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"I Am Los Angeles:" Seeing the City Through the Eyes of a Transplant

1/08/2013 5:34 AM Eastern

Dutch documentarian Joris Debeij's web series "I Am Los Angeles" features compelling portraits of some of the city's unsung residents, from a record shop owner to an ambassador for the sport of cricket.

Joris Debeij

We spoke to Debeij about how his documentary project came to be.

How did "I Am Los Angeles" come about?
I started working more as a journalist here in L.A., where I've been living for three years. I'm from the Netherlands. After a while, you start noticing a different side to the city and I wanted to share that different side with the Europeans.

But it turned out that people here in L.A. thought that another perspective on the city was a cool thing.

Do you feel you have an outsider perspective looking in?
More or less. It's also me starting to get to know the city more and the project evolves a little bit from that too. I mean, L.A. is a city of many transplants. I guess everybody discovers it at their own pace. I think it's cool to show what I come across and what I see and share that with other people through the project.

How did you find the subjects of your films?
Very randomly. Sometimes I'm just interested in a theme. For example, when I came to L.A., I noticed there's a lot of homelessness. So that was something I was interested in and I looked for a story there. And I found this story on the Skid Row Housing Trust-- this thing where they have ambassadors, people who talk to the public about what it's like to be homeless. So I thought that was interesting. [Watch it below.]

Josh Koslow, one of the subjects of "I Am Los Angeles."

But sometimes you also come across interesting graffiti and you wonder who made it. Or sometimes someone says, "I know somebody who might be an interesting person to discover a little bit more." So it goes many different ways, how you find a subject.

What do you shoot on?
I shoot mostly everything with Canon DSLRs from the 5D Mark III to the 7D and use Sennheiser microphones, a shoulder rig and a [Korg] Nanopad.

It's all me shooting mostly. Sometimes it's a friend who tags along and has a second camera or an interview camera. But for the most part, it's me. With a set-up like that, it's easy to travel around and you don’t need many hands to carry stuff around.

What do you edit on?
I started with Final Cut Pro 7 but I wasn't completely happy with it. And then Final Cut Pro X came out and I did two [webisodes with it] and the magnetic timeline drove me crazy. A friend of mine knew somebody at Adobe and he hooked me up with Premiere Pro CS6 and I've been using it ever since.

Gregory Bojorquez, another subject of Debeij's web series

So that's what I work on now. I think Premiere is great. The workflow is really easy also, combining it with other [tools] like [Adobe's] After Effects and Photoshop. It's more of a complete package than Apple has. Because Final Cut Pro X, I think, is a little bit of a miss. I mean, I liked a lot of things about it but it wasn't complete to me. Therefore I made the switch. But I keep an eye on [Final Cut Pro] X anyway so if they come up with good improvements…

What's next for you?
I'm working on a few short documentaries. One will be released early 2013 and I'm about to shoot a new documentary here in L.A. I've also been working on some commercials for the Netherlands. It's really a little bit of everything.

"I Am Los Angeles" can be seen here.

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