Classes create documentary exploring rising housing prices


BP photo by Katia Surpin

TRAILER: Classes worked inside a Mobile Film Classroom truck to research the Los Angeles housing crisis and later to edit the documentary, which debuts next fall .

By Ma'ayan Waldman, Community Editor

Wonder what the purple, decorated truck that sat in the Shalhevet parking lot three times a week for about an hour was all about?

Ms. Crincoli’s upperclassmen film class, with the help of Mr. Reusch’s three sections of Government and Economics, was working on a documentary about rising housing prices in Los Angeles and what that means for the city.  The truck belonged to Mobile Film Classroom, or MFC, a media arts program led by industry professionals that brings film education to schools.

A trailer for the documentary, titled Lost Angeles, a City without a Home, was finished this week and posted on the Student Activities page on Schoology.  The rest of the film is expected out in next fall.

“It’s really fun to feel like an editor,” said junior Nicole Soussana, who is taking film this year.

Inside the truck, computers line the walls on both sides, and a recording booth is walled off at the back.  Cushioned work stools provide seating for everyone in the class.

“I didn’t realize we would be working in this professional truck, and it’s really cool that this is actually going to come out in September,” Nicole said.

The documentary explores the Los Angeles housing crisis through interviews with landlords, tenants and real estate agents as well as random citizens.

The primary interviewee is J.P. Laven, a writer and friend of Ms. Crincoli. Mr. Laven was evicted by his landlord from his apartment, but consulted a lawyer who told him it was an illegal eviction.

He was ultimately able to continue living in that apartment, but the process prompted him to think about the housing issues and even to research laws such as the Ellis Act, which became an important subject in the documentary.

The Ellis Act is a law that allows landlords to potentially evict tenants for the sake of “moving out of business,” a concept that the film goes to some lengths to explain.

Students were involved in every step of the filmmaking process from researching and interviewing to filming and editing.

“I thought it was a really great idea to take all the lessons we learned this year about shots and all different camera techniques and apply them,” Ms. Crincoli said.

In the beginning stages of the project, which began in early May, MFC staff guided the students in exploring the topic, in particular teaching how conduct all aspects of an interview, from asking open-ended questions to setting up the camera and collecting footage of scenes across the city.

After gathering much research and film footage, the students began writing interviewing. They found that while some tenants were satisfied with the upkeep of their apartments, others have bad relationships with their landlords and have noticed rising housing prices in their neighborhoods.

The landlords interviewed also had mixed views. Some stated that caring for the tenants was their upmost priority, and others noted that the rising housing prices and its potentially difficult repercussions for tenants are inevitable.

When one of Mr. Reusch’s government classes joined, the two classes divided themselves up into specialty groups— housing and architecture, tenants, landlords, and governmental officials – to make things more efficient.

Other government classes created Instagram and Twitter pages, along with three potential movie poster designs.

MFC became involved after Ms. Crincoli met Manon Banta, the group’s  Executive Director, at a social event last year. Knowing that she would be taking over for the previous film teacher, Ms. Melanie Berkey, Ms. Crincoli planned to make it an end-of-year project.

It also provided a way to keep the seniors engaged for the first half of May as they prepared to go to Poland.  The juniors took over after that, but Ms. Crincoli’s still said her only regret about the project is the lack of time.

Mobile Film Classroom will finish compiling and editing the footage over the summer, Manon told the students, and the plan is for the documentary to come out in September.

Meanwhile, MFC’s faculty said their office would be open over the summer to any Shalhevet students wishing to help out and continue their involvement in the documentary.