August 19, 2013
Indie Beat: L.A. Stories -- Seeking Independence In Hollywood
By Ben Umstead
Even from indoors I can sense the sprawl. It is an onslaught. It is an adventure. Its sun-charged heart of concrete beats ceaselessly. The seeming endlessness of a loud city song, a vortex cradled by hills, valleys, and mountains. Even when one arrives at the ocean, the sprawl merely careens into other directions. I live in Los Angeles. I am a film journalist in Los Angeles. It is a town that perplexes and excites me. I am writing today's column in a state of flux, with doubt sidling for a spot in the sun. I won't let it. I've been back for six months. I have an incredible group of friends and many, many smiling acquaintances here. As a journalist I've attended the L.A. Film Festival, been to parties and special screenings, delighted in expanding my tribe. But I don't feel grounded. Granted, it's only been six months, a short time to be anywhere. And yet...
When I attended L.A. Film Fest back in June I was startled to discover that it all took place in South downtown, near the Staples Center, at a complex of high-end franchise restaurants and entertainment destinations called L.A. Live. The fest was being held at a multiplex. Convenient in many respects, the location was somehow lacking a personality that allowed well, the film festival to truly feel like a film festival; to feel like you were gathering a community of like-minded folks. The lounge was on top of a parking garage (somehow decidedly very L.A.); we shared the lobby with audiences for Monster's University and World War Z. Granted, it was festive, but merely in spurts, pockets... Something still felt off. It lacked character, nuance, texture, a uniqueness that said "yes this is the L.A. Film Festival, this is special." This is not an attack on the L.A. Film Fest. This was merely my experience, and a symptom of something larger and seemingly less definable. And that's just it, outside of a few institutions like The Cinefamily, or L.A. Film Fest's parent Film Independent, cinephilia and independent visions seem detached here, or somehow secret and unattainable. But that doesn't make sense. This is Los Angeles. Everything is here. Read More.