“What, exactly, is ‘parts unknown’ about Los Angeles?”
It’s a fair question that cuts right to the heart of what we’re trying to do.
Of all the locations on earth, Los Angeles has probably appeared on film or tape or memory card more than any other. In fact, making Southern California look like somewhere else has been a primary concern for filmmakers since the beginnings of Hollywood. My partners at Zero Point Zero production and I have shot in LA before. Twice.
So, where the **** do we get off trying to shoot something “new” about Los Angeles?
A few years back, fresh off the success of Kitchen Confidential and new to the ways of life outside the kitchen, I found myself staying at a hotel in West Hollywood where the kitchen staff were fans. They were also Korean. And in the course of events, I found myself accompanying them to places that I—though I’d been to LA a few times—had no idea existed. Even though LA was newly in the grip of some of the country’s most restrictive anti-smoking laws, every place these cooks brought me were packed with young Koreans, drinking soju, eating and smoking at the same time. Many of the places they brought me—in what turned out to be a fairly drunken bounce from one place to another to another—first denied being a business, then, on what appeared to be the basis of my wrong ethnicity— denied me entrance, only admitting me after being shouted at in Korean by my posse of cooks. Interestingly, many of these businesses continued serving alcohol long after what I had previously believed local ordinances permitted.
The next day, I didn’t remember getting home but I did remember what I’d gotten a glimpse of the night before: another world—existing right under the noses of another one.
So, I thought, for this episode, we’d try to shoot Los Angeles entirely from the point of view of people who grew up in Koreatown. We’d shoot this most over-photographed of cities as if no one BUT Koreans—and their immediate neighbors (Mexicans, Sri Lankans, Filipinos…) existed. As if the Hollywood sign, the Hills, the movie industry, and white people in general just…never happened. In our episode, K-Town would be Center of the World.
I thought about recent discussions with my friends, the chef and author, Roy Choi—and the artist, David Choe, about the effect the LA riots of the early 90’s had on their world view and that of their families. As I know many Koreans—and because all of them seem to suffer from some dark, unarticulated burden—an unspoken pressure to be something other than how they see themselves. I began to explore the Korean concept of “han”, an existential sense of pain and rage that is said to pass from generation to generation and wondered how I might discuss that in the show.
A window into the soul of the Korean American? Nah…I wouldn’t go that far. At very least, this episode will be a window into some VERY delicious Korean food. If you’re not hungry after this one—there’s no hope for you.
Film nerds might notice our shameless rip off of the “look” Michael Mann gave to the driving interiors in the film “Collateral”. Or they might not. This episode also marks our first use of a “drone-cam”, a small, remote controlled , flying helicopter-mount for our cameras.