Category Archives: Filmmaking/Filmmakers

Letters to Stan

In the eight years between the death of his acting partner Oliver Hardy, and his own passing in 1965, comedian Stan Laurel lived modestly at the Oceana Hotel in Santa Monica.

The skinnier half of “Laurel & Hardy” kept his phone number listed, happily answering calls from fans “amazed that they could simply dial the number and find themselves talking to Stan Laurel.” (from Wikipedia)

Laurel also delighted in writing letters to his fans. LOTS of letters, estimated to be in the thousands. And now, you can read them.

The Stan Laurel Correspondence Archive Project endeavors to catalog these letters that have since become collectors items. The project, also known as Letters from Stan, has scanned and sorted the letters by year, reprinting most of the letters in their entirety. Most range from a paragraph to a page in length, answering questions about his career and Hollywood in general. Some are personal, and more than a few mention Los Angeles locations that no longer exist.

If only he’d been working with a laptop instead of a typewriter Laurel would have made for a natural blogger. Its a fun read – go take a peek (and if you know of anyone who might have a letter from Stan, they’re actively seeking scans to add to their collection).

…h/t Mark Evanier

Fake Cops and Film Sets

Fake Cops at Film Shoots

I just overheard a conversation which got me thinking – There’s a ton of filming going on outside of my office this morning and with it the usual “security” posted on all the surrounding corners. Two onlookers I walked past on my way in were arguing if the security guards were actual police officers or perhaps off duty police officers or just normal guards dressed up to look like police officers. Their uniforms and motorcycles are as close to looking like LAPD issue as they can be without actually containing anything saying they are law enforcement. So the question is, if these guys are not cops isn’t this pretty much impersonating a police officer? And if they are cops, why are they going so far out of their way to look like cops but without actually saying it? I’ve got some suspicions of my own but wanted to pose this to everyone else before I opened my mouth and said something completely wrong.

Midnight Aerial Filming in Downtown Los Angeles

There is currently a large helicopter flying almost directly above my loft. It has been circling for nearly 2 hours. The helicopter is part of a film crew that is filming a block north of my loft. The crew is parked both in the parking lot next to my loft, and the lot across the street where I park.

We were not notified. My wife has to wake up at 4:30 AM tomorrow for nursing school. It is almost midnight. I do not know where to turn in this situation.

I started out by calling 311, they forwarded me to the non-emergency LAPD dispatch who forwarded me to the LAPD’s Air Support Watch Commander. The Sergeant on watch was a nice fellow, and I could tell he felt bad that he couldn’t do anything about the disturbance. The deal is that if there is a permit, they have every right to be in the air, no matter who they are. He said that if I had a complaint I would need to jot down the tail letters and call the company in charge of the bird.

My issue isn’t with the helicopter pilot or the film crew. They are both doing their jobs. My problem is with FilmLA. FilmLA granted them the permits to film aerial shots late on a Sunday night. FilmLA continues to treat Downtown Los Angeles like their own private sound stage.

I actually have a friend at FilmLA who told me a few nights ago that everyone films in Downtown LA because it is cheaper than filming elsewhere in the city. Why is it so cheap to film in Downtown as opposed to other places where people live? I can tell you first hand that it isn’t cheap to live down here.

FilmLA and the production companies that film in Downtown have been getting a free ride for too long and that is all going to change soon. Nobody wants to see the motion picture industry disappear from Los Angeles. People live in Downtown and those people need to be treated fairly and with respect. In a few months, FilmLA’s contract with the City of Los Angeles expires. If things don’t change, and soon, renewing that contract renewal process will be an uphill battle.

UPDATE The timestamp for this post says 10:49, but due to some DST madness, it is incorrect. I posted this at 11:49pm. I currently don’t see or hear the helicopter, so hopefully the crew has wrapped for the night. Either way my wife is wearing ear protection and seems to be fast asleep.

UPDATE Part 2 Oh joy the helicopter is back. So far I’ve been contacted by 4 other Downtown residents. Eric Richardson blogged about it. The adhoc DLACN Film Issues meeting tomorrow today should be quite interesting. I won’t be able to make it, but my wife will be there to voice our opinions.

UPDATE Part 3It is now 5am, my wife is getting up for nursing school, normally I would be asleep, but the crew is banging poles on the ground as they disassemble the circus tents in the parking lot across the street from my loft. Time for me to don the ear protection. Nice.

