This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cable, Original Programming and the Rising Ranks of Independent Content Providers

With the overwhelming nature of entertainment these days, it's hard to keep track.  What's hot?  What's not?  What's worthwhile?  More than half of all TV shows on the air right now, I've never heard of.  Others I'm marginally aware of, but I've never watched.  I'm skeptical of anything that's currently popular (mostly because I don't trust the taste nor the intelligence of my fellow human beings.) 

At any rate, it's hard for any show to stand out-- even if it's got potential.  The sheer number of entertainment choices makes it impossible for even the most die hard fan to keep up with much of anything.  Cable stations have discovered that creating original programming on their own dime is the wave of the future of TV.   Cable (along with internet media giants like Netflix) are forcing networks to (gulp) take risks.  Uh-oh.  What's the world coming to?

Ratings will never reach the numbers we saw in the past; those days are long gone.  That said, the entertainment industry is finding itself not so much driven by executives creating shows as it is by the audiences who are watching them (or not.)  We're in the midst of a "choose your own adventure" entertainment revolution.  No matter what you're into, no matter how obscure, there's probably a show about it.

Web content providers are also rising up the ranks-- driven by their followers and the proliferation of social media.  One look at Youtube and it's shocking to see how many videos people are creating every minute of every hour, every day.  Where do you even begin?  In some ways, it's easy.  Most of these videos aren't worth a second look. However, the savvy do-it-yourself (D.I.Y.) internet producers are creating content they want to watch.  In other words, they're participating as both audience and creator.

One such example is that of Kurt Bonzell, whose web series Lost Angels is slowly but steadily gaining a following on Youtube.  It follows a down-on-his-luck everyman named Jimmy who takes a job as an FBI operative to earn money to help dig himself out of financial and marital difficulties.  Great plan, right?  Yet Jimmy isn't exactly the best man for the job.  He's like a fish out of water and at certain points in the pilot episode, "Prom Night", it feels like he's a hostage in his new profession.  It's intriguing to watch a character like Jimmy in this situation.

Much like Walt in the beginnings of Breaking Bad, Jimmy is clearly questioning whether of not he's cut out for this.  By the end of Episode 1, he's decided to take the risk, make the sacrifices to his family, and give it a go.  Whether or not this is a good idea, is a great motivator to keep watching. Though dramatic, Lost Angels also offers occasional humor-- which is often necessary to relieve pressure in key moments.

Like any show, it's not for everyone-- nor should it be.  However, Lost Angels has the potential to connect with audiences looking for adventure, intrigue, and a dramatic peak inside the dark underbelly of Jimmy's new world.  The show is well-shot, especially for an independently produced web series and Bonzell has also made music a central element.  (The original music in each episode appropriately fits the dramatic and gritty tone of the show.)

See all current Lost Angels episodes on Youtube / Kurt Bonzell's Media Collection Youtube channel.

And I'm going to try to check out a few of the shows I've never heard of and discover other D-I-Y filmmakers producing quality content.  Better get cracking... there's alot out there! 

©2013 by KLiedle

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Allure Of Old Hollywood (And The Chateau Marmont)

There’s something about Hollywood’s Golden Age that implies mysticism and allure as though the era never truly existed. They say that about Hollywood itself—-that it never truly exists but in our minds. I always felt that if I had a chance, I’d go back to ‘30s-‘40s era Hollywood. It was a time when movie stars were “stars” in the grandest sense. They dressed the part and wore the flowing robes of gods and goddesses in a way that made them untouchable, elusive, and mysterious. Movies and stars, and even Hollywood itself, had magic. Maybe it’s true what they say-- perhaps it was an illusion all along.

 That doesn’t mean we don’t try to recreate it. The Artist, released in 2011, caused a stir in Hollywood. Black-and-white film was suddenly new again and every fashion magazine sought to feature the latest vintage designs inspired by the ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s. The Great Gatsby kept it going. Hats and hair-clips, jeweled accessories, feathers and fringe—all of this made it fun to play dress-up again. We know something is missing in the modern era when we begin looking to the past for inspiration.

Up-and-coming fashion designers, Sophie Buhai and Lisa Mayock of Vena Cava envisioned a vintage Hollywood look for a recent collection. Charlotte Dellal, based in London, opened up Charlotte Olympia, a boutique in Beverly Hills that speaks to anyone who loves classic film: Think glittery Mae West stilettos and pumps featuring the likes of Bette Davis and Louise Brooks.

As I write this, I’m sitting at the outdoor patio of the fabled Chateau Marmont. It all seems quite appropriate. Sofia Coppola often called this place home. She came back to shoot Somewhere. (To date, I believe it’s the only film shoot the Chateau has ever allowed.)

Writers find inspiration here. Troubled starlets find solace here. Even designers find that the Chateau brings out the best in them. The Art-d├ęcor inspired patio furniture is simple yet elegant, not unlike the old Hollywood it evokes. My wicker chair is speckled black-and-white with a single stripe of red down the middle. I think there’s a journalist interviewing a playwright across from me. She sort of looks like Andie Macdowell yet more sophisticated, more refined.

There’s a pleasant atmosphere here, not the stuffiness that one might surmise—given its legacy. A cool breeze wafts through the foliage surrounding me. It’s quiet, yet not at all silent. The traffic of nearby Sunset Blvd can barely be heard over the clattering of dishes and the conversations of nearby diners. It’s easy to understand why celebrities feel at home. There’s an implication of safety and seclusion here. The Chateau itself looks like a castle—an architectural anomaly that doesn’t quite fit in with the buildings surrounding it. That makes it all the more magical and alluring. It seems like a place that holds secrets that no one’s talking about. I find myself feeling oddly protective of keeping those secrets even if I only get a sense of them.

As I get up to leave, I spin around and eye a gentleman who resembles Robert Downey, Jr. We lock eyes in a moment of faux recognition. I decide it’s not him, but he’s handsome just the same.
For a moment, I feel awkward—as though I’m a fraud in this Hollywoodland of which I don’t belong. However, this, too, is just an illusion. I belong wherever I am. Like all illusions, it’s based on perception.

Copyright ©2013 by KLiedle