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Video project enables independent filmmakers to tell L.A. stories

On Location

November 27, 2012|By Richard Verrier

A woman wanders through the neighborhoods, buildings and streets of Los Angeles on a voyage of self-discovery. A tourist who happens to be a resident extols his home city’s harmony with nature. Three performers see their talents blossom in a city that gives life to their ultimate dream.

Those are among the stories highlighted in a filmmakers contest called “On Location: The Los Angeles Video Project” that enlisted aspiring local filmmakers to create short films of two to four minutes that share their perspectives of L.A.

The videos were posted this week on the website of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board as part of an effort to re-brand the city as a tourism destination while simultaneously creating opportunities for independent filmmakers to get their projects seen.

“These films allow us to portray L.A. in a different way than what we see in the movies,’’ said William Karz, director of digital marketing for the tourism and convention board. “It’s a different side of L.A. -- the culture, the food, the markets -- that you really capture in these films.”

The awards are organized by NewFilmmakers Los Angeles, a nonprofit group based at Sunset Gower Studios that holds monthly events and screenings to support emerging filmmakers in L.A. and around the world. The group is an offshoot of NewFilmmakers New York, which discovered “The Blair Witch Project,” among other movies.

“The reason we wanted to do this program is that we felt like it was an excellent opportunity for filmmakers to showcase their work to such a wide audience,’’ said Larry Laboe, executive director of NewFilmmakers Los Angeles. “One hundred thousand people are seeing their videos, which doesn’t happen that often for independent filmmakers.”

Laboe, who produces digital series and volunteers for NewFilmmakers, launched the contest last year with Karz. L.A. Weekly also sponsors the contest, which began in June and culminated in a recent awards ceremony at the AT&T Center downtown. Awards were given out in four categories, with winners receiving prizes of $500 to $1,000, with up to $25,000 to spend on lighting, grip and other film equipment donated by Equilibrium Entertainment.

For this year’s contest, 22 finalists were chosen among 100 submissions, from an Emmy Award winner to a high school film student, Cameron Sperling. The 17-year-old Canoga Park resident heard about the contest from his parents and teamed up with his buddies from a high school film class to shoot a four-minute video called “How to Live in L.A.,” which he said was inspired by the classic "how to" Goofy cartoons.

Much to his surprise, the movie won an honorable mention and an audience award.

“Our first thought was, ‘How did we get into this?'” said Sperling, a recent graduate of El Camino Real Charter High School. “This can help get our name out there so people might say, ‘I’ve heard of you before.'”

Gregory Kasunich, a production supervisor at DreamWorks Animation, won the grand prize for his four-minute silent film entitled “Los Angeles: Find Yourself,” which features a young woman wandering through the city. It weaves new and archival footage of various L.A. landmarks, including scenes of the Santa Monica Pier, Chinatown and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mayan-inspired Ennis House in Los Feliz, as well as less obvious sites such as the subway.

“I moved to Los Angeles several years ago from Pittsburgh and I thought this was a great opportunity to not only make a nice love letter to the city ... but make something we can all be proud of,” said Kasunich.

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