Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hollywood in Yerevan

For a city surrounded on three sides by hills, the days linger for a surprisingly long time. It stays light until almost nine o'clock at night. On Thursday night, we went to the Artbridge Café for a Café Glasse (iced coffee with ice cream) and a bite to eat. There is a very vibrant contemporary art scene in Yerevan; Artbridge sells some excellent art for about a tenth the price of what it might go for in an Echo Park gallery. The café was sprinkled with Yerevan hipsters, students, and artists. I spotted a young Armenian woman who pulled off a surprising look, combining a sky-blue Britney Spears top hat with a Paris Hilton-style handbag-sized dog.

On the way back, we saw small crowds of people on each of the four street corners of our hotel's intersection. I saw two cars in the middle of the street and suspected a car accident, but we soon saw that the intersection was closed off for film proudction. The Yerevan Film Studios were shooting what looked like a music video. (This was only half a block from the Hollywood Casino.)

One of the top projects that we have explored for possible collaboration between Los Angeles and Yerevan is between the city's respective film industries. One member of our delegation is talking to the Armenian government about the possible establishment of an Armenian Film Commission. The U.S. Embassy is involved with a project to restore valuable but deteriorating film archives here in Yerevan, which was an important locus of filmmaking in the early days of the medium. And the Silver Lake Film Festival asked me to keep my eyes out for new Armenian films that might be shown at next year's festival. I'm seeking other contact points for film exchange, too. Perhaps AFI or some other entity could connect to the restoration project, and I'd like to see if equipment donations could be arranged between studios and post-production facilities in L.A. and their Armenian counterparts.