Thursday, January 31, 2008

Live blogging at the USC v. Arizona basketball game

My first time visiting the USC Galen Center. I think this is a good
start :-).

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Art of Motion Picture Costume Design at FIDM

I was able to experience movie magic up close the other day. Movie magic is created by many elements and at the FIDM Museum & Galleries, you get to experience one of the most important elements of this magic: costume design from all five films nominated for Oscar Best Costume and more...

Costumes are key in placing the audience in a different place, in the moment of the movie. Without them, it would be hard to visualize any actor or actress in the past, present, future, or an entirely created world. In its sixteenth year, the "Art of Motion Picture Costume Design" exhibition offers the public a free viewing of Oscar Best Costume nominees Across the Universe, Atonement, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and La Vie en Rose. In addition to these movies, last year's Oscar win for Best Costume - Marie Antoinette - is on display along side an array of films such as Hairspray, The Golden Compass, Beowulf, 300, Harry Potter, and Nancy Drew.

The beauty of the event - aside from the costume design itself, of course - is the ability to see the intricate details of the work of costume designers and to appreciate first-hand the workmanship that goes into creating costumes for films. The selection of costumes from 2007 films (over 125 costumes from 25 films) provide a wide-array of different costumes and will likely compel any visitor to take pause in the deep level of artistry and thinking that must go into creating the perfect costume for each character within a particular storyline.

The event at FIDM Museum & Galleries runs from January 28th-April 12th, 2008. For more information, visit

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

"Acts of Desperation" and Documentary Filmmaker Roberta McMillan

e Daood returns with another great interview, this time with Roberta McMillan, documentary filmmaker of "Rats & Bullies". Ms. McMillan's award-winning documentary serves as the basis for a one-act play that will appear alongside the play "Bang Bang You're Dead" (William Mastrosimone) in The Relevant Stage's production of "Acts of Desperation". McMillan will also be a part of the acting cast for the production. Read on to find out the background of Roberta McMillan and her current work in "Acts of Desperation"...

Daood: [You were] originally born in Boston, Massachusetts followed by [a] pilgrimage to South Florida, entail for us the imprint of both memoirs?

Roberta: Moving from the North to South was quite a journey, as my family and I traveled the journey in an old station wagon with only roll down windows for air conditioning in the height of the summer heat and humidity, so it was a rough trip, and one I wouldn't want to journey like that again.

I miss my small hometown in Massachusetts that only had 4,000 residents at the time. My hometown just had its first city street light installed several years ago, and that suits the townspeople just fine. Small towns are great. I'm not a big city person, although I love to visit big cities and appreciate them, I just prefer to live in a quiet small town, and visit the big cities...

And being from Boston, one has to know I'm a huge Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots fan.

Daood: [Can you] encapsulate the scope of [literary] landscape [that] prompted interest of writing, acting and directing?

Roberta: As far as I can remember having some of my first childhood memories, a book was never far away. I was always advanced in any of my school grades growing up, was always in the advanced reading group, English Honors classes, debate team, and won the school spelling bee for my middle school. In High School in Florida, I was selected by the High School Faculty and Principal to be the Editor-In-Chief of my high school newspaper.

I've always excelled in and enjoyed immensely the crafts of Writing, Journalism, and Acting for both Film and Theater. Although I enjoy the medium of film a bit more.

As a student I enjoyed the classics of Emily Dickinson's poetry as well as fictional literature and just could not seem to watch enough movies.

For a kid, I was told that I was a bit unique in that by age eight I would watch the network national news every night, and every Sunday would watch the TV News show "60 Minutes". I also enjoyed PBS documentaries.

Most times though, when I wasn't running through the fields and acres of woods in the New England area I grew up in, I was always after my parents to take me to the movies.

Daood: As a young woman, is there any particular aesthetic in which you can point to that solidified the odyssey into the encyclopedia of belles lettres?

Roberta: As I mentioned, I always enjoyed the art of making movies and the actors and actresses in them; and the writers who put the words on the page.

I remember one movie that made me sad when I watched it. I've always been an environmentalist, and I suppose that drew me to watch the movie "Day of the Dolphin". It was on TV one day as an afternoon movie. I recall that it starred George C. Scott. Anyway, I watched it because it had dolphins in it, and I've always loved dolphins.

But at the end of the movie, it ends with the dolphins having to leave their owner who loves them. And it was so profoundly sad to me. The dolphins had to leave the movie explained, because if they stayed, these harmful people would trap them and hurt them. To this day, I still don't like to watch the end of that movie.

