Made in L.A.

PBS Premiere: Sept. 4, 2007Check the broadcast schedule »

Production Journal

Close-up view of a garment worker's hands at a sewing machine.
Close-up view of a garment worker's hands at a sewing machine.

POV: How would you describe the film stylistically?

Almudena Carracedo: From the beginning I wanted the film to have a lyrical beauty that comes from the little things in life -- emotions in people's faces, colorful neighborhoods, streetlife. I used the verité style of shooting, where the camera stays unobtrusive. I still asked questions, but I was able to get into the people's lives in a very intimate way, just by being there. The camera often focuses on all these little emotions and these very little details that actually make the fabric of everyday life.

POV: The music in the film is wonderful. What can you tell us about it?

Carracedo: We wanted the music to represent the immigrant experience -- the mixture of melancholy and also joy of being an immigrant. It was a long process with the composer, Joseph Julian Gonzalez, to come up with this very poetic music that conveyed a little bit of a Latino feeling, but at the same time that could speak to the longer tradition of immigration in this country. We worked a lot on the music, especially in the sections where we are portraying the city or emotions, or where Lupe goes to visit the Ellis Island museum. The music is a character in the film, and it's speaking to us at the same time.

Organizers Kimi and Joanna lead a protest.
Organizers Kimi and Joanna lead a protest.

POV: Part of the lyrical beauty of the film seems to come from the editing. How did you approach editing Made in L.A.?

Robert Bahar: Without the major funding of our supporters, we never would have been able to spend a whole year with our editors, going really deep into the material and trying it this way and that way to get to the final version. We thought the editing process would only take six months, and it ended up taking a year, full time.

The big editorial challenge of the film was that we were telling two different stories. We had the story of this boycott campaign that happens chronologically and the lawsuit that went along with that, that gave a time frame: This happens the first year, this happens the second year, this happens the third year of the campaign. Then we had the women's personal stories. Balancing those so the film both had an arc and reflected their journey and went really deep personally was a huge challenge.

Carracedo: We are very grateful to our editors, Lisa Leeman and Kim Roberts, for all the work that they did. At one point, during Christmas, we took a break, and then when we came back, we were able to restructure the film. Suddenly it was all magic: All