L.A is a city of neighborhoods. It's also a city where traffic reigns supreme and the distance between two parts of town is always greater than it seems, so finding a good place to hang out can prove challenging. Do you really want to drive to Burbank on a Saturday to see a friend and then wade through the traffic to get back to Hollywood in time for a show at the Viper Room? Chances, generally, are low.
Stephanie Carrie, a former L.A. Weekly writer, and Robert Boesel want Angelenos to view life in the city even more microcosmically: by city block. Instead of telling friends to meet in a certain area, the duo suggests finding an intersection with enough food, culture and booze to keep you occupied for at least half the day. Their web series LAblocks explores one intersection at a time, highlighting the must-visit destinations on the block.
Carrie and Boesel (transplants from New Zealand and Chicago, respectively) met during a commercial audition — “so L.A.,” Carrie jokes — and immediately recognized a palpable chemistry. With their combined chops in acting and writing, they decided to create a travel show for locals and tourists alike. When it comes to residents, their mission is twofold: Get Angelenos to walk more and convince them that going to a new part of the city can yield awesome results.
The stereotypical Los Angeles resident is known for his aversion to walking, but the significant distances between parts of the city — even between, say, a coffee shop and a boutique store — don’t really encourage pedestrians to stretch their legs. Why walk half a mile when you can just drive somewhere?
If you do convince an Angeleno to get in the car and brave traffic, s/he probably will want to stay in familiar terrain. Carrie and Boesel hope to encourage locals to explore beyond their usual haunts — all while staying on the same block. With the help of Davidson Vorhes, the duo condenses information on the blocks into short episodes.
“One of our mottos is ‘the most satisfaction per step,’” Carrie says. “There can be the ‘top 10 restaurants all over L.A.’ Well, maybe take one of those blocks and see what are 10 other things to do? So you don’t feel overwhelmed as a local feeling like, OK, I have to drive all over L.A.”
The hosts also hope to encourage more Angelenos to find alternatives to driving.
“We’re focusing on one very specific block, so it’s a very green show,” Boesel says. “It’s like, here’s where you can take public transportation or park and hang out during the whole day instead of checking off the top 10 touristy spots.”
The challenge is appealing to both locals who know what's what and tourists who need some context. Take a recent episode, for example, that highlighted Spring and Fifth, an intersection that's well known to Angelenos as home of the ever-popular monthly Art Walk, along with the Last Bookstore and plenty of bars. What Carrie and Boesel hope to do is reach residents who are farther removed from downtown; they also want to offer insider knowledge through interviews and historical snippets.
“Stephanie and I are taking a backseat to the actual block,” Boesel says. “We want to bring in experts. We are the people who facilitate you learning about the blocks.”
The pair also utilize social media to get suggestions or requests for future episodes. They feature Instagram posts on their feed from other city-wandering souls.
When it comes to keeping the web series going, Carrie and Boesel are looking for ways to team up with city organizations or brands in hopes of reaching a larger audience. They want to keep the focus on urban exploration that’s fun and environmentally friendly.
In the process, the duo will keep learning about the city themselves and, as Carrie puts it, “sharing it through the block.”