Producer / Director Kit Tyler

Emmy award-winning writer, producer, photographer, Kit Tyler has been called, “The Auteur of California History” for his extensive documentary work on California’s momentous social and natural history. His career spans more than thirty years of professional broadcast, live event, and multi-media production.

A hunger for adventure led Kit on a long and celebrated career in journalism. From the civil war in Somalia, to the breakup of the Soviet Union to the first free elections in South Africa, Kit has traveled the world covering international, national, and regional news. His work has appeared on every commercial television network as well as PBS and an ever-growing list of independent distributors. He has created over a dozen broadcast programs including the Emmy award-winning national PBS programs, Saving The Bay and Becoming California.

Kit founded The American Mercury Inc. in 1998 – a media production company specializing in broadcast documentary programs about the American West.

“The American Mercury combines cinematic shooting and editing styles with the techniques and storytelling perspectives of photojournalism and cinema verite to create uncommon programs that celebrate the history and culture of California. Escape From Death Valley is an unbelievable story of hardship, devotion, and heroism. This is a once in a lifetime project – I am thrilled to bring this incredible story to popular audiences!”

Executive Producer John Krizek

John Krizek is the president of Forgotten Journey Productions, a media company devoted to historical documentary programs about pioneering the American West.

John is a long-term member of the Oregon-California Trails Association serving as OCTA president, board member, and as the chair of the marketing & public relations committee. John produced the national PBS broadcast program, Forgotten Journey that chronicled the journey of the Stephens, Townsend, Murphy wagon train to California in 1844. Two years before the infamous Donner Party, the Stephens, Townsend, Murphy expedition suffered eerily similar hardships and calamities and yet they triumphed. They are heralded as the first to get wagons over the Sierra pioneering a new route into California.

Associate Producers Leroy & Jean Johnson

Leroy and Jean Johnson have devoted over thirty years to investigating and writing about the Manly/Rogers expedition and rescue in 1849. They are the undisputed authorities on the subject and have published several highly acclaimed books on the Death Valley Argonauts, including their definitive work, Escape From Death Valley. Jean recently published, Grit & Gold – The Death Valley Jayhawkers of 1849 that documents the travails of the Jayhawkers – a group of fortune seekers also caught in Death Valley in ’49.

Kevin Starr, Ph.D. Historian / Advisor / On-Camera Scholar

American historian and prolific writer, Kevin Starr was best known for his multi-volume series collectively called, Americans and the California Dream. Widely acknowledged as the premier historian of California, the scope of whose scholarship The Atlantic Monthly has called “breathtaking.”

From 1994 to 2004 Starr served as California’s State Librarian. He continued writing California history throughout his career, receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship, membership in the Society of American Historians,  and the Gold Medal of the Commonwealth Club of California. In 2006 he was presented a National Humanities Medal from President George W. Bush for his work as a scholar and historian, and in 2010 was inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

Kevin Starr and Escape From Death Valley director, Kit Tyler collaborated on more than half a dozen American History documentary programs for PBS over two decades of close friendship. Dr. Starr’s astonishing breadth of knowledge, his extraordinary eloquence and storytelling brilliance were key in the success of those programs. His important research, advice and on-camera interview for Escape From Death Valley were accomplished prior to his passing in 2017.

Music Composer Bill Edwards

Composer and multi-instrumentalist Bill Edwards draws on the roots of American song to create new music that frames and drives great American stories.

His scores and songs have been featured on projects for PBS and commercial television. He’s brought his music to live and lively audiences at concert halls and folk festivals throughout California and the West. Whether it’s working with directors, recording artists, choreographers, or students, his work is about collaborating to turn stories into musical landscapes.

Escape From Death Valley renews an ongoing collaboration between Bill and Kit – their work together has brought amazing stories of the American West to PBS audiences for more than two decades.