The film itself is a couple years in the making, Newcombe said, and he's been trading resources with local history experts since he bought those Jackson photographs.
But his enthusiasm for the area's past is not predated by a longtime interest in history.
"I flunked history in school," Newcombe said.
By now, Newcombe is a self-proclaimed history buff, at least when it comes to his own neighborhood.
Still, Newcombe said the film will have some gaps.
"The biggest problem is everything is in fragments," he said.
"There's no cohesive history for the valley, so you really have to dig."
Most of Newcombe's digging has been done at the Lanterman House in La Cañada Flintridge, where a vast collection of old photographs, drawings and texts from the area are on display. Other sources include relatives of the same influential figures that are profiled in the film.
"I just talked on the phone with the great-greatgranddaughter of Benjamin Briggs, Newcombe said. "That was huge for me."
Briggs was one of the area's first developers. Briggs Avenue is named after him.
Told in three parts, Newcombe's film chronicles the history of the valley, beginning in the wake of the Mexican-American War up through the mid-20th century. Anecdotes told by a narrator break down the area's powerful businessmen and the industries that characterized the region at different points in time.
In an opening sequence, the valley is shown when it was undeveloped ranchland from Tujunga to La Cañada. The main concerns of the earliest settlers, the narrator explains, were an abundance of rattlesnakes and some wily mountain lions.
From ranchland, the area developed into a haven for "health-seekers" who flocked to the valley in the early 1900s for its moist, clean air.
"It's hard to believe with all the smog now, but the valley here used to have really good air quality," Newcombe said.
The health sanitariums that sprang up to accommodate the health-seekers were later featured in Hollywood films like "Ed Wood" and "Frances." Newcombe points out that one of those facilities, the Kimball Sanatorium, became an insane asylum. That site, at the corner of Rosemont and Foothill, just blocks from Newcombe's residence, is now home to a grocery store.
"No one has brought history to life like John has in this movie," said Mike Lawler, president of the historical society of the Crescenta Valley. "He's taken these historical figures, whose names we know from street signs and canyons, and he's put a face to them."
A lot has changed in the more than 150 years that Newcombe attempts to condense into about two hours. Still, the film — which will be shown for the first time tonight at 7:30 at the La Crescenta Church of Religious Science, 4845 Dunsmore Ave. — is very familiar.
"All those trees out there, in my yard, they were planted by Benjamin Briggs," Newcombe said.