Monday, March 4, 2013

Interview with Leor Baum about short film Parallel Avenue, which focuses on Los Angeles

Parallel Avenue sets out to describe Los Angeles in all its complexities and diversities, through conceptions, opinions, past experiences of  5 female characters : -

Writer, director Leor Baum  puts to good use the stunning visual scenery that is an inborn part of Los Angeles for the backdrop of the film.

The film sets out to communicate innermost thoughts, feelings and emotions about Los Angeles, so that any film audience could relate to on any level with their own experience of the city.

This short film, screened and premiered as an Official Selection at the LA Shorts Fest 2012. 

The segment from the film 'Sarah' was a finalist in the On Location, Los Angeles Video Project 2012 -

Writer, director Leor Baum, sought out the ideal Los Angeles locations for the film, and filmed the stunning visual scenes that best encompassed the varied and always changing environment  otherwise known as Los Angeles, whilst keeping in mind the original voiceover monologues that had been written for each character.

However, whilst shooting the team allowed plenty of scope and leeway, and were always open to any changes to the original plan. Including improvisation and spur of the moment decisions and actions.

During post production, on reflection on the copious amounts of  film footage, many ideas came forward and the voiceovers were edited to suit the mood, scene, or desired filming effect.

Leor Baum, a writer, director, editor and producer is known for his diverse film projects, is based in Los Angeles.  Leor known initially for his outstanding thesis film Traces, which looks at PTSD, whilst studying at Cal State Northridge school of Cinema and Television Arts.  The film won acclaim at several film festivals.

Since then, Leor has produced numerous films and commercials, taking pride in scouting for locations. Some of Leor's more recent works includes that of Sevvy Hounds and The Gran' Scam of Things.

Michael Schindler, producer, changed from a corporate career, moving to Los Angeles to embrace his love of film, developing features such as 'Metamorphosis' starring Christopher Lambert. Together with Leor Baum, they co-founded Rooftop Mind in 2008.

Other members of Leor's film team include Sebastien Hameline, a Parisian cinematographer and photographer, who partners with Leor on film projects with a unique visual style in mind.   Sebastien's award winning work has broadcast on channels such as CNN, as well as film festivals.  As well as an award winning pianist and composer Ben Kass, a graduate from prestigious Universities with high honors including that of Julliard.  Parallel Avenue is the second partnership with Leor, the first being 'The Gran Scam of Things'.

Interview by Jasmina Nevada

-How did the idea come about for this short film? How did this develop over time from thought to- script- to -screen?

Parallel Avenue has been brewing for a while. I have been writing down thoughts about Los Angeles for years, always looking for a way to put them on the screen.

Then I started to focus on a woman who had been through it all, someone I could move through the city with. Over time, that one woman became five, each representing a different part of the city.

Once I found that balance, I wrote a series of monologues and we began casting. The actors we chose brought something unique and personal to the auditions that helped me finalize the dialogue we later shot.

- How did you decide on the film's title 'Parallel Avenue' ? Why did you choose this? Was there a certain impact you wished to create from the title?

We actually went through many titles before this one, but Parallel Avenue, became the clear choice as we were editing. In the film, we are watching parallel experiences that do not physically intersect.

There's always that urge to have all your characters meet, but in my experience,  in L.A it doesn't always work that way. Many of us live in our own bubble, in different neighborhoods that feel almost like separate worlds. Yet as the movie goes along, the city itself is always the common thread between them. Looking closely, this the reason why we worked 'LA' into the title film design. (see poster at the head of this article)

-On watching your film, I noted that you used voiceover dialogue, rather than direct spoken speech, what was the motive or reasoning behind that?

The idea was to create an internal narrative between each woman and the city. That's where the voice-over came from. It was a great production choice, because it gave us the freedom to shoot without location sound and improvise different emotions.

It also makes it feel more intimate and allows for the audience to focus their attention on the locations, which is something we always wanted to emphasize.

-What format did you shoot in and why? I noticed the effect was clean and sharp.....

We shot it in glorious HD on the Panasonic AF-100. Our cinematographer, Sebastien Hameline shot the film using Zeiss lenses in all natural light.

The camera brought out the city colors and textures really well. We really got into it, which is why we had so much B roll to use. The final film ended up running just under 12 minutes.

-How did you go about location scouting for this short? 

Being that I have lived in Los Angeles most my life, I already had a handful of places in mind to film. The challenge was finding enough ‘secret’ LA locations mixed with some of the places many of us know.

Sebastien (Sebastien Hameline -cinematographer) and I simply drove all around the city, taking pictures from Santa Monica to Boyle Heights.

That was how how Parallel Avenue progressed, from west to east.  We went after locations that were relevant to each character’s segment. You’ll see a little of everything but you’ll notice a lot of spots in the mid-Wilshire area which I tend to gravitate to. We found some of our favorites in downtown, which we saved for last.

-Why did you decide on 5 characters? Is there reasoning behind this?

Five women just became the right choice. The idea started with one voice but expanding it into five made it easier to structure and better express the many relationships we have with the city. Hopefully when watching Parallel Avenue, people will relate to at least one of these women at some point in their lives. Also it was nice to create these parallel experiences that never overlap, which is what LA feels like sometimes.

-What are your future plans for this film and why have you decided to take this route?

I’d love it for people to discover the film on the big screen first. We started with LA based screenings first, but now we’re submitting to other festivals that we like. At some point this year, we would like to release it online so everyone has a chance to see it and leave their own thoughts. We’re releasing videos on the film’s Vimeo channel (see top of article for link)

-What future projects do you have coming up in the pipeline?

Right now we’re finalizing a new documentary I helped produce called Happy Hands, featuring Tippi Hedren and directed by Honey Lauren. We’re excited to see where that goes.

I have also got a feature I have been developing that we also plan to produce locally through Rooftop Mind. It’s a thriller, based loosely on some of my own experiences growing up.

Check out more about documentary Happy Hands here -

More information and links -


*Thanks to Leor Baum for his time*

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