Director's Statement - Birth of a Film Center



The Echo Park Film Center represents many things to many people: a window into the world of experimental cinema, a community meeting place, an opportunity to learn technical skills or an outlet for creative expression. For me, the Film Center is the embodiment of a dream born from the ashes of despair.

I grew up in a gregarious Italian/Irish household, raised by parents who were intoxicated by life and dedicated to social activism. My father was a wonderfully outrageous Italian patriarch. Physically powerful, cosmopolitan and brilliant, he was difficult to miss even in a crowded room. My mother was a living saint who devoted her life to helping others. She was the surrogate mother to our entire community and nurtured all to greatness.

Figuring them as immortal, I was cut down by their sudden deaths three years apart. At 29, I was devastated, leaderless and hopeless, a young man whose life map is suddenly bereft of its most notable landmarks. I decided to honor my parents and continue their legacy of benevolence by combining my interests in life: filmmaking, education and activism. The Echo Park Film Center was a very natural progression of these ideals.

I had been touring through the United States, Mexico and Europe with my own films since the early 90’s and knew that small microcinemas and art spaces flourished throughout the world. However, there was not a consistently programmed and community-based cinema in my own backyard, the land of filmmaking, Los Angeles.

The hope was to create a venue free of pretension where media arts could be celebrated, taught and archived for the greater community. A place where equipment could be rented and borrowed to make work. A safe haven where interests and ideas could be exchanged. An alternative to the Hollywood model of success.

Once the decision was made to open up a storefront in my neighborhood of Echo Park, the dream quickly materialized. Joined by my dear friends Ken Fountain and Joe Hilsenrad, we opened the Echo Park Film Center in January of 2002.

Now years later the dream only continues to grow. We have increased the number of classes, screenings and public events while maintaining our integrity and focus. Lisa Marr has joined the family as an integral leader in our efforts and a trusted companion in my life. And, most importantly, the community has taken ownership of this space and made it their own.

Drop by the Film Center sometime and say hello… The cinematic revolution is alive and well in Los Angeles!

Be well,

Paolo Davanzo – Executive Director/Co-Founder
Echo Park Film Center