April 13, 2020 § Leave a comment
I first met Kate Johnson in 1999, shortly after I returned from Thailand with the raw footage for my first two documentaries–a suitcase full of BetaSP tapes that logged in at more than seventy hours. Documentaries are made in the editing room, and the time spent editing far exceeds the time spent shooting, writing and researching. Thus over the next sixteen years we spent countless days working side by side, and the resulting films were a collaborative effort. Weaving together interviews, footage, archival film and stills, music, sound effects and graphics is like making a giant tapestry, and Kate always kept track of the thousands of strands.
Kate edited both “Jim Thompson, Silk King” and its companion piece, “The Jim Thompson House and Art Collection.” Then came “Under the Hollywood Sign,” and its short feature, “Peg Entwistle’s Last Walk,” which I later spun off into a separate film. Our last project was the reissue of of “Jim Thompson, Silk King,” which by 2014 had to be remastered because the original software was obsolete. For the new version, I filled the gaps in the score with new music that Kate composed and performed; it complemented the Thai classical music seamlessly. I also made two new shorts as DVD extras: one on Jim Thompson’s pre-Thailand architectural career and the other on developments on his disappearance since the release of the original documentary in 2002.
Throughout our time together, Kate was an invaluable source of ideas and guidance, providing the critical eye I needed. The fact that she was the only editor I’ve worked with says a great deal about her immense talent and range. Since she did it all, I never needed a sound editor, graphic artist or visual effects person, and only once did I use an outside composer.
In addition to editing my work and that of others, Kate was a filmmaker in her own right, and in 2015 won an Emmy for “Mia: A Dancer’s Journey.” Somehow she also found time to be a professor of Digital Media at Otis College of Art and Design, passing on her skills to a new generation of visual artists.
Because most of what I do is solitary, I found in Kate Johnson the longest and most significant working relationship of my career. My struggle to accept her passing includes the stark realization that I will never have a comparable collaboration, either in importance or duration. Brilliant and unique, she was also, for me, irreplaceable.
February 21, 2019 § Leave a comment
This week marks the tenth anniversary of this blog, which I started to promote my third documentary feature film, Under the Hollywood Sign. At that point, UTHS was in post-production, and my editor Kate Johnson and I were shaping scores of interviews, around eighty hours of footage and hundreds of archival images into a cultural history of Beachwood Canyon.
Wanting to explore the film’s many topics in greater depth, I wrote about the Theosophists, film stars and oddball characters who populated the Canyon in the early 20th century. I described Beachwood’s natural beauty and wildlife, and the California holly that blooms in the hills each December. I detailed the creation of Hollywoodland, California’s oldest hillside planned community, from its granite walls, gates and stairs to its most famous features: the Hollywood Sign and Lake Hollywood.
After exhausting Beachwood Canyon’s history, I moved on to present-day matters. By then neighborhood was becoming a mecca for GPS-guided tourism, and between 2010 and 2015 the number of visitors in search of the Hollywood Sign surged. Crowds overwhelmed the narrow streets, eroded the trails and drove the wildlife back into Griffith Park. Hollywoodland’s narrow streets, tricky to navigate in the best conditions, became chaotic and frequently gridlocked. Until permit parking was instituted a couple of years ago, residents were frequently trapped in or out of their houses by vehicular and pedestrian traffic that also blocked emergency vehicles. Writing about these issues brought me a slew of hostile comments, the gist of which was our right to use your neighborhood for recreation trumps your right to live here. Long after I stopped writing about local issues, angry and even threatening letters continued to roll in.
These days I write mostly about film–not mine but other people’s. I also write about Japan, where I grew up and whose history and culture I’ve studied for most of my life. As for documentary filmmaking, I’ve stopped. I’ll explain why in my next post.
September 12, 2017 § Leave a comment
In the years since our interview, Hargobind married, closed his business and moved with his wife Dalveer to New York. Soon afterwards, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. The last time I saw him was in 2015, during a visit to Los Angeles while he was in remission. More surgeries followed, and today he came to the end of his life after a brave two-and-a-half year battle.
Though he became a New Yorker, I will always think of Hargobind in Hollywoodland, a place he loved. In addition to local history, he learned about the wildlife and was able to identify birds by their calls. He led so many people up the Hollywoodland stairs that he grew noticeably thinner and more muscular, yet he was always respectful of us residents. I was lucky to be among his and Dalveer’s friends, a group that spans the world and today remembers him fondly.
December 24, 2014 § Leave a comment
Thanks for reading this blog, which I began nearly six years ago to promote my work; it has been a labor of love. Nevertheless, if a fraction of the hundreds of thousands who’ve read my posts and pages would watch my films or read my ebooks, I’d be much happier. The documentaries are available for sale (via DVD or Vimeo download) or rent (via Vimeo); the ebooks are available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other ebook sellers. All are linked through my website http://www.hopeandersonproductions.com
Under the Hollywood Sign
Peg Entwistle: The Life and Death of an Actress
The Jim Thompson House and Art Collection (available on DVD; downloadable in 2015)
Jim Thompson, Silk King (New edition coming on DVD and download in 2015)
Peg Entwistle and The Hollywood Sign
On Blade Runner: Four Essays
April 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
Park rangers have treated P-22, so it’s possible that it will recover. But when the story broke, a neighbor reported another source of poison: the fetid water in the pool of a long-vacant house on Hollyridge Drive. P22 was seen drinking from the pool after the City dumped in mosquito-abating chemicals. When I went up to see the house yesterday, its appearance was dire:
The good news is that the house has just been sold. Let’s hope the new owner will drain the pool before tackling what promises to be a lengthy and arduous renovation.
