During filming, the cast and crew of “Echo Park” redefined the whole concept of commuting to work and shooting on location.
“I actually live in Echo Park, and so does Tony [Okungbowa]. We really just woke up every day and made the movie in our neighborhood. It was very cool; I couldn’t believe it actually. It was great because we had a really amazing crew,” director Amanda Marsalis explained when reached by phone for an interview.
The director added that so many people, including the gaffer and grip, are really talented professionals who are used to working on huge movies. She found it amazing the talent and resources that were ready and willing to work on this independent production.
“And they were willing to do our movie because they were like ‘Oh, it’s in LA? We get to sleep in our own beds? Sure! We’ll help you out,'” she said. “Instead of it being something like ‘Oh, you want me to go to Louisiana and you’re going to pay me nothing? No thanks!'”
Polaroid pictures and collaborative efforts
Premiering in the La Muse section of the Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF), “Echo Park” tells the sweet, gentle story of two people whose romantic orbits intersect for a brief time in this LA neighborhood. Alex, played by Okungbowa, is selling his home before moving overseas. Sophie (Mamie Gummer), a Beverly Hills woman looking for a change, falls for both the house and its owner.
Marsalis explained that Catalina Aguilar wrote the story based on Okungbowa’s experiences. Once she got the script, the director added some details from her own life.
“You know how directors are, they put their stamp on everything,” Okungbowa said after joining the call. “We were looking for someone with a creative eye, but also someone who understood Echo Park. It’s ironic that when we met, Amanda comes from Echo Park, so she gets it.”
In many ways, Polaroid film also gets a starring role in this independent project. Elias (Ricky Rico), son of Alex’s best friend, receives a gift of classic camera, one made long before digital technology changed everything. EIias captures some beautiful, slice-of-life shots which become part of a small gallery showing.
“The Impossible Project makes that film. They are sort of this company that has taken that on. They donated a bunch of the Polaroids to me,” Marsalis said.
Okungbowa added that the director’s choice of Polaroid subliminally marries the old and the new in the story: “Just like Echo Park changing from the old to the new. That scene kind of happened subconsciously through the film. There’s this kid telling [Sophie] about Instagram and taking pictures on his phone. And she’s like ‘This is a camera, this is film. This is how it was.’ That was another aspect that when we saw it, it worked. It really worked.”
A DJ himself, Okungbowa also points out that even in the age of digital music, vinyl is still popular: “We have parties where it’s vinyl only. Young people are doing it. There’s an appreciation for old stuff, which I hope people will recognize in the choice regarding the Polaroid.”
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