Projector on a Whiteboard Stopped at a Red Light
by Julissa Padilla
On a warm and breezy day, you can hear cars honking, bright lights filling the air, advertisements as far as the eye can see, fruits in backyards, horses galloping, chickens walking on unpaved sidewalks. Uh, are we talking about the same world? Yes we are and you can find all of these and more eccentricities only in the San Fernando Valley. Founded as a land for grazing cows and harvesting fruit, the founders would have never imagined that it would soon become one of the epicenters for cinema history.
Growing up in what is affectionately known as “The Valley,” I never knew what to expect and how it would mold me to the person I became. Whether it was chickens alongside me on my way to school or people partying until 2am, these events had formed my perspective on life. When I was in college, I wanted to be an animator or something to do with drawing. I realized that I had to expand my horizon and learn as much as I can just to adapt to whatever life threw at me. I landed a film archive internship and knew my calling had to do with something in history. After graduating college, I found a job as a Data Librarian; archiving and categorizing film assets.
I decided to continue my passion of filmmaking and history but I felt I had to do something with this passion. One day I was driving and stopped at a red light. I started just staring at the neighborhood waiting for the light to change then my eyes became fixated on the street name. I then started getting curious about the name of the sign and thought “hmm I wonder if someone has written a story about the name.”
I discovered there wasn’t and I thought I should create something and teach not only myself but others about hidden stories about Hollywood. This is how I started making short videos about local history. I plan to keep creating videos of not only Hollywood but furthering this exploration with the San Fernando Valley and other parts to discover those parts of this country that people don’t know about. I hope to bring my video to more people so others can enjoy and cherish hidden history.
Just think of it. Sitting in a darkened room with the only light source being the projector on a whiteboard. There I was watching in awe the moving images on the screen. I remember when I first watched the comedy of Charlie Chaplin, I knew these movies had somehow changed my life. I was 11 years old when I first watched my first silent movie. I was taking a class called Film Workshop taught by a guy with a British accent named Paul Fischer. At first I thought it was a class to make films but in a way, I gained something much more valuable to my future. I had grown up with violent films shown on TV; disillusioned with what was considered entertainment and realizing that there were no notable personalities on the screen.
Ever since I saw the first image of Chaplin, I knew I discovered something new; something exciting. The next couple of movies that were shown were comedies. Because I was so fascinated by these kinds of classic films, I remembered the actors’ names which would make me want to learn more and explore films outside of the classroom. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley on Pico St, I wasn’t accustomed to seeing these classic films. The only person I remember hearing about that was older than my parents was Vicente Fernandez.
My parents protected me from the dangers of the world and always showered me with love. They taught me the value of hard work and to always be humble which influenced me on how I work on my projects and everything in life.
This class gave me the introduction to history I never knew I needed. I went through school wanting to learn as much history as I can. I even wondered who in the world Pico was after looking at the street sign every day on my way to school. I was able to connect to many of my teachers. I would bring up my discoveries on certain individuals and events in pop culture; just wanting to pick their brains and feed off their stories.
I would notice that growing up in the Valley there were a lot of hidden gems that people may have never even noticed. I remember when one of my English high school teachers told me that he heard a rumor that The Beach Boys had performed at my high school. I decided to investigate and use my school’s library and there in one of the oldest yearbooks I see the boys’ earliest photos. This inspired me to always be looking and learning more about what was around me. The most fascinating stories are the most obscure. Every step we walk is a piece of history waiting to be discovered.
I went through college soaking up as much as I can from my surroundings including taking film history and writing classes. What I loved about Woodbury University is that I remained in the San Fernando Valley. This gave me a unique point of view because I felt even though people know the Valley exists, it is kind of obscure, just like my school. It helped me connect with everyone on a more personal and genuine level. People pass by it but no one knows it’s there. I graduated school wanting to find a job and creating videos on the surrounding history around me.
Thinking back to that day when I was driving, stopped at that red light and looking at the neighborhood, I realize now was a breakthrough moment. I read the street sign and I started pondering that same question my five year old self once pondered; I wonder why this street is named Buena Vista? Early on I learned that the Walt Disney Studios is on Buena Vista St and that when their distribution partnership with a film studio called RKO ended, Disney decided to make their own distribution company and named it after the street. This gave me a different purpose that led me down an interesting rabbit hole.
I deeply enjoy exploring the world around me, telling a story about it and introducing people to the film personalities that grabbed my imagination. I started out with Hollywood because I knew I can easily tie my love of film history to this video series. I know with my future videos and career I am eventually going back to my roots and explaining not only to the world but to that little girl who Pico is.
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