Anyway, I was deeply moved and I thought to myself that I could've figured out a way for the dolphins and their loving owner and "dad" to still see each other.

So, (and I think I was 7 years old at the time), I got out my mother's typewriter, put paper in it, and simply started typing a new ending to the movie. A happy ending.

I think that was my first inspiration to writing something for film. Prior to that, I had written little stories, poems, etc. Even newscasts (LOL)

But for me, rewriting a happy ending to that movie was my first introduction to screenwriting. That started me on the journey.

Daood: Academic wise, what professors and schools of thought cultivated your skills and talents?

Roberta: Schools of thought for me were always writers/directors/actresses/actors whose films had a message of importance. Not just written for schlock value; whether a movie sheds a spotlight on an important human, ecological, or animal issue.

I'm very concerned with and involved with, animal rights, human rights and helping those who don't seem to have a voice in today's world. And whether that includes economically poor or disadvantaged people, or homeless dogs, cats, or dolphins that are hunted and killed, all of them don't have a voice in today's world. Those are stories that concern me and that I'd like to see a refocus of today's society into helping those who need our help. Instead of buying the latest Iphone, it'd be nice for the world to help others. And that includes helping people, animals and the world we live in.

A certain acting professor I had in college and my Journalism academic professor in high school were mentors to me, as well as other faculty or principal staff. I wouldn't name them without their permission, but I believe educators play a pivotal role in a student's development. Unfortunately, many of our great administrators in schools and teachers in school (elementary, middle and high schools) are underpaid and undervalued by certain government bureaucracies.

Daood: From Florida, California was your next migration. Is this subsequent of your thespian endeavors?

Roberta: Yes, I moved to California from Orlando, Florida in pursuit of my film interests. Florida was a good stepping ground and the state tried to draw more film projects there, but I knew I had to move to California to fully pursue it.

While in Florida, I had received encouraging words from some known established actors or directors in California; One of which was the Emmy Award Winning actress Sharon Gless, (from the CBS award-winning show "Cagney&Lacey"), and who is now on the USA network show "Burn Notice".

Anyway, it was the kind, supportive and helpful words from Ms. Gless when she called me about a script I had written that I sent her way, was one of the motivating discussions I had. I received encouragement from others in the industry as well, but I always respected Ms. Gless's work, so it really stood out to me, and was a positive influence.

Daood: Since your transition, what theatre productions, television and independent film have you been a part of?

Roberta: Arriving out here in California, I've had the pleasure and opportunity of working with talented directors/actors, in which I acted in roles for TV and short film productions with them.

Some of those talented Directors who directed my in shows are actress/director Claudia Christian (Claudia is best known for her acting lead role in the TV Series "Babylon 5"), and I've gotten to work with Director/Actor Tim Russ (from "Star Trek: Voyager", who cast me in a small film he was directing/producing), and Walter Koenig, and Robert M. Conrad. The productions were a cable soap opera series in which I was a series regular, and small independent films.

I've also had the opportunity to be a student of/study with Director Dale White (who was the First A.D. on the show "Will & Grace"), Director John Swanbeck (who directed Kevin Spacey in "The Big Kahuna"), and studied with the dialogue coach for "Friends" Jeffrey Brooks. They are all great teachers.

My theatre work has included the show "Good Morning Miss Vickers" in which I played the lead role of "Regan", and now the current show; "Acts of Desperation" for the premiere show of the new Theater Company "The Relevant Stage" at the historic and beautiful Warner Grand Theatre.

I've really been so focused on the Feature Documentary Film I wrote/co-produced/co-directed, and so involved with the Feature Film Screenplay (for "Rats & Bullies") I have currently written what is based on the Documentary's subject matter, that I haven't had much time for other acting work.

Daood: I have read that you’re going to be participating in the upcoming stage production “Acts of Desperation.” Can you tell us briefly about the play and your role?

Roberta: In the first play, I play the role of a bully named Phalen, who threatens to beat up Dawn-Marie Wesley...

In the second play, "Bang Bang You're Dead", half the cast play multiple roles as that's how the play is written..

In "Bang Bang You're Dead", I play the Prosecutor in the court trial of the boy who shoots five of his classmates, and his two parents.

I also play the school Principal who questions the boy shooter about his death threats he made to other students...

The play centers on the subjects of teen bullying, suicide, and school shootings, which clearly are lofty subjects. But subjects that need to be talked about and addressed.