December 21, 2013 § 1 Comment
Thanks to Virginia Parry for this wonderful closeup of a bobcat–probably the same one that was photographed a half-mile north in my recent post https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/wild-things-of-hollywoodland/ Keep an eye peeled, Beachwooders!
June 7, 2013 § Leave a comment
During the past week, I’ve discovered both coyote and racoon footprints on the sheet that covers my outdoor chaise longue, proof that both have been inside my fenced yard. Though I frequently see coyotes outside my house, I had never seen a racoon until Monday evening, when this one passed by my back door.
I ended the week with a much tamer animal encounter, though it was just as unexpected. This afternoon three horses were hitched up outside the Beachwood Cafe, calmly waiting for their owners to finish their lunch. They had come through Griffith Park and were in Beachwood for the first time, but they seemed very much at home here.
May 15, 2013 § 3 Comments
Recently I was driving through Hancock Park, my former neighborhood, when I noticed a house with a sign reading “Armed Guard on Premises.” Although break-ins are common there–I was a victim twice–this seemed an extreme measure, so I asked my niece who lives nearby about it. “They just say that,” she said. “There’s no armed guard.”
Now I live in Hollywoodland, where a steady stream of tourists headed for the Hollywood Sign passes my house each day and coyotes patrol by night. Actually, coyotes patrol by day as well, as these photos, taken on a recent midday–attest. This is the big-eared coyote that appeared in a post a few months ago, and these days I see it often. At night, I often hear coyotes hunting vermin on the hillside above my house, a circle-of-life function that goes naturally with nocturnal lurking.
February 14, 2013 § 2 Comments
Because all of Hollywoodland was once a ranch, there have been horses at the end of Beachwood Drive for as long as anyone can remember. In recent decades, horses have lived at Sunset Ranch, which offers boarding, lessons and trail rides to the public. But when Hollywoodland began in 1923, there was a riding club where homeowners could board their horses and learn to ride English-style, if they didn’t already know how. The allure of riding in the Hollywood Hills was a selling point for house lots, and figured prominently in radio ads for Hollywoodland:
Listen–the horses are stamping in their stalls-the sea breeze kisses the hilltops-while the birds weave melodies of happiness on the open trail. Your day in Hollywoodland-in-California begins with a song, and for a brief hour you canter on the wings of the morning–a shower-breakfast-and away for a day at the office, to return at eventide to the calmness of the hills, and there below you, watch a myriad of millions of lights twinkling in the distance.
Although I had seen the pamphlet in a larger format, I wasn’t aware it was produced in this compact size. I wasn’t planning to buy it, but in the end I did, impressed by its excellent condition and historical significance. Anyone with an interest in California history should check out John Howell’s website, which offers a variety of books and images: johnhowellforbooks.com
January 30, 2013 § 6 Comments
In the years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve been accused of being anti-wildlife–by a neighbor whose illegal feeding of birds (to say nothing of raccoons and coyotes) brought a dawn patrol of crows to my roof each morning–and now anti-dog. Someone who calls herself Doggie mama takes issue with a post I wrote about a coyote jumping my fence and clearing the property of tree rats. https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/wild-kingdom-an-unexpected-symbiosis-in-beachwood-canyon/ She is further enraged by my quoting someone who called small pets lost to coyotes “nature’s nachos.”
Nature’s nachos? You guys realize that your convenient rat hunting solution up the hill means dog hunting season down the hill as soon as the rat population decreases? They come down every winter, but this year is worse than ever… a pack is hunting at 8pm tonight, and we’ve seen them around 11pm for the past two months… not safe for walking two 10-lb puppies at 8p and 11p… But thanks for calling my beloved pups a snack for these creatures that seem to be saving you a few bucks in exterminator expenses.
Despite the implications, my “convenient rat-hunting solution” was not instigated by me, nor did I start or condone the hunting of dogs by coyotes. And even if the coyotes of Beachwood Canyon somehow have learned to read, I can’t imagine their regarding this blog as an inducement to go after little dogs. Beyond these problems of logic are two larger questions: why do people who object to the presence of predatory wildlife–not only coyotes but hawks, owls and other raptors–choose to live in their habitat? And why do they walk their small dogs at night, usually on expandable leashes that allow the dogs to move ahead of them, seemingly untethered?
There’s no reason not to have a dog in Beachwood: I moved here with a beloved 95-pounder that throughout her life ruled over the neighborhood coyotes, all of which were tiny by comparison, and terrified of her. Even so, I rarely walked my dog after dusk in order to minimize the chance of meeting a coyote. In contrast, Doggie mama asserts her right to walk her ten-pound dogs at night. In a canyon where coyotes live, this is nothing short of a provocation, and provocations have their consequences.
Speaking of coyotes, I keep seeing the one photographed above. It resembles a mangy little sheep and looks nothing like any other coyote I’ve ever seen. Theories?