Problems with FilmLA

Filming and the Entertainment Industry in general are both huge sources of revenue for both Angelenos and the City of Los Angeles. I thoroughly enjoy watching movies and I think it is cool that they are commonly filmed in my neighborhood. In no way do I want to see the industry move out of Los Angeles, or even Downtown, not that it would even if it could. Those points aside, there are some serious problems with they way shoots are planned and executed, especially in Downtown.

A bit over a month ago I wrote an emotionally charged piece about my run-in with an especially rude film crew member. The response that I received from fellow downtown dwellers was amazing. Last week, one of the people who first contacted me about the post, Bert Green, started a thread on a Downtown mailing list and posted the responses.

Over the weekend the DLANC powers that be added an addendum to the meeting that was to take place the following Monday, and were able to get a representative from FilmLA to come down and talk to the community and the council. I missed most of the meeting, but I came in time to hear the FilmLA guy talk about how there would be “too much information” if they were to post all the notifications on their website. He also said that trying to send “those union people” to courtesy training would be impossible.

One thing I found especially funny was that he said there were good Location Managers and bad ones, and the bad ones spoil it for everyone, he then went on to name the Location Manager for the recent Tranformers shoot as one of the good ones. The Transformers shoot where they blew up a truck at 7am on a Saturday after only giving notification to residents on the same block. The explosion could be heard for miles.

As I see it there are some issues with FilmLA, which I am sure we will be addressed in the near future, mostly because their contract is up in June:

  • FilmLA’s funding comes from the permit fees the collect, that right there is a huge conflict of interest.
  • FilmLA has failed and continues to fail to properly notify residents of pending shoots.
  • FilmLA has little or no government or citizen oversight of the approval process
  • Production companies that continually break the rules are still issued permits and there are no consequences for their actions

The meeting was attended by nearly ever Downtown LA blogger, including: Ed (who wrote about the meeting), Jim, Celia, Don, Ben, and Ginny. If you are interested in being a part of the solution, DLANC has created a task force to deal with the problems and the first meeting is this coming Monday in the P.E. Lofts. More details along with Ginny-Marie‘s notes from the meeting after the jump.
Continue reading Problems with FilmLA

There’s Snow Business

The Man and I were rather suprised to find a film production fully ensconsed at Rocky Peak Park when we arrived this afternoon. Sure, I pass by productions all the time. In fact, I passed by one on my way back from whale watching this afternoon. Somehow finding on in an area like this seemed a little more noteworthy.

Without much info besides the title of the picture, Lions for Lambs, we went ahead with our hike (taking a different trail because the production occupied the easier one we were hoping to take). On the way back we asked the guard nicely if we could look at the production set up, which was in a bit of a bowl in the rocky hills. He said okay and we were able to climb up the hill to one of the lighting platforms to look in.


The Man guessed correctly that the location was doubling for Afganistan. More info after the jump about the movie itself. Loads more photos in this set.
Continue reading There’s Snow Business

The Los Angeles Grindhouse Festival

bloodsplatteredposter.jpgme: OMFG!! 2 months of grindhouse films at the New Beverly!
Jason: yeah, not bad. You gotta be in heaven
me: no way, I’m in hell trying to figure out how I can find the time/cash to see all of them!

In case you’ve missed the news, for the entire months of March and April, Quentin Tarantino is booking the New Beverly (on Beverly near La Brea) with grindhouse double and triple features. Of course this is all leading up to the release of his his new project (which looks to be one of the coolest things ever made) but in the mean time we get to see all the inspiration for it. The official schedule is online, though some of the links on that page gave me some trouble (they are IMDB searches) so I redid them all with direct links to the movies, all that after the jump. Anyone who ever questions the wisdom of living in LA should just be shown this and will be instantly forced to STFU. If you want to know more about the grindhouse genre this post is a fantastic place to start (and also where I found some of the images I used below).

The vast majority of these movies were known by several names, especially the ones that were not made in the US. Many of them are Italian or Chinese and were given different names depending on who they were being marked to, but these are the ones the theater is using so that’s what I’m sticking with.

OK, get out your calendar and start blocking out dates…
Continue reading The Los Angeles Grindhouse Festival

Gee, Mickey! You perv! just stumbled across Walt Disney Studio’s 1943 employee handbook entitled “The Ropes at Disney’s”. With rare exception, almost every page is permeated with sexist overtones. Walt was such a naughty boy!

The image at right, for example, is a genuine reminder to keep an eye on new notices posted on the bulletin boards “in your unit”.

No where in the manual is there discouragement of sexual harrassment, or dating your co-workers.  There is, however, some arguable reverse discrimination with regards to sick pay:

Women employees are entitled to ten day’s sick leave each year, but not more than five consecutive days at one time.

