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January 30th, 2006

Hidden Hollywood

Ah yes, Hollywood. Tinseltown. Glamorous home of stars and studios, right?

In reality, of course, you're lucky to park closer than four blocks away from wherever you're going, the police have line-ups on the corners, crazy street people run over your feet with scooters, and trembling rail-thin Goth kids prowl in search of fixes.

And yet there are still little pockets of life here and there. One is called Cinespace. Located on the second floor of an ancient brick building right smack on Hollywood Boulevard, it's a surprisingly chic bar and restaurant with an actual screening room. Yep, you sit in a booth and eat and watch movies.

On the fourth Sunday of every month, an especially odd gathering happens at Cinespace: It's called Channel 101, and it's a screening of 10 short films, all 5 minutes or under. I confess I'd never heard of this Channel 101 until Ricky Lee appeared in episode 4 of "The Wright Stuff", a series now running at Channel 101. Here's one of the weird things about it: At the Sunday event, the audience (which must have numbered an astonishing 400 last night, spread out over two screenings) votes on their 5 favorite shorts (out of 10, remember). Those 5 favorites then continue on as "series". They're also shown on the website.

What we saw last night was mostly an assortment of sophomoric humor. Some of it - like the wacky scifi thing "The Wastelander" - was actually funny; two of the entries - "The Wright Stuff" and the animated "Unbelievable Tales" - actually displayed some technical pizzazz. Overall, though, being at the Sunday screening is like attending a slightly upscale frat party.

Here's what astonished me: There's a whole group of people who are simply DYING to have their little homemade shorts shown at this thing. Out of the roughly 400 people who were there, I'm guessing that maybe half were involved with one of the films being shown, but the rest were a mix of very young trendies and desperate wannabees. I was a little perplexed by this; I guess as a working screenwriter it felt a little to me like writers dying to get into non-paying anthologies. I've occasionally thought about making my own short films, but they'd be serious, they'd be well-made (which is why I haven't done one yet!) and they'd be targeted at real film festivals or agents. This was...well, mildly fun, but nothing I'd want to do every month. I guess I'm just too close to old fogie-hood to really get into this...

...but it's nice to see some small cinematic heart still beating in ol' Hollywood.