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Non-Profit Youth Training Program & Prop House

News

Recycled Hollywood
By Erica Zeitlin
Los Angeles Times
December 12, 1999

As the latest group of Hollywood insiders to try to reach "at risk" Westside youth, the nonprofit Hollywood Cinema Production Resources - or "Hollywood CPR," as it is dubbed - is using celebrity connections to teach trade skills to youngsters whose previous experience with the biz is switching TV channels and hanging out at the movies.

Based in a huge, donated warehouse near LAX, the innovative industry training program offers students from disadvantaged backgrounds a range of skills from scene and backdrop design to prop-making and other specialized trade skills - and then places them in jobs on Hollywood sets.

Sounds ambitious? That's only the beginning, said Kevin Considine, president of the organization. The Hollywood art department veteran, born into a family of producers, actors and set decorators, aims for the program to be self-sustaining, by developing a prop house of donated items that rents out set pieces to the area's burgeoning slew of film studios.

In addition, Hollywood CPR plans to loan out props and sets, all constructed and refurbished by its students, to area public schools that do not have the funding for professional-caliber scenery for their theatrical productions.

"We [are] soliciting and collecting discarded sets, props, furniture and materials as tax-deductible donations," and then recycling them into "income-producing resources," he said. About 10 instructors will staff the program, with others recruited from the professional ranks of the industry.

By generating revenue, he said, the program can meet its real aims of training and employing underprivileged students in skills needed for the industry. Art departments frequently comprise the largest staffs on film and TV productions, and skilled workers are always in demand, he said. Most of the program's students will come by referral from Santa Monica and Venice Boys & Girls clubs and schools throughout Los Angeles.

Hollywood CPR's formula for success has convinced celebrities like Robert Altman, Richard Chamberlain, Ann-Margaret, Roger Moore, Debra Winger and Joanne Woodward, among others, to lend their names to the cause as board trustees. Politicians Ruth Galanter and Steve Soboroff appear on the guest list for tomorrow's gala opening, held in one of the prop storage spaces.

The training and recycled-prop format has also endeared itself to West Los Angeles College, which donated the massive hangers, as well as to county officials, who in November provided $150,000 to refurbish the space, in what Laura Peterson. Hollywood CPR's development officer, described as a happy fluke.

"We weren't expecting it and had already moved here when the grant came in," she said. "There wasn't even a girl's bathroom when we got here . . . so that money will go to cleaning up the place a lot and landscaping it."

The group had been looking for a space since July 1997, but every location it found was invariably too small to accommodate the expanding goals of the program - particularly for prop and set rentals.

In the program's early days of development two years ago, headquartered at a post-production facility in Santa Monica, Considine and Peterson began recruiting old furniture, set pieces, lamps, broken computers, ski boots, vases - just about anything that could be transformed by students into prop pieces for rent, Peterson said.

Studios and business donate most of the props. "We recycle everything from film and TV shows after productions wrap," Peterson said. "The studios have no use for the stuff, a lot of it is terminally broken and just good for that [one scene] in the show. "After a show wraps, they have no use for it all. Studios are not in the storage business," she said.

Proving that one man's trash is another man's treasure, Hollywood CPR grabs it up for the kids. Each training session will last for about a year, with students arriving "whenever they can," said Peterson, especially after school and on holiday and summer breaks. "We're very flexible and will work around their schedules."

In the program's debut session, which began this month, a group of four Santa Monica High School students toured the storage grounds and became especially animated when Considine showed them a donated set from the recent film "American Beauty."

Cousins Kristina Lizama, 14, and Wendy Menendez, 16, looked excited as they inspected the props. They talked about the "really good opportunity" this program would offer them.

"I'll do anything creative. I love working with my hands," Menendez said. "I'm always looking for artistic things to do, even if I don't think I'm all that good at it … I'm going to come here twice a week if I can."

Lizama added, "I always wanted to be an actress. This will give me the chance to learn about the industry."

Copyright © 1999 Los Angeles Times

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