It is two one-act plays with a brief intermission between the two plays.

The first one-act play tells the true story of Dawn-Marie Wesley (the person that my Documentary film tells the story of). I contributed film clips from my documentary film to be used in the production, which helps keep the costs down for the production, as it's a new theatre company telling important stories, so I felt it was an important project and theater company.

The story of Dawn-Marie is that she was a 14-year old girl who was essentially, bullied to death. She hung herself with a dog's leash due to the bullying and death threats she endured. The play combines film clips, as well as us actors who portray the different characters involved, and in addition, ballet dancers from the talented San Pedro Ballet Company perform powerful, riveting and moving dance performances that also tell the story through dance.

It's truly a multimedia event as it combines live theatre with film and ballet dancers. It's outstanding and uniquely original.

A great concept put together by Ray Buffer, who is the The Relevant Stage's Artistic Director and Founder.

The second one act play is the play "Bang Bang You're Dead" which tells the story of a high school boy who shoots and kills seven people. The play also combines film, live theater, and male ballet dancers, who enact the story. Both plays are riveting.

Daood: Presently, as well as your Documentary feature film "Rats & Bullies", a story involving a fourteen-year-old Canadian girl Dawn-Marie Wesley who committed suicide, I commend you for taking on this sensitive subject matter. What lead you to such a lofty challenge?

Roberta: I learned of Dawn-Marie Wesley's story when I was watching the "Oprah" Winfrey Show at 1 a.m. one night on the Los Angeles affiliate network. It was the re-air broadcast of that day's episode. Oprah had Cindy Wesley, (Dawn-Marie's mother), on the show with her that day and was interviewing her.

I was deeply saddened, moved, and therefore, tell the story through a feature film, for which I would write the screenplay. But first, I needed the family's life story rights, so after contacting the Oprah Show, getting more information, then checking the international phone listings, I got in touch with Cindy Wesley, who lives in Canada.

After one hour of talking, Ms. Wesley granted me the family's life rights, which was really exceptional, as two major film outlets had tried to obtain them but she turned them and their larger money amount down, to give me the life rights for a much lesser price, because of how I wanted to present the story. I wanted to tell it truthfully, respectfully, and not sensationalize the story.

It's my goal to get this story made, and on the big screen, and to help the Wesley family as much as I can, as they have been through so much.

There has been SO MUCH international, and national demand for this story to be told on the big screen, it really came as a shock to me.

I've received thousands of emails from parents, teens, educators, student organizational leaders, colleges, high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, YWCA, Girl Scouts, throughout the United States and overseas, it has been truly amazing.

The topic of bullying and relational aggression affects all of us, and has affected every person I've spoken to. Whether that person was/is a bully themselves or was bullied, or stood by and watched a bully threaten or beat up a victim, bullying has affected us all in our lives.

I think the story of Dawn-Marie also struck a chord in me as I had been a victim of bullying at one point when some girls started spreading lies about me. Complete lies fabricated from thin air. It was damaging to me emotionally. I couldn't understand why these girls did this.

A while after the lies were spread, one of the girl bullies called me asking to meet with me to apologize. I met with her and asked her why they lied about me. She said it was because her and her friend were "mad" at me for something, (such as one of them perceived I wasn't as good a friend to them they thought I had other new friends and so one was jealous of that or something), so they thought they'd make me feel bad by telling lies about me, and said that it got out of hand and then they didn't know how to take the lies back, as then they would look like the liars that they, they just didn't say anything about it and never took the lies back.

New York Times Best-selling Author and Empower Program Cofounder Rosalind Wiseman, who wrote the book "Queen Bees & Wannabes" and who we interview[ed] and feature[d] in our Documentary Film "Rats & Bullies: The Dawn-Marie Wesley Story", summed it up well when she answered the question of..

"Why do girls make up lies about absolutely nothing and for no reason?"

Ms. Wiseman, who is an expert on the topic, answered that, "with girls, usually the one who is spreading the lies feels that, or perceives that, another girl has done something to them", which could be not talking to them as much as the bully would like, or maybe has new clothes and the bully doesn't or whatever the case may be, it's a PERCEPTION by the girl bully, so the bully will spread total lies about another girl to injure the other girl's feelings or status within their community. And somehow, it makes the bully feel better about themselves to have "one upped" the victim of these lies.

