Our Creative Corridor to a Stronger Economy

Last spring, on a local campaign stop, Mayor Eric Garcetti was asked for ideas on boosting San Pedro’s economy. He cited the usual harbor-related stuff you’d expect, but then he added another point that pleasantly surprised me; make San Pedro one of the creative corridors that exist in Los Angeles.

It shouldn’t have surprised me. According to the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Business Policy – “The creative industries are a major player in the regional economy, generating more than 640,000 jobs and over $200 billion in annual sales revenue.” Being creative is big business in L.A. and San Pedro has many of the necessary elements to be poised for making good on the mayor’s idea.

Much of the talent is already here. As a local filmmaker, I’ve personally collaborated on numerous projects with San Pedrans. As a matter of fact, I’m even developing a TV idea with San Pedro Today’s own Joshua Stecker (how many of you knew Joshua freelances for entertainment publications such as The Hollywood Reporter?) Our partner, Matt Misetich, manages Script Pipeline, a company that discovers and connects writers from all over the nation with Hollywood’s top producers and managers.

My greatest local collaboration to date was with San Pedran, Chris Burke, and his partner, Jared Cotton, on Bloody Thursday, a PBS documentary film that chronicles how West Coast longshoremen fought to win the ILWU. The film garnered us an Emmy, which has allowed us to go on and do numerous other projects.

It’s probably apropos that my first meeting with Chris was at San Pedro Brewing Co. because he and Jared just premiered a show called Brew Dogs for the new Esquire Network about a pair of hilarious Scottish brewers that travel America in search of great craft beer. And SPBC is at the center of numerous scenes in my documentary, A City Divided, about the USC vs. UCLA football rivalry, which premieres on Fox Sports in November. (And btw, Misetich has an office above SPBC, which seems to be fast becoming the center of the creative universe).

A great thrill in making Bloody Thursday was having a song in the film performed by Mike Watt. Ask almost any alt-rocker about San Pedro and they’ll tell you that it’s Watt’s hometown. Watt, the bassist in Iggy and the Stooges, was in the Minutemen, a seminal punk band at the forefront of a rock revolution that allowed musicians to control their own career fate with a do it yourself (DIY) ethos, which exists to this day. In fact, San Pedro’s Recess Records, headed by Todd Congelliere, has for over 15 years kept our town on the punk map with its DIY approach to promoting music.

However, punk isn’t the only form of music that’s emerged from San Pedro. For example, 2003 SPHS grads proudly watched the Grammys last February as one of their classmates took home a trophy. San Pedro’s Miguel Pimental won a Grammy for Best R&B Song, “Adorn,” and electrified the audience when he performed the song in a live duet with Wiz Khalifa.

In addition to all of the great talent that’s already here, I’m also heartened by the numerous opportunities that exist for local youth to help build our creative corridor. Marymount is constructing a state of the art production facility on 6th Street that will attract film students from all over the world. The Boys & Girls Club features an amazing studio that allows its members to record music, shoot short films, and create animation and 3D projects. San Pedro City Ballet nurtures the talents of young dancers and includes prima ballerina Misty Copeland as an alumna. And the Warner Grand Theatre is home to youth theatre company Scalawag Productions and Encore Entertainers.

We often discuss linkage between our downtown and the waterfront as a key factor in a sustainable economic future for San Pedro. I would propose that we also begin to include linkage between our local talent, youth and the creative industries of Los Angeles as a key strategy in developing San Pedro into one of the prosperous creative corridors that make L.A. the entertainment capital of the world. spt

Shooting For A Cause

James Brown and Jack Baric in UCLA Bruin gear.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ve got a Bruin jersey on. Blah, blah, blah…

It’s bad enough that UCLA broke USC’s streak of five wins in a row and twelve out of thirteen in the annual football game, but here I am in my hometown magazine being forced to wear the uniform of the enemy of my alma mater. But the reason I’m wearing the jersey shows that we’re really not enemies, just friendly rivals that share a city together.

For the past two years, I have worked on A City Divided, a documentary film about the history of the USC vs. UCLA football rivalry. The film has served as the catalyst for Rivals United for a Kure, a philanthropic campaign by the non-profit, Kure It to raise funds for innovative cancer research projects at the UCLA and USC medical centers.

The culmination of the campaign was a spectacular red carpet premiere of the film at Club Nokia at L.A. Live where Rivals United hosted a charity dinner and screening of A City Divided. Scores of my San Pedro friends and family attended the event, which made it so much more special for me. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to James Brown of the San Pedro Brewing Company for organizing a party bus with dozens of San Pedrans sipping on Bruin Blonde and Trojan Red beers for the ride to L.A. Live.

Maybe part of that debt is paid back in James getting to see me wear the Bruin blue of his alma mater in the magazine. James and I made a friendly wager where the loser in a Rivals United fundraising competition between the two of us would have to take a picture in the other team’s jersey.

A cool side note is that I’m wearing the UCLA jersey of San Pedro High grad, Robbie Franco. Robbie was the L.A. City defensive player of the year while a Pirate and a Bruins walk-on before injuries ended his career. (Okay, not that cool a side note. It’s still a Bruins jersey.)

I’m incredibly proud of the film and the campaign, which to date has raised over $250,000 for cancer research. Rivals United will conclude the campaign in December and you can still go to www.rivalsunitedforakure.org to contribute. Next football season, we will again run the charity campaign, with the culmination being the film’s television broadcast and the DVD release.

The same week that A City Divided had its premiere, another amazing moment occurred that was connected to a film of mine.

Searching for a Storm is a documentary I made in 2009 that detailed the 1991-95 war in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina and the war crimes case of Croatian general, Ante Gotovina. Gotovina is a hero to Croatians for leading the military operation that liberated their nation at the end of the war. However, Gotovina was later indicted as a war criminal for crimes that were alleged during that same operation.

I set out to make a film that chronicled the war and the story of General Gotovina because I felt his indictment was a grave injustice, motivated by political considerations. In 2011, I, as well as many Croatians around the world, was heartbroken when the international war crimes tribunal found General Gotovina guilty and sentenced him to 24 years in prison.

However, on the very same week that A City Divided premiered in Los Angeles, across the globe at The Hague in the Netherlands, a war crimes tribunal overturned General Gotovina’s verdict on appeal, declaring Gotovina was not guilty, and set him free the very same day. The local party here at the Croatian Club in San Pedro was as emotionally an uplifting celebration as I have ever experienced. Everyone felt such great joy that a man who had sacrificed so much in the defense of his nation was able to finally go home.

It was an amazing ending to a great and proud week for me. I am so thankful that I’m able to make films for causes that I believe in. On that note, the next project I am shooting will honor all the various workers on our waterfront, from longshoremen to fishermen, to marine research divers, and more. American Waterfront, made in partnership with PBS SoCal, will showcase the importance of the port to the nation’s economy and how vital it is for our community to keep the great middle-class jobs that are available on the waterfront. Look for the film on PBS around Labor Day 2013. spt

Jack can be reached at jackbaric@hotmail.com