Back in college, I remember reading a study on how rural communities were affected by the introduction of television. If you asked them, clearly they were delighted, but the anthropologist who wrote the study was, of course, troubled, observing that where the rural communities originally saw their town as the center of their world, when they started watching television programs taking place in New York, LA and London, their internal map shifted and they suddenly perceived themselves as living on the periphery of the action.
As someone who grew up in a small town, going on to college in Portland, OR, which is a city that is basically a small town, I’ve always merrily lived on the peripheries of the western world. It’s a nice place. A little secret I’ll let the New Yorkers in on: people have a lot of fun in places besides New York. Like Oregon and Nevada, which by the way are pronounced, Or-uh-gun and Ne-vaaaa-duh, NOT Or-uh-gone and Ne-vah-duh.
I’ll always enjoy tuning in to CSI Miami, 30 Rock and America’s Next Top model, but I’ve never minded walking out the door into a world I’ve never seen reflected on prime time television.
Since moving to Los Angeles, watching television and the movies isn’t quite the same. First of all, even if it doesn’t take place here, it’s probably filmed here. A casual drive through downtown will usually take you past some film shoot or another and my boyfriend is always pointing out popular shoot locations. Heck, I went downstairs from my office to get some Juan Pollo for lunch and the sign was covered up and there was a guy in a chicken suit parading before the cameras. The snarky hipster crew said the project was “confidential.” Brats.
The only movies that were filmed in Sonoma were a) a bit of Scream (awesome!) and b) scenes from The Animal. With Rob Schneider. They showed it during Sonoma Valley High School senior week and it brought together jocks, nerds and theater kids – we all agreed it was AWFUL.
Two days ago, I was watching CSI New York. They had found the potential killer and, gasp!, he was headed to the New York City music conservatory with toxic gas! Cut to well-heeled guests listening to chamber music…in the Biltmore Hotel in downtown LA. Busted!
It can be fun to have that flicker of recognition. 500 Days of Summer? I recognized almost EVERY scene, thanks in no small part to my several walking tours of downtown with the LA Conservancy (LA Times: Downtown L.A. architecture stars in ‘(500) Days of Summer’) The movie, 2012, was greatly enhanced for me as I think 1/3 of the film was dedicated to the detailed destruction of various neighborhoods of Los Angeles. I was a bit annoyed they left out East LA – what? No obligatory shot of a taco truck or paletero man falling into the abyss, no toppling King Taco sign? Typical westsider bias.
So, in the spirit of living in a place that has been interpreted ad nauseam in TV and the movies, my boyfriend, the USC film grad, is currently curating an East Los Angeles Film Festival, which is taking place in my living room. Maybe in a few years, we’ll make it to the rest of the Los Angeles neighborhoods, but we’ll start in my backyard. Recommendations welcome!