It's a type of villainous strategy more utilized by girls than boys. Girls use a lot more psychological bullying than boys. Boys will use more physical violence to bully. Although some girls use physical violence in addition to the psychological violence, as is demonstrated in the Dawn-Marie Wesley case.

Daood: Thus far how has this magnum opus been received by those whom had the pleasure of viewing "Rats & Bullies"?

Roberta: We've shown the film to select schools and organizations/audiences throughout the country, from California to New Jersey, to midland America.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive and amazing!

Whether from teens, adults, college kids, parents, educators...the word most used by audiences to describe the documentary film "Rats & Bullies" has been "powerful". Other words used have been "moving" "riveting" and "deeply affecting".

Schools that we've shown "Rats & Bullies" to have said that after the film showings, students were lining up to come into administrators' offices to report bullying incidents, and to receive counseling for the bullying they had been a victim of. It seems as if the film gives validation to what these victims of bullying are experiencing, and giving the bystanders of the bullies the motivation to report the bullying and threats.

Also, we've had bullies email our film's office and tell us how they never realized the impact their lies or bullying had on other girls or boys and that they decided to no longer be a bully after seeing "Rats & Bullies".

We've had thousands of requests from people wanting to see the film in theaters across the globe and then to later purchase it on DVD to use as a resource for their organization or school, and for families to have.

And we've not even had the film set up for distribution yet, it's been in post-production and people were hearing about the film through word of mouth, the Film's website at and through magazine articles like the one printed in George Lucas' educational magazine "Edutopia".

We were asked by the "Oprah Winfrey" Show to be on their show and show a clip from the documentary. Unfortunately, booking time didn't work out as we had to be in Florida and couldn't make it to Chicago in time. But the "Oprah" Show's producer said she'd ask us again when they do another show on bullying.

A newspaper in London commented on the film, and again, sight unseen it's been talked about.

We hope to have a national and international distributor soon that will bring it to the big screen first, before having it on DVD sale. It's just been an amazing response for a Documentary Film, which is why I so look forward to making it into a Feature Film.

Both the feature film and the accompanying documentary will do great at the box office; both nationally in the U.S. and internationally overseas.

Having received emails from all over the globe...Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Holland. It's been amazing.

Daood: Specifically describe directing, acting and writing as you interchangeably take on each role from project in relationship to your growth and development?

Roberta: Each role: directing, acting, and writing is so different and unique. Yet, by doing each one interchangeably, each one has helped me with the other.

For instance, while working as a director, it helps me to know what a Director on the set will want from my acting work.

Working as an actress, I know that words and how they're put together in a screenplay will help to affect that role I'm acting in, so it strengthens my writing ability, in knowing the process of acting and how the words I write will affect and move an actress/actor.

And as a screenwriter, I know in my head how certain lines should be said, interpreted, and how they should "pop" onscreen. So, through screenwriting, it helps my craft and work as an actor, in that it helps me understand, process, and interpret scripts better. So when I'm on a film/TV set or onstage in a theater, I can interpret scripts better and bring more perspective to them from having worked on scripts as a writer.

Words in a script have certain pacing and direction and emphasis a writer can hear in her/his head when she or he is writing it. As an actress, I can pick up on that, since I'm a writer as well.

Film, TV, Theater, is a triangle of Actor, Director and Writer. You need all three to make it come alive. You can't remove any from the equation, or it won't work.

You need words to say and to create the story you're telling, the actor envisions it and makes it come alive and brings character and life to it, and the director puts it on the train track and guides it to its destination.

Having worked in all 3 components, it has strengthened me in all those areas, as an Actress, a Writer, and a Director.

Daood: From “Nanook to the North” documentary by Robert Flaherty to "Rats & Bullies", give your assessment of docudrama's historic and present-day significance?

Documentaries tell us as humans more about ourselves. They record events and show the actual people and events involved. I also think that in today's technology, more documentaries can be filmed with less expense and it opens the doors for more documentary filmmakers to get their films made and then seen by audiences, whether through film festivals, movie theaters, or DVD and cable sales.

In the distant past, I think people perceived documentaries as rigid and heavily structured. These days, documentaries are [more free] to tell a story with the filmmaker's own vision, and style and method of how to tell the story. From what I know, PBS has more structured rules of what they will air, but with the demand for more documentaries in movie theaters and awards bestowed upon the films, such as "March of the Penguins"[and] "An Inconvenient Truth" [...], audience demand for documentaries at the mainstream box office has never been as high as right now, so documentaries have more outlets to be shown and don't have to conform to a certain notion of a documentary as was sometimes the case as in the past PBS was more the only place one could see a documentary.

