By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The Film Center rents affordable film equipment, transfers film to video and holds nightly screenings. But the main focus is on education and, in particular, teaching teenagers from the ethnically and financially diverse neighborhood. This rich mix is on full display in the documentary films produced by the Center’s youth program. A film titled City of Angels contains 23 shorts by 23 students, focusing on what it means to be an Angeleno. Some deal with life of working-class immigrants, one examines what it is to be Korean in Los Angeles and several feature decidedly bohemian parents.
On a Thursday evening, a crowd has begun to assemble for the GI Joe Fest, which features stop-motion films using GI Joe action figures. Davanzo expects a standing-room-only crowd. The Center’s youth coordinator, Lisa Marr, a longtime musician (Cub, The Beards), who is also Davanzo’s girlfriend (he refers to her as “the love of his life”), ushers the teenage students out, reminding them of pending assignments. I ask whether they are concerned that increasing rents and the bad economy might jeopardize their efforts. “That’s why we have the bus,” she says with a smile.
The following week I join Davanzo on the Film Center’s new bus. What he unveils is not your cliché Partridge Family–style counter culture school bus. It is a fully operational mobile classroom enabling Davanzo and company to take the Film Center’s mission on the road and, if need be, stay there. The onetime Army transport bus has been beautifully refurbished by artist Will Rollins and is fueled by vegetable oil (with solar panels to be installed).
“Lisa and I were traveling the country and saw this disparity of access,” Davanzo explains. “Not just in parts of L.A. but also in rural Wyoming, in Native American areas of South Dakota. It seemed so obvious, why don’t we just bring the resources to people.” So they pitched the idea of a mobile classroom to the Annenberg Foundation, which loved it and awarded them a grant for the bus.
Later, as we careen through Los Angeles, Davanzo is literally beaming at the wheel. More than the storefront, the bus seems the realization of his original dream. You can hear it in his voice when he describes last summer’s inaugural journey to Canada.
“Every day Lisa and I did little workshops in towns where we did animation with kids and then would project their works that evening,” he says. “It was this real sense of commune with film and food and people — a truly magical time. For me that’s what this is all about.”
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