Not until recently had I been able to look out my window each morning toward the east—over the train tracks, the river, and the mecca of fruit stands, mariachis and long-stewed meats that is Boyle Heights. When the light first appears it is blue, and fills only one corner of the sky. There’s a certain feeling you get gazing at a scene like that, and it’s not unlike the feeling of treading water as the waves wash over you. A realization of how small you are within a place, perhaps a tinge of helplessness, the thought there could be others, bobbing, just like you are, connected only by the fact that you are all floating. I imagine T.S. Eliot felt that way when he wrote this:
The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.
With the other masquerades
That time resumes,
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.
That little snippet of a poem inspired our collaboration with Verve Coffee Roasters, who, by the rumor mill, were planning their first foray into Los Angeles with a bright, airy space on Spring Street. Coffee may be the one of the few things unifying all of LA—whether dispensed into clean white ceramics at a street cafe or little paper cups at the gas station, it is ubiquitous, transcending cultural bounds and economic status alike, offering its warmth and comfort without prejudice.
In “Prelude,” we set out to capture the feeling of the city waking up—the tired melancholy, the endless blur of passing faces, the eventual rush and warming as the sun comes out. It’s a different film than the food pieces we’ve done in the past, as it seeks to step out beyond mere documenting and dive into an emotional dimension. A mix of sentiments as clouded as a walk down Los Angeles Street, taking in the bad with the good—the screech of trains and streetcars with the singing of birds, the smell of fresh bread with that of overflown garbage cans being feverishly swept up again, last night’s rain with the burnt rubber and steaming coffee and old women spooning champurrado into cups at makeshift stands on the corners. The city is all these things to me.
Darkness breaks with a whisper,
And I am nowhere to be found.
Lost in a tangle of crowded streets,
Where a thousand small worlds collide and retreat.
Tired shadows lumber through the blue
Over walls cast in sweat and stone
By hands long forgotten
Forget me not—not while I’m here.
Passageways, swept each day but never clean,
Reach like twisted fingers through every neon corner
Ferrying the faithful to morning coffee stands.
I love and hate you in equal measures;
Indifferent, hard-baked, unforgiving—
You hold in your gaze the pent-up hopes of so many.
A colossus—filled with promise, but lacking a soul.
When I rise in the morning you will be there,
Playing like a child beneath the sun
Swept up in your smoke and grease,
Your depths and your jubilation—
Ever dancing, and yet ever alone,
Ever lighting my path,
Ever leading me home.
Director: Nathan Sage
Producers: Antonio Diaz & Jaime Valdovino
Writers: Nathan Sage & Gianna Hughes
Original Score: Jaime Valdovino, Jason Bennett, & Luke Graham
Narration: Sarah Valdovino
In Collaboration with
Verve Coffee Roasters
Carlos Cardenas, Jose Rosete, Patricia Smith, Benjamin Turner, Susan Turner, Keethan Kitt, Alissa Bell, Puno Dostres, Patrick Hardy, Promise Joy Hardy, Josiah James Hardy, Augsto Piccio IV, Veronica Rogov, Devin Chapman, Alexandria Mata, Olivia Miles
Stephanie Sovann Sage, Brit McCorquodale, Janeen Marais, Gab Taraboulsy, Tawny Alipoon, Irv Cabana, Kemo & Lauren Son, Isaiah Sage, Josh Telles, Austin Straub, Daniel Straub, Ben Hunter, Colby Barr, Bestia, Juice Served Here, Short Cake
Shot in Los Angeles, CA