Indie Project West evolves into prod’n

The Independent Feature Project/West has established Project: Involve Prods. and will produce its first short fiction film during the summer of 1994.

“It’s a rather remarkable and unexpected development,” said Project: Involve coordinator Shainee Gabel of its proposed production. “It is the natural next step for the program. But because the IFP was never intended to be a studio, in order to actually make a film we had to overcome a lot of board and member resistance.”

The film, described as a “pastiche” of vignettes about working women in L.A., is being written by Michelle Blackwell. She and 16 other young women are part of a mentor program that the IFP/W initiated in October.

The year-old Project: Involve began as an outreach program by the organization. The concept was to develop programs that would reach into communities that were underrepresented in the film world and to young people who would not normally have direct exposure to filmmakers and the filmmaking process.

It began with film screenings attended by directors, writers and craftspeople. A grant from the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs department allowed it to expand into workshops and seminars. More than two dozen events involving some 1,000 participants have taken place since its inception.

Gabel said that IFP/W had for many years wanted to establish a formal mentoring process and that this program allowed it to happen quite naturally. Project: Involve was successful in getting the L.A.-based Irvine Foundation to make its first media arts grant. The community-based philanthropic org provided the seed money and made it conditional that candidates, in addition to reflecting “cultural diversity,” be women.

The young women selected — aged 18 to 23 years — also reflect a diversity of interests ranging from animation to production design and editing and direction. Roughly 50 people agreed to serve as professional mentors, including Oscar-nominated writer Naomi Foner and Tyger Williams, who are advising Blackwell on her script.

Producer Laurie Parker has agreed to take on one of the Project: Involve members as an assistant on her production of “Rough Magic.” Director Tamra Davis has both Marcy Gomez and Emily Castillo of the program working on her musicvideo productions and editor Curtiss Clayton is mentoring Rachael Fielding, who’s working with him on “The Glass Shield” feature.

The response from the film community has exceeded early projections, said Gabel. She added that the first effort is now up and running and “operating mostly on its own steam.” Still, organizers are busy beating the bushes for additional funding and services to bring it to completion with the production of the film.

“What began as a part-time program is rapidly growing into a full-time operation,” conceded Gabel. “We’d love to be able to do it again. Obviously there’s a need and desire in this area and our first brush, while very encouraging, also shows us that there’s a lot more to be done.”

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