online on Thursday. So far it's doing exactly what it was designed to do….

It's really amazing to be a part of what's happening in Fresno right now.

We're fond of saying that in Fresno Geeks are fixing America's most broken city.


Two extra notes. One reader noticed that the video was similar in tone to another I had said I’d loved. That was Eminem’s famous “Imported from Detroit” Superbowl ad four years ago, which I saw via online stream (over VPN) in our apartment in Beijing and then immediately felt homesick. Here that is, followed by Fresno’s.



Now, as a bonus, the Selected of God chorus of Detroit that both sang the background music for the Eminem video and sang for Ben Carson’s campaign announcement.

I realize that I am becoming a sucker for places and cultures, like Fresno and Detroit, whose theme is: OK, you want to look down on us? That’s just fine, go ahead and feel smug, because then you’ll be all the more surprised and unprepared when you see what we can do.

It’s an intellectual vulnerability on my part, but there could be worse ones.