Male employees are entitled to five days sick leave each year, but not more than three consecutive days at one time.

The manual contains some common sense wisdom, such as “…if you put out your smoke BEFORE you fiddle with a loaded moviola; you are observing common sense rules.” And even over 60 years age, it seems Disney employees were encouraged to carpool to solve “the transportation problem”.

The whole thing can be found at the excellent Cartoon Brew site, who credit the Van Eaton Galleries for passing along the images you see here.

Additional naughtiness after the jump…
Continue reading Gee, Mickey! You perv!

Target + LA vs Pirates?

targetpirate.jpgLast weeks discussion about movie piracy makes my experience at Target in Culver City yesterday that much more interesting. Now at this point I’m still pretty skeptical of the whole situation because it was so weird, but this is exactly what happened. My birthday is this week and Caryn bought me a copy of The Departed on DVD. By accident she grabbed the full screen version, but thanks to the gift receipt I assumed exchanging it for the wide screen would be a simple swap. Not exactly. I took it back to the same store she purchased it at, still shrink wrapped and with all security seals in place. I explained the mix up and asked the woman if I could exchange it for the wide screen version. She explained to me that she would need to open the movie to verify that the DVD was still in the case and that I’d only be allowed to swap it out for the same film (wide screen was not a problem). I suppose it’s not entirely unthinkable that someone would buy a movie, swipe the actual movie, then go through the trouble of faking all the security seals and return the empty case to try and get their $15 back, but it seemed like a lot of work to me. However, once she got it open she only looked to see if there was a disk in there. If I’d gone through the trouble of faking all the security seals, I probably would have a DVD printer as well. Anyway… She told me to go get the other one and come back to her.
Continue reading Target + LA vs Pirates?

Black is Beautiful!

[click to fight the power!]
If you’re still shopping for the best possible plan for Valentine’s Day, you should check out the BLACKS show –

BLACKS/The Beauty of Black Sexuality features Belasco, Alva Bernadine, George Pitts, Marc Baptiste, Carlos Batts, and a few others, all celebrating Black sexuality. Co-currated by artists Carlos Batts and Rick Castro, this one’s not for the kiddies.

The show runs from the gala opening on Feb 14th to the closing party on April 4th.


*Images, artist bios, and a schedule of salon events during the show on the NSFW Antebellum site.

This Post Is Not Really R Rated


I finally got a chance to see This Film Is Not Yet Rated tonight on DVD, and I must say it may be on of the best “Los Angeles” specific movies ever. The documentary is an expose of the MPAA’s top secret ratings board and ratings process, including a decent, albeit unbalanced, history of the organization.

The most engaging storyline follows a lesbian private investigator who director Kirby Dick has hired to uncover who the anonymous ratings board members are. Most of this involves the PI staking out the MPAA offices on Ventura Blvd. in Encino, then tailing many of them to their homes for dumpster diving and other subterfuge. The process seems tedious, but clever, and even though the techniques seem like a good primer for prospective stalkers, its fascinating stuff.

When he came close to finishing the film, Kirby sent a cut into the MPAA to gain a rating. Of course, this footage is part of the final film, and one of its best parts, as we listen in on his phone call that tells him he earned an NC-17 rating. Kirby seems giddy about this, but more eager to hear how they really feel about the film that demonizes the ratings system and its members as homophobes and hippocrites… he never gets the full satisfaction, but its between the lines of their responses.

However, what isn’t in the final cut, but only in the special features, is a scene where Kirby asks if the MPAA made a copy of his film, which they deny because its against their policy and agreement with the filmmakers. However, a conversation with the MPAA’s lawyer unveils that they did indeed make a copy and that it wasn’t unprecendented. The irony here, of course, is that its a blatant violation of the law that the MPAA itself lobbied for against unauthorized duplications.

While I’m not sure if this is an authorized duplication or not, YouTube has the clip of that very scene up right now, which I’ve posted after the jump.
Continue reading This Post Is Not Really R Rated

Rude Film Production Crew in Downtown LA

I pay a fairly hefty sum of money for parking on a monthly basis as my loft doesn’t provide spaces for residents. Today as I was leaving my over-priced parking lot I noticed that the gate I normally exit onto 6th street from was being manned by a security guard for a production company. This production company has taken over most of the ground level parking lot for what appear to be food tents for the actors / extras.

As I pulled up to the gate to leave, I asked the guard if he could open the gate for me, which he told me he couldn’t and to turn around and go out on to Main St., which would add about 4 blocks on to my commute as I would be forced to navigate around 4 one-way streets to get back on to 6th. I told him that I pay a good deal of money for parking at the lot and that it would be nice if he could let me out. He said he didn’t give a damn how much I paid and if I wanted to get out I could open the gate my damn self. As I was opening the gate he called me an asshole and muttered something under his breath which sounded like a threat.