Documentaries have expanded in their thought and how they are shot and how they are produced and they don't have to fit in a certain mold as once thought.... Documentaries play a pivotal and important role in helping to inform the human race.

Daood: Will there be other interesting and dynamic projects forthcoming this year for Roberta McMillan?

Roberta: Yes, there definitely will be more interesting, compelling and dynamic projects forthcoming for me.

I'm working with my development producer in bringing my screenplay for the feature film for the Dawn-Marie Wesley Story to the big screen, and I will act in that film as well.

In addition, I have many other film project ideas that I am mapping out. [I'm] working on those projects that will follow after I get "Rats & Bullies" the feature film to the big screen.

I will be working on these future projects as an Actress/Producer and some as Actress/Writer/Producer, and down the road maybe more directing in addition to the acting/producing.

"Acts of Desperation" will be appearing at the Warner Garner Theatre from January 31st to February 3rd. For more information, visit

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Camerata Singers of Long Beach

Live blogging at the "Music By Request" concert. Wish I could send
the lovely sounds of the concert too...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Leaving on a Jet Plane..."

Some of the ExperienceLA staff members will be flying out of town for the MLK weekend. And we're proud to say that we'll be taking the FlyAway bus to get to LAX. The FlyAway has three pick-up locations: Westwood, Union Station, and Van Nuys. Each bus leaves at every half hour and costs just $4 each way for adults. The non-stop service includes curbside stops at each terminal.

It's definitely the way to go if you don't want to park overnight or deal with traffic on your own. For those of you staying around LA, check out the ExperienceLA calendar for great things to do during this special weekend!

-ExperienceLA Staff

Friday, January 11, 2008

Financing and Funding a Future Transportation System for Los Angeles

Last summer I did a blog posting from Paris on their new 5 mile streetcar that runs East-West across the south of Paris using the latest Tram and Light Rail technology. While attending the Los Angeles County Transportation Funding Collaborative on Thursday, which was organized by Denny Zane and the Subway to the Sea supporters, it was interesting to see various interest groups coming together to talk about how Los Angeles might fund and finance a future transportation system. There were over 300 people in attendance, including key political leaders, labor and business organizations, environmental groups, academics, consultants, and transportation/transit stakeholders. The event was covered by Steve Hymon with the LA Times, Kevin Roderick with KCRW and LA Observed, a TV news crew, and others from the blogging world....
Metro has already identified $60 billion in needed transportation projects, but projects only $5 billion in future available revenue. Tim Papendreou, Metro's Transportation Planning Manager for Programming and Policy Analysis, called this the Perfect Storm: More People, More Travel, and Shrinking Revenues. Former State Legislator, Richard Katz, stated that Los Angeles needed to raise the dollars locally, so they can be locally controlled, while Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky stated that we needed to build our transportation system incrementally. Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke remarked that there is: "Nothing easy about transit." Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who is already a strong advocate for the Subway to the Sea, told the audience that the citizens of Los Angeles would be seeing alot more of him on public transit, as he resumes: Go Metro with the Mayor. The Mayor also acknowledged that the people of Los Angeles needed to get out of their cars once in awhile.

Meanwhile at ExperienceLA, as among the first in Los Angeles to recognize the power of the Internet to promote transit and destinations: Who says you need a car to get around LA. Ride Metro and ExperienceLA.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Odd Couple

For two performances only, Martin Short and Jason Alexander team up for "The Odd Couple", a special event of the Reprise! 2007-2008 season.

Reprise! is also offering a chance to win a pair of tickets to the Friday, January 25th. Click here for more info.

Don't miss out on this special event at the Wadsworth Theatre. While you're at it, I'd highly recommend hanging out in and around the Westwood area, which boasts both a Pinkberry and Red Mango, as well as on Sawtelle with great restaurants like Furaibo.

-ExperienceLA Staff

Friday, January 04, 2008

For Real This Time!

So I know we said that the ExperienceLA guidebook cover photo contest would end in December, but thanks in part to our sponsors, we've been able to extend the deadline to the 7th. That means, you have until next Monday to submit your photos for consideration in our upcoming guidebook, specially produced by Lonely Planet! We've been getting great submissions so far... so thanks everyone for participating!

Go to ExperienceLA to find out more contest details!

And Happy Friday everyone... stay safe in this weekend's coming storms!

-ExperienceLA Staff