play / 2014
BALKAN - L.A. CULTURAL CROSSROADS
Please describe yourself.
Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)
In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.
SEEFest’s year-long program showcasing the CULTURES OF THE BALKANS through films and live performances by Los Angeles artists.
Does your project impact Los Angeles County?Yes (benefits a population of LA County)
Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?
- Central LA
- San Gabriel Valley
What is your idea/project in more detail?
Balkans-LA project proposed for the LA2050 Grants Challenge will create a new cultural experience for Angelenos by presenting a year-long program of culturally-specific cinematic works and live performances highlighting THE BALKAN CULTURES (the Project). No less than 10 multi-disciplinary programs will be produced, including original production of performances by California-based artists, providing audiences with a vibrant snapshot of the art, music, film, popular theater and dances from South East Europe (SEE). The program will also serve as the training ground for our partner’s career technical education students to apply their skills and get access to creative industries, jobs and marketplace.
What will you do to implement this idea/project?
SEE Fest LA will invite Los Angeles-based film-makers and artists who have either emigrated to Los Angeles and/or are residents of Los Angeles who are of Balkan descent to present SEE films and related cultural activities, including food, dance, music, theatre, the visual arts, etc. Participants of the Balkans-LA project will also include Los Angeles-based artists who are not of SEE or Balkan descent to properly cross pollinate and collaborate while building understanding of SEE cultures as the blend with the diverse cultural landscape of Los Angeles. Further, Balkan-LA programming will invite Balkan filmmakers and artists who still live in SEE countries to present their works to the community of Los Angeles to broaden the horizons and world-wide understanding of SEE cultures.
Balkan-LA will host monthly events (film, music, dance, visual arts, exhibitions, and theatre) during the coming year and hopes that LA2050 will choose to support these ventures. SEE Fest LA believes that the arts have the power to build bridges amongst diverse cultures and communities to build a LA2050 whose residents, although diverse, can engage and appreciate differences while living together in peace and cohesion. Balkan-LA will weave the cultural fabric of Los Angeles through fostering cross-cultural collaboration and discourse on the similarities, dissimilarities, and the ties that bind through education, exposure, and engagement in the arts while encouraging arts participation by all residents of Los Angeles.
How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to PLAY today? In 2050?
The Balkan cultures have given us geniuses like Serbian-American scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla, notorious events like the assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 which precipitated WWI, Hollywood mythology based on the character of Count Dracula, and world figures like Mother Theresa. There is hardly a better place than Los Angeles for the very diverse content from a European frontier to fit culturally and engage its peers.
SEEfest wants to put in place a comprehensive year-round program of film screenings and cultural events highlighting the contributions of SEE countries to the world’s cultures. With our Balkans-LA project we will add one missing jewel to the cultural crown of Los Angeles, a development which will not go unnoticed in 15+ countries of the South East European region. We plan to bring the best cultural representatives from SEE countries to visit L.A. and lay the ground work for lasting creative connections between South East Europe and Los Angeles. Our activities will be spread all over L.A. in different communities, engaging people of South East European (SEE) descent, often marginalized because their languages are too small and they are geographically too scattered to register on the larger map of our city.
Our Project will promote social cohesion among Americans from Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Georgia in the Caucasus, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey (and other ‘pockets’ of smaller ethnic/linguistic groups from Eastern Europe) and will achieve this with programs that are representative of these cultures and possess qualities that can attract more mainstream American audiences at large. For 10 years SEEfest has been working towards this goal to reach across demographic and ethnic divides, and build social cohesion and mutual understanding within SEE demographics, fostering their integration and sense of pride. The cultural crossroads of the Balkans and surrounding countries resonate with an ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse city like L.A. Our Project wants to tap into this diversity which is a social capital and resource still little used. This human resource has the desire and potential to burst onto the scene and create new artistic and cultural content, and our Project wants to provide programs for this creativity to be seen and find its place within the creative industries sector of Los Angeles.
Whom will your project benefit?
LA2050 grant will enable SEEfest to serve audiences of SEE descent, marginalized because their ethnic groups and languages are too small if taken individually, promote social cohesion between disparate SEE groups and at the same time foster social interaction with American audiences through artistic collaborations, programs, events, cross-cultural collaboration and discourse on the similarities, dissimilarities, and the ties that bind. By targeting culturally isolated groups across Los Angeles County the Project will bring a unifying sense of belonging and, we hope, contribute to building their L.A.-specific identity.