This is another example of how Downtown residents are treated as second class citizens by the movie industry. They should realize that they are guests in our neighborhood and treat us respectfully. Of course there were no filming notifications posted up in our parking garage, so I have no one to contact to report this incident to.

Update Oops, I accidentally left commenting turned off, but beopenguin emailed me to let me know the number for FilmLA which I called, and I also emailed them at [email protected] I know that I am not the only Downtown resident how has had issues with film crews in my neighborhood. It is time that the industry started respecting the residents of their city.

On the Grind

A “Screw Sundance Film Fest” Selection

Films being accepted through this Sunday! Submit yours now – click here for details.

Don’t hate me for this one. While this music video for “On the Grind” for local band Optimus (MySpace) fills the requirements for being included in the “Screw Sundance Fest”, I originally didn’t intend to include it. The lead singer reminds me too much of K-Fed having a seizure. And the song itself is so damn hooky and cliche’d, with all the “yeah, yeahs”, “uh, uhs”, and “oh baby, oh babys” I could stand. But damnit, I couldn’t stop looking. And the damn song, even though its exactly the kind of music I hate (a ska/rap hybrid), its been stuck in my head all week.

Directed by Paris transplant Rodolphe de Diusse. and shot at the La Brea Tar Pits, Venice Beach, downtown, and other locations scattered around Los Angeles.

Video after the jump.
Continue reading On the Grind

Katy Sullivan

A “Screw Sundance Film Fest” Selection

Films still being accepted! Submit yours now – click here for details.

You know the story – sweet Southern girl moves to Los Angeles with dreams of becoming an actress. Its so common we forget the guts it takes.

Then there’s Katy Sullivan, an Alabama native who moved here to act, with the added predicament of having been born with no legs. Guts? Maybe thats sheer insanity!

But Katy’s story goes one step further. Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, she decided to start running. (and to think people are impressed by Ken Bob Saxton, who has run countless marathons barefoot… Katy’s running without legs!)

And she now has Olympic aspirations.

Filmmaker Renee Brown met Katy while talking a walk with a friend near Harvard Westlake School:

My friend and I were complaining about how hard our life was, and she literally ran past us on her carbon fiber legs. We stopped walking and stared at her as she blew past us.

Renee saw this as a sign – that whatever problems she might have, nothing should hold her back, and she decided to shoot this profile of of Katy so that more people could be inspired.

Yeah. It worked.
Continue reading Katy Sullivan

Purple Bins

Picture%206.pngA “Screw Sundance Film Fest” Selection

Films still being accepted! Submit yours now – click here for details.

Running nearly six minutes, “Purple Bins” is nearly four minutes too long. But I couldn’t not include it here for the following reasons:

1. Its a public service announcement from the City of Los Angeles.
2. It features Norwood Young’s driveway – you know, the one that has statues of David on it.
3. The humor is very wrong. As in if you aren’t offended, you’re a rotten person. And I love you for it. Call me.

To find out exactly what the city’s new purple bins are for, you’ll have to watch the short, written and directed by Susan Deming, after the jump.
Continue reading Purple Bins

Out of Body, Out of Mind

“Screw Sundance Film Fest’s” Opening Selection

Good morning, desk jockeys, and everyone else stuck in Los Angeles while their bosses, friends, and inferior filmmakers who just got lucky are skiing, drinking, and making million dollar deals in Park City, Utah. Bastards.

On Saturday I announced that this week is the first ever “Screw Sundance Film Fest” here on We’re accepting and featuring films that didn’t make it into Sundance this year, or any other year. The submission period is open all week, so keep sending them in! (more details at the original post)

This morning I’m presenting our first film, Brian Hecker’s “Out of Body, Out of Mind”. as a sort of tone setter. “In the glorious spirit of saying ‘FU’ to that annoying industry behemoth,” Brian says, “here’s a short that says ‘FU’ to another one.”

Brian received $2500 from Fox Searchlab to make a short video to “showcase his abilities” as a filmmaker, as the first step in a program to ween budding directors. “Out of Body” documents exactly how Brian spent this $2500 – mainly on the roulette wheel in Vegas. Supposedly Peter Rice, president of Fox Searchlight was insulted when he saw it. Damn shame – its one of the more entertaining shorts I’ve seen in some time.

Click to watch (or rightclick to save)
Continue reading Out of Body, Out of Mind