TURN LEFT ON SAWTELLE directed by Michael Albert
Why I made Turn Left on Sawtelle(prefatory remarks from the NuArt screening)
Welcome everyone to the one and only official screening of Turn Left on Sawtelle. Before we begin, I’d would just like to kindly ask that no one write about the film or take photos, as this is a private event. I originally made the film for a small number of friends, and as the film neared completion, family members and friends urged for a screening, ideally at the NuArt. It is thanks to their support that this screening is taking place.
Why did I shoot a film about Alias? Because it had to be done. Alias was a very special store and played a profound role in my education. Whenever I’d visit Alias, I’d always make a new friend, meet hyper-literate idiosyncratic people, often self-taught, and have amazing conversations that contributed to my all around growth. I’d write extensively in my journal about my conversations and interactions, and the overall atmosphere of the store. But if I really wanted to capture the experience, and be able to tap into it in the future, then I needed to film it. All the music that I play, and every scene in the film are from personal experience. In the film, I re-created a night and day where I would hang out at Alias and the Sawtelle area.
The second motivation was that I knew that Alias was not just a bookstore. It was, at least how I experienced it, something that I don’t think yet exists. The cluster of bookstores, record stories, art galleries, and other venues on the street intrigued me. There was a physical location that I knew I could go to at any time of day and be guaranteed an excellent intellectual conversation, on everything from obscure literary works to self-reflection. All I had to do was “Turn Left on Sawtelle.” I shot the film, paying special attention to the physical spaces, as I hope to use what I captured as a springboard for a future vision of creating a physical space where people who love to learn – especially people whose learning is personal to them -- can meet up for conversations. It is in this sense, through the interviews that I collected, that I see the film as a container of possibilities, of interesting comments and ideas that I incorporate in this future physical space.
Since I tap into the film for its intellectual vibrancy and atmosphere, and as I use my experiences with Alias as a basic blueprint for a new concept that I will modify, I don’t consider the film to be a documentary, at not least not in intention. But there are many interviews in the film, and it can definitely be viewed as one.
I met all of my collaborators, individually, at Alias over a six-month period. I knew a film had to be made about Alias, so I brought everyone together and we started shooting two weeks before Alias closed. We all worked for free. My friends borrowed equipment from friends in Hollywood. Mike would drive from downtown and deal with the traffic and on top of that, Sawtelle traffic. Aaron worked very long hours with us with audio. And Adam worked with me for six months editing the film in a long-outdated version of final cut pro. While attending a screening in this theatre over the summer, someone asked a director about the documentary he made. He said that with the ever-decreasing cost of technology, the barrier to making a film is at zero. Anyone can do it. You just have to be “tenacious.” This is a zero budget film that we all made because of our love for Alias, and because through it all, it was a lot of fun.
At Alias’s closing party, Brian asked why I didn’t speak. I replied, “my film will speak for me.” This was my experience with Alias, and we all have had different experiences. After the film, instead of some formal Q+A, we’ll share our experiences.