Large part of our efforts will be devoted to audience outreach and student-related activities. If funded, the Project will expand opportunities for training and transfer of skills for youth and students from local public schools involved in our partner’s career technical education curriculum. We plan to engage them in every aspect of the Project and provide ample opportunities to learn, practice, interact with accomplished artists whose ethnic and cultural background is just as diverse as theirs. We believe that social backgrounds of people involved in the Project and the type of programs we plan to do will convey a sense of inclusiveness to student population from underprivileged communities. For bi-lingual youth with recent immigrant experience there is a stronger sense of identification with our Project’s people who are also bi-lingual or tri-lingual emigres, and whose stories, music, films, plays, even jokes mimic the same feeling of displacement and struggle to fit in.
The best arts programs from South Eastern Europe and rich historical, ethnic and cultural perspective will act as a catalyst for social cohesion between diverse segments of our target population. Student audience is all bi-lingual, Spanish-English, with a small portion of bi-lingual youth from SEE countries. Our programs will resonate with student audience because they speak of experiences that mirror their own, however remote SEE countries may be from South America or southern California. Our youth outreach to date, with participation from Hollywood High School, Duarte HS, and School of Global Studies has proven that we were on the right track. The acorn has been planted. LA2050 funding will make our BalkansLA Project feasible and open the doors to advancement and ultimately job placements for our youth participants.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
We have identified and confirmed collaborative partnerships with KLCS-TV and the Los Angeles Unified School District, specifically LAUSD’s career technical education in several LAUSD schools.
These partnerships are two-fold, contributing towards development of our programs and ideas, and channeling student integration in the programs with job training.
Our partner KLCS-TV is the PBS-affiliated station and a multiple Emmy® Award winner, broadcasting to over sixteen million viewers throughout Southern California on DirecTV, Dish Network, and most cable systems. It is a licensee of the Los Angeles Unified School District, providing over 80,000 hours of instructional/informational content annually.
SEEfest first partnered with KLCS-TV in 2010 to promote the annual film festival, progressing to SEEfest cultural and business programs, and production of filmed segments.
Project partner KLCS-TV responsibilities will include broadcasting films and new original Tv program, featuring artists from Los Angeles in lively short segments about musical, folk, dance, literary, craft and food traditions of the Balkan people. KLCS will contribute station staff and technical resources.
Project partner C.T.E, Career technical education staff, in conjunction with KLCS and LAUSD, will be responsible for local curatorial assistance in developing tailored programs for student demographics, identifying and recruiting from the pool of SEEfest those L.A.-based artists best suited for the transfer of skills needed in the L.A. creative industries marketplace: production jobs, story boarding, editing, composing and scoring music, copy writing, set decoration, lighting, filming. SEEfest will provide access to real-life training for these budding photographers, camera operators, crafts services students all of whom come from underprivileged neighborhoods of L.A. With their bi-lingual background and recent immigrant experience they don’t have an easy access to on the job training and SEEfest has a track record of providing opportunities for this student population.
Three factors critical to the success of our collaboration: sharing similar goals and ideals, willingness to roll up our collective sleeves, and the passion to create new things.
How will your project impact the LA2050 “Play” metrics?
- Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play (Dream Metric)
Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.
Because the arts often move past language barriers given their visual and aural natures (dance, music, film, visual art) and because the arts encourage dreaming beyond one’s current circumstances, we feel that Balkan-LA project will encourage the residents of Los Angeles to play, dream, create, and engage in the arts and experience the freedom and play which is inherent to and a benefit of arts participation.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project.
In order to measure how well we fare in achieving our goals, we plan to track the following metrics: attendance per live event (tickets holders, and estimated number of people attending free of charge); TV viewership, and online audience; our budget expenditures vs. the results we get; number of original programs we will create; number of artists we will engage; feedback from audience surveys; feedback from our program partners and supporters; number of people from creative industries and volunteers we will be able to recruit; and media coverage and reviews.
Metrics such as online audience, including number of newsletter subscribers, youtube viewership, and social media metrics like the clout score will be part of our evaluation.
Each program segment will be documented, on film and with photographs catalogued and sample print and promotional materials collected and archived on the dedicated hard drive; by the end of the Project year in June 2015 the Applicant will present as part of its final report a short film compilation of the highlights of the Project. Additionally, the Applicant will utilize its practice of audience surveys, feed back from artists, sponsors and supporters, and testimonials to further document the activities and results, and future of the Project.
What two lessons have informed your solution or project?
Two lessons that informed our Project were (1) public and media response to our world premiere of SARAJEVO on the eve of the 100th anniversary of events that precipitated World War I; and (2) outpouring of support from our peers, volunteers and student participants who all want more, not less of SEE.
In 2014 we landed our most exciting world premiere of a truly timely film, SARAJEVO, about the events in 1914 that led to the start of World War I. This premiere netted us a most favorable review in the leading trade paper in our industry, The Hollywood Reporter: “This handsome-looking and well-acted feature will have its stateside premiere as the opening feature of the South East European Film Festival.” followed by a story in the L.A. TIMES: “The South East European Film Festival opens in Beverly Hills Thursday night with the world premiere of ‘Sarajevo’ … In its ninth year, SEEfest will explore the theme ‘Europe in the Time of Turmoil,’ highlighting the turbulent past of the 15-country region and how it continues to loom large over the present.”
Lesson No. 1: With the right program the public does take notice, even if the program is about events in a remote part of the world all of 100 years ago.
Expressions of support poured in, telling us about “transformative experience”; “this most wonderful film festival”; “L.A. is all the richer”; “We had a great time sponsoring”; “Thanks again for giving our students the opportunity to assist”; “I am so incredibly happy and blessed to have been given a chance to work with everyone”; Of course I will continue to volunteer!”. These statements came from people across a broad spectrum of L.A. populace, from Oscar-winning filmmakers to sponsors, high school principal and volunteers.
Lesson No. 2: Creative people in L.A. crave to see what other creative people in the world are doing, and will not shy away from getting involved as supporters, volunteers, jury members. Young people who worked as volunteers, and students who got a chance to operate cameras at a professional event got a boost to their self-confidence and want more opportunities, more often, to hone their skills and get a better shot at a career of their choice.
Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.
We are confident that we can implement the project within the timeframe of 12 months based on our expertise, experience and creativity.
The main responsibilities of the Applicant (SEEfest) will be to lead the curatorial team and spearhead original programming with local artists, secure rights to screen films and clearances for live performances, organize promotional activities, and leverage LA2050 grant to impact communities by art programs that will cater to previously untapped audiences and increase meaningful work opportunities for California artists. SEEfest has demonstrated over the last 9 years the ability to implement programs, from annual festival to complex international retrospectives, on time and on budget.
The resources that will be used for the Project comprise expert programming staff, management of the Project, substantial film library, connections with scores of SEE artists who live in California, ability to leverage every dollar of grant funding to raise substantial in-kind support and attract new sponsors.
We have ties to many artists who will be creatively engaged contributing expertise in their respective art fields and shaping the content. The Project budget features line item for artist payments and stipends for young apprentices from local schools engaged in the Project.
Timeline of the Project: September, going forward would be spent on preparations of the first three live programs with California artists, celebration of music, dance and traditions of the SEE region. Scheduled activities in January -March 2015 will include regular taping of the SEE Cultural Café, to air on KLCS, with guest artists illuminating for the audiences musical, dance or literary traditions of the region. April- May 2015 will focus on the celebration of the 10th SEEfest annual film festival with many local artists expressing in various forms the diversity and richness of California inspired by immigrant cultures of South East Europe, from melancholy Sephardic songs of southern Balkans to energetic brass bands and fiesty circle dances.
The entire Project will also serve as live, hands-on training grounds for students working under the tutelage of our partners conducting career technical education within LAUSD.
Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?
Challenge 1: maintaining an ambitious film program in a city that is “the most competitive screening environment in the world,” (Randy Haberkamp, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences).
Challenge 2: transition from a limited budget to a medium-budget organization.
Our response to challenge #1 lies in our expertise to create top notch programs in spite of the competition, and in long-standing ties with filmmakers. We are an artists’ haven, not charging any entry fees and fighting for the recognition of our artists long after the lights were turned off. Our strongest allies are artists in L.A. who are interested in more arts program rooted in SEE traditions, and who will be actively working on the Project to create exciting and successful programs.
Our response to challenge #2 comes from years of experience managing limited resources and delivering quality. We know the costs behind every program and the mechanics of producing live events. We are passionate about programs that will pay artists for their work, pay for student programs, and provide more venue options thanks to funding. Line items for such expenses already existed in our budgets and we tracked in-kind artistic, technical and other contributions in order to assess the real costs of projects we were interested in developing.
Knowing where we want to go and what it takes, financially and otherwise, to get there is what gives us confidence that we can successfully implement the Project.
Our strategy rests on expertise, ability to rally creative resources, sound management practices demonstrated over the past decade, and solid connections with our partners and cadre of supporters.
We will put in place a story-board type of map of our planned activities; organize the team of people who will work on the Project; recruit artists and begin to shape each program; work with students to teach them skills and create program opportunities to practice them. We will also contract with professionals for specific services, making sure whenever possible to give the opportunity to unemployed artists.
What resources does your project need?
- Money (financial capital)
- Volunteers/staff (human capital)
- Publicity/awareness (social capital)
- Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)
- Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)
- Community outreach