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

I Love San Pedro, But…

If you’re anything like me, you probably share the same love/hate relationship that I have with this peculiar little port town of ours. I know, “hate” is a strong word, but using an antonym other than hate would sound ridiculous, so just go with me here.

Being that this month includes the much-lauded day for St. Valentine, the topic of love and how it pertains to San Pedro is a tricky subject to maneuver. Rarely does a day go by when I don’t hear from a family member, friend or acquaintance, the phrase, “I love San Pedro, but…” The “but” is usually followed by some issue that’s currently plaguing our town that hasn’t been dealt with yet, if ever.

Most of you know what I’m what I’m referring to. “I love San Pedro, but I’m getting really sick of the gang/graffiti problem.” “I love San Pedro, but people drive like [plural expletive] here.” “I love San Pedro, but they really need to do something with [insert Ports O’ Call, Paseo del Mar, downtown San Pedro, potholes, Rancho San Pedro Housing Project, all the sober living homes, traffic on Western, etc.].” You get the picture.

San Pedrans love to love San Pedro and we wear that love like a badge of honor, and usually on our clothing. It’s funny, actually. We are the first people to profess our love for this town, yet we’re also the first people to rip it apart when something is bugging us about it. But if we ever hear someone from out of town criticize San Pedro, we jump in and defend it like it’s one of our children. Or a drunken uncle. Either scenario works.

One of the universal loves of this town, though, is our love for our local family-owned restaurants. And lucky for us, there are plenty to choose from. If you haven’t already noticed who’s on our cover this month, we’re featuring a member of one of this town’s legendary culinary families, Dustin Trani.

Trani first appeared on the cover of the August 2003 issue of the original San Pedro Magazine, along with all the Jims – brother Jim, father Jim and grandfather Jim. That story focused on their family legacy, starting with Trani’s great grandfather Filippo and the beginnings of the Trani family business in 1925. This issue, we look forward, rather than backward, and focus on Trani’s career as he splits time between J. Trani’s Ristorante on 9th St. and his new gig at Doma in Beverly Hills.

Trani’s story is nothing short of incredible. At six-years-old, he’s prepping parsley, by 11 he’s working banquets, by 18 he’s working with Contessa Premium Foods and traveling around the world with CEO John Blazevich. At 22, he’s training at the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. And now, at the ripe old age of 28, he’s working double time as the executive chef at both J. Trani’s and Doma. When people ask who are the future leaders of San Pedro, as one columnist does this month, Dustin Trani is certainly on that list. I hope you enjoy his story as much as I did writing it.

Four Years and Counting…
This issue marks the magazine’s four-year anniversary. I would say that it sounds like a short time, and in reality it is, but having a deadline every month the past four years (eight if you count my tenure with the original San Pedro Magazine) sure does make it feel like quite the long haul.

While I’m incredibly proud with how this magazine has operated and been received in our community, there is still plenty of room for improvement. We’re currently working on a few behind-the-scenes projects that we’ll be debuting as the year progresses that I’m incredibly excited about. As San Pedro continues its path towards redevelopment, so to will this publication.

Finally, we’re also hard at work on a very special edition of San Pedro Today celebrating our town’s 125th anniversary. We were originally shooting to publish it next month to coincide with the town’s actual “birthday” on March 1, but we’ve decided to push it to the summer in time for all the celebratory 125th anniversary events various organizations have planned. It just seemed like a better fit.

Thanks to all our readers, advertisers, Facebook fans and Twitter followers for continuing to shower us with support. Here’s to another four years and beyond.

Until next month…

Little Mermaid Lands At South Shores

Dual Prince Erics and Ariels: (l to right) Andres Srsen, Lourdes Zapata, Cristina Roche, Sean Rosenfeld (photo by Joshua Stecker)

The bell rings at South Shores Elementary and dozens of drama students get into position in the school auditorium. With only a few days of rehearsal time left before winter break, it may as well be showtime. Musical Director Dr. Paul Goldenstrikes a chord on the piano and students stage left and right sway as they carry long stretches of blue fabric to set the underwater scene for this year’s musical: The Little Mermaid.

In a little over a month, the 200 fourth- and fifth-graders will perform sold-out shows at California State University Dominguez Hills, a tradition of the performing arts magnet elementary school for more than 30 years.

“We make it work every year, everyone’s very passionate about this,” says co-director Carolina Brown, who has led the school’s highly regarded and acclaimed theatrical productions for the past 21 years. “This is the hardest play I’ve blocked or directed. Every play has its challenges and the kids come up with solutions sometimes.”

This year’s musical is the school’s biggest production yet. It’s also the first time the production will be put on in the winter (thanks to the shortened school year).

Whether playing a leading role or a tentacle, acting in a sketch between scenes, singing in the chorus, dancing, or working behind the scenes, all fourth and fifth graders have a part in the production, which has two rotating casts.

“The kids come prepared and a lot has to do with the culture of the school. They’re used to working together toward a common goal,” says co-director Jana Shaver, watching fifth-graders Oliver Stewart and Cristina Roche act out an impassioned father-daughter argument between Ariel and King Triton. “The children are really willing to learn and to take risks because we create a safe environment for them.”

Marie Vidusic spent weeks teaching dozens of dancers original choreography, which they perform with liveliness in synchronization. “I love Broadway and I want it to be as realistic as possible,” she says.

When the whole production comes together, you’d think you were watching a high school performance. Students at South Shores begin their arts training early, and it shows. Their professionalism, talent and confidence are remarkable. spt

South Shores Magnet School for the Visual and Performing Arts’ production of the Little Mermaid will take place January 23 and 24 at the California State University Dominguez Hills University Theatre. For ticket info, call (310) 832-6596.