By Seth Combs
Photos by Brevin Blach(Published in the July 2010 issue)
People like to brag that they knew about it first. It’s human nature. Whether it’s a song, a fashion designer or a book discovered way before Oprah loved it, we’re all guilty of one-upmanship at some point.
Covering eight facets of San Diego culture-from film and fashion, theater and television to nightlife and books-here are the people, places and things that’ll be all the buzz soon enough. So when the time comes, you can go ahead and brag that you heard it here first.
On a recent weekday night, an AMC Mission Valley theatre was packed-the audience had come to see the recently completed short film, This is Charlotte King, about an overzealous San Diego meteorologist. Featuring gorgeous cinematography from all over San Diego County, the six-minute clip’s title character inspires those around her by simply doing what she does best: Obsessing over the weather-a thing which, in San Diego, seems rather arbitrary.
Local arts collective Sezio and Downtown design firm Holiday Matinee collaborated on the project. They wrote the script and had funding; all they needed was a visionary director.
Enter Jeffrey Durkin, the man behind Breadtruck Films. In just a little over two years, Breadtruck has produced four short films that have garnered multiple awards at film fests as far away as Melbourne, Australia, and Seoul, South Korea. One of Durkin’s latest creations, Mixed Message, which tells the story of a graphic designer with a bad case of ADHD and a fear of the advertising world, won the grand jury prize at last year’s San Diego Film Festival. Having worked as an architect for seven years, Durkin says San Diego itself plays just as an important role in his films as do the actors.
“That’s been a unique launching point for us when it comes to filmmaking,” he says. “It makes us different. To bring in location as an actual character and not just a backdrop.”
With a staff of four, including what Durkin describes as “one very helpful intern,” Breadtruck is wrapping up their new documentary, Working Class, about artists Mike Giant and Mike Maxwell. They’re also working on a follow-up to what was probably their most acclaimed film, Design + Build + Sustain, about San Diego architect Jonathan Segal.
“We want to build up the business side and sell it, and then put all our money into feature films. That’s the 25-year plan,” Durkins says. He laughs then adds, “We’re gonna start small. We’ll work our way up to Avatar." breadtruckfilms.com
When they first became roommates while attending SDSU in 2006, Dusty Duprel and Andrew Shelley didn’t have much in common. But when Shelley, a wheelchair-bound 29 year-old suffering from muscular dystrophy, told his life story to Duprel, a farm boy-turned film-student, Duprel knew the story had to be told.
The result was Duprel’s first documentary, Beyond the Chair, which follows Shelley on a worldwide quest (from New Zealand to Thailand and beyond) to discover happiness and identity. The trek was not an easy one, but with the help of his all-terrain wheelchair, some friendly locals and the film crew, Shelley manages to fish in Cambodia and wander around the Taj Mahal, amongst other adventures. See clips of the film, which is currently in post-production at btcmovie.com.
If we’re to believe the words of French writer Françoise Sagan, that a dress “makes no sense unless it inspires men to want to take it off,” then Francisco Medavog might be the next king of couture fashion. That said, while his designs can sometimes border on the bizarre and surreal, Medavog says that if a woman has the right attitude, his designs will only accentuate her beauty.
“I only do couture pieces,” says Medavog, whose admirers include Paris Hilton and famous designer Zandra Rhodes. “They’re one of a kind-no one will look the same way in that dress. Everyone is different so I have to design every single one differently.”
It’s Medavog’s attention to detail, not to mention his ubiquitous presence at fashion-related events, that has made him a bit of a local celebrity. He is also extremely outspoken, openly criticizing other designers, including local Project Runway alum Jesus Estrada.
This boldness is also visible in Medavog’s clothing. His Spring/Summer collections included everything from space-age frocks rooted in ‘60s swinging London to bikinis covered with his custom-made lace. Need further proof? His Fall/Winter collection is called “Erte in the 21st Century.” Inspired by the French artist and designer, Erte, it will feature flowing gowns with capes and opera coats.
“It would be nice to find someone who believes in me and would like to invest in my line to make it a big sensation,” Medavog says.
Gowns with capes? Something tells us it’s only a matter of time before somebody notices. medavog.com
Accessorizing with large chunks of bulbous metal can be tricky, if not wholly ballsy, but Brazilian jewelry designer Anjela Piccard isn’t so much interested in what you’ll be wearing all the time, but rather what you’ll be wearing when you really want to get noticed. Some of her most noticeable pieces, for example, resemble futuristic dog tags, something like what Daryl Hannah might have worn in the Sci-Fi movie Blade Runner.
Piccard describes her wares as “a celebration of beauty and intimate interaction.” For now, she is showing some of her work in boutiques including Chic Little Devil Styling House, in Los Angeles. In August, she plans to open her own boutique in Hillcrest, and until then, you can customize your own piece at anjelaanders.com.
If you’ve opened up a People magazine lately, you may have noticed a spiffy, sailor-themed swimsuit. What you probably didn’t realize is that the suit was designed by none other than local seamstress Barrie Kaufman. It didn’t take long before women were desperatelytrying to track down the suit online, but now locals have a leg up on the rest of the world-Kaufman’s recently opened a boutique in Hillcrest called Fables by Barrie, which sports not only pin-up-inspired swimwear, but also dresses and accessories. Paging Betty Page fans.
The Dancing Queen
Watching Lizeth Santos-Roberts on stage, it’s hard to believe she’s performed in front of an audience only 10 times so far. Impeccably poised in front of her small drum kit, she remains standing while singing and drumming, relying on nothing but pre-programmed music samples as a backup band. Despite the lack of visible action during her performances, however, the energy of her music invariably makes audience members jump on stage and shake what their mamas gave them.
“The overall reception has been really wonderful,” says Santos-Roberts, “the best anyone could ever want.”
Performing under the name Smile Now Cry Later, Santos-Roberts’ plays infectious tunes inspired by ‘80s-era Top 40 and Latin stars like Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, Sheila E. and Selena. She says she has always wanted to blend these styles into something unique to her personal experiences.
“Something very Southern California and Mexican-American-inspired,” she says. “This is not sad music. It’s dance music.”
Though she began playing behind a cocktail drum kit (pictured) only about a year ago, Santos-Roberts has already gotten a big break: one of her songs-a Gwen Stefani meets Charo jam, “Just Wanna"-was featured in a MAC cosmetics ad. The response on YouTube was instantaneous, with the comments section abuzz not about the waify models and their makeup, but rather about where viewers could download that song. More recently, a live clip of her performing the song, “Big Booty Butt,” was featured on the Maxim-esque men’s website, Heavy.com-right next to the new Christina Aguilera video. Since then, she’s made more recordings in hopes of releasing an album by the end of the year.
Looking out into the faces at her shows, Santos-Roberts says she can tell that people like what they are hearing.
“It’s pretty amazing that crowds are showing up and people know the songs by heart,” she says. “People are singing my songs and I’m just thinking, ‘this is crazy!’" myspace.com/smilenowcrylaterband
Smile Now Cry Later isn’t the only musical act poised to break out this year. Paramore fans should take note of The Material, a quintet whose contagious pop-punk has scored them almost 40,000 fans on MySpace.
Acoustic troubadour Mike Pinto seems likely to have picked up a whole new set of followers during his current nationwide tour. He’s been selling out local venues for years, and his mix of Jason Mraz-style ballads and Sublime-influenced acoustic reggae seems tailor-made for the bigger beach venues.
Even after surviving a horrific van accident on their last tour, A City Serene is taking their youthful brand of metal and pop on the road this summer. They’ve already been featured in Alternative Press magazine and have scored a clothing deal with local skateboard apparel company, Innes. Expect the band’s own shirts to be a mall staple any day now.
While any band can make a music video and throw it up on YouTube these days, most can’t claim their videos are artsy. UCSD alum Christin Turner defies this trend, making clips that conjure up the days when videos were both aurally and visually stimulating. So far, Turner has directed clips for local buzz bands including the Dum Dum Girls (pictured) and Crocodiles, and has had to travel north to tape shorts for bands like Tamaryn and Height of ’63. Seemingly inspired (in equal parts) by French cinema and stop-motion photography, she has a distinct and engaging style that seems bound to be emulated.
The Leading Men
For years, the old 6th & Penn Theatre in Hillcrest was bleeding money. It was not-so-endearingly referred to as a “firetrap,” but that kind of thing never stopped Claudio Raygoza (above, left) and Glenn Paris (right) before. Since 2006, they’ve been working together as the Ion Theatre Company, building San Diego theatres starting with the New World Stage in East Village and The LAB in Mission Valley. Though initially successful in both venues, the duo eventually had to vacate due to issues with the property owners.
Then, in December, they took over the old 6th & Penn space, reinventing at as BLK BOX Theatre.
“Everything has been upgraded,” says Raygoza. “Most people that have walked in are so blown away. They can’t even believe that it’s the same place.”
Since BLK BOX’s opening in February, Raygoza and Paris have already put on five productions and recently extended their latest, Frankie & Johnny in the Claire de Lune. With decades of experience between them, these two theatre buffs have built a reputation for staging avant-garde pieces and bringing big names to San Diego, including Neil LaBute (a famous playwright and the man behind feature films like In The Company of Men and the recently released Chris Rock comedy, Death at A Funeral) and Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Gina Gionfriddo.
Raygoza and Paris recently launched Ion After Dark, a series of late-night theater productions on Friday and Saturday evenings. Finally have a space all to themselves, they’ve found a new sense of security, which now drives them to get back into writing and directing.
“One of my favorite accomplishments was that we were able to found a theatre company in San Diego, and that we’re going on our sixth year,” says Raygoza. “We’re about to launch our 30th production. That’s a big milestone for us, and we want to provide San Diego with something that no one else is doing-bringing in new talent, new writers. Whether most people know it or not, this is a theatre town." iontheatre.com
Launched five years ago five years ago by San Diego theater vets Carla Nell and Kym Pappas, InnerMission Productions has staged edgy and provocative plays in almost every small theater in town, including Queen Bee’s, Diversionary Theatre and 6th & Penn to name a few. The fact that they’re rarely in the same place twice means that they’re free to stage controversial subject matter.
“Our goal is to bring new pieces of theatre to San Diego that the other theaters won’t do or haven’t done,” says Nell. “And whatever work we do, we tie it into the community, doing fundraisers and addressing social issues.” Take their latest production, Dog Sees God (left), for example, where the characters from the Peanuts cartoon strip have grown up to become high-school stoners, nerds and goths. Ever seen Charlie Brown question his sexuality? Now you can.
Works Hard, Play Hard
For years, the La Jolla Playhouse has been an incubator for Broadway. Tommy, Jersey Boys and Thoroughly Modern Millie all got their start there, and let’s not forget 2008’s Memphis, which just won five Tony Awards year, including “Best Musical.” And this season looks no different-highlights include the September premiere of Limelight, a new musical based on the life of Charlie Chaplin, as well as the west coast premiere of Notes From Underground, adapted from the Fyodor Dostoevky novel by veteran theater men Bill Camp and Robert Woodruff. Beginning in February 2011, they’ll be staging a musical adaptation of the hit 2006 indie film Little Miss Sunshine.