The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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Hollywood Shocker: Movie producer takes the bus to work!

We all know that movie producers are just as status conscious as any movie stars. They worry about what car they drive, what interior decorator does the remodel on their house and what restaurant they're seen in, not to mention what table they're seated at. I know one big-shot producer who'll only make a reservation at the Grill in Beverly Hills if he can get one of the eatery's prized booths. If all they have is a nondescript table in the vast wasteland in the middle of the restaurant, a table that could be landed by any BH matron coming in right off the street, he promptly has his office make a reservation elsewhere.  

I mention all this as a way of saying that when I finally put aside all of the Roman Polanski news and managed to catch up on my weekend reading, I came across a delightful piece in the Wall Street Journal about the hideous perils of using public transportation to go sightseeing in Los Angeles. It took Stan Sesser, who wrote the story, two hours and 37 minutes--longer than a Judd Apatow movie!--to get from the Getty Villa to Watts Towers, an odyssey that involved a Getty shuttle ride, two different bus trips and an excursion on the Blue Line light rail.

Sesser's story is chockful of cheerful testimonials from public transportation enthusiasts, even including one from former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. However, one person insisted on talking about his public transport experiences only on the condition of anonymity--a Hollywood film producer. Apparently, if word got out that he'd left his BMW at home, or god forbid, didn't have a car at all, his standing in the industry would be irrevocably damaged. Here's how Sesser described it:

"It's a preconceived idea that if you take the bus, you're a failure," the producer said. He ticked off things he likes about the bus. "I can read, I can get up to date on my IPhone, I can watch videos on my IPod. There's a lot that can be done with someone else driving." He warned me repeatedly not to reveal his name. "In the entertainment business, if they knew I took the bus, they'd never talk to me," he said, explaining that he hires a care and driver when going to a studio.

I know what you're thinking. Isn't Hollywood the home of environmental consciousness, where using public transport should be viewed as a wonderful example of reducing your conspicuous consumption and carbon footprint? Sadly, until TMZ captures Leonardo DiCaprio hopping on the 305 bus to West Hollywood, it looks like status consciousness trumps eco-consciousness every time.

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I was the writer referred to in the Wall Street Journal article by Stan Sesser who wrote a travel guide to Los Angeles by public transportation. They said it couldn't be done! They said you can't get around LA without a car. I think I have proven them wrong. The top 50 visitor attractions are absolutely conveniently and comfortably accessible by public transportation! LA needs to learn the lesson that is becoming apparent in many cities around the country, namely: There is NO stigma in using public transit to go to work or to see the sights. Increasingly, more and more professional people can be seen utilizing public transit. To them, as is apparent in your article, public transit affords more time to work on business or personal matters using portable electronics.

That it took the article writer 2 hrs. 37 minutes to go from the Getty Villa to the Watts Towers is the reason public transit doesn't work in Los Angeles as it currently exists, a point Michael Brein and transit advocates always overlook. Unlike older eastern cities, Los Angeles and all American communities that achieved big cityhood by the mid-20th Century expanded outward instead of upward because of the automobile and life in those cities developed accordingly. Unlike New York, for example, where most destinations can be reached by the subway, the destinations many Angelenos have to reach on a daily basis are spread widely over town, and often they do not have the luxury of 2 and a half hours to get to each, much less the problem of transporting items they can easily carry in their vehicles on buses and/or trains.

When I was working regularly in the post-production end of the industry, I had to use my car in practically every job I had, even those headquartered out of major studios, and usually had to get to and from wherever I was going as fast as possible. I understand that despite current technology, these types of trips are still necessary (as a prevention of piracy among other reasons) and the preferred travel times much shorter.

Rick Mitchell
Film Editor/ Film Historian

I'm just a lowly young screenwriter, but I've ridden my bike to several meetings with production companies and studios. Without fail, whenever I walk in with my bike helmet under my arm, I get favorable comments. Some of them want to know how I survive the crazy LA traffic (side streets and good peripheral vision), but other than that, most of them, at a minimum, get a kick out of it.

And I'm not ashamed to say it - that's my real name in the signature line.

I actually like to take the train, particularly to areas that would take me longer by car (like to Hollywood) It takes me 45 minutes to get from Pasadena to Sunset and Vermont. And I can read or knit and not have to worry about anything, except some crazy people...


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