Cooper & Canepari: California Is a Place

Honey Pie"I was always driven to sculpt females, and it just evolved," explains the San Marcos-based creator of the Real Doll, the life-sized female figures that began as curvaceous mannequins only to become highly desired sex toys, thanks to their extraordinary anatomical features. The designer of the dolls is featured in the short video "Honey Pie," one of several short moving image portraits that make up the web-based documentary project called California Is a Place created by filmmaker Drea Cooper and LA-based photgrapher Zackary Canepari.

CannonballThe ongoing series hovers on the border between visual storytelling and journalism, with each piece offering a small, poignant video portrait and several stunning still images of some of the people and places that make up California. The videos demonstrate an attention to framing, pacing and a visual style, with just enough aesthetic zeal to make journalists nervous. That said, each is also very much about life today, in the Golden State. "El Rey," for example, profiles a Mariachi from East LA who started playing music in Zacatecas at the age of 8. "Mexican music is like a fever, a beautiful art that gets in your blood," he explains, and the portrait shows his humble living quarters as he talks eloquently about his passion for music. "Cannonball" looks at skaters invading the increasingly prevalent empty swimming pools in Fresno, while "Scrapertown" presents East Oakland bicycle enthusiasts.

ScrapertownThe project is part of an emerging form of web-based storytelling that takes advantage both of increasing bandwidth and a desire for quick snapshots of everyday life. Indeed, the makers were part of the 2010 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam DocLab program, and they will participate in a panel discussion at this year's Sundance Film Festival titled "Shining a Light on Web Series Talent" on January 22. But if you're not heading off to Utah later this month, you can still view the lovely shorts here.

One complaint: While the female form is showcased quite explicitly in "Honey Pie," viewers outside California might think the state is inhabited entirely by men due to the dearth of females in the series. Surely this will change as the series continues?

[Images: top: still from video "Honey Pie"; middle: cropped photo from "Cannonball" image sequence; bottom: cropped photo from "Scrapertown" image sequence.]

About the Author

Holly Willis teaches in USC's School of Cinematic Arts and writes about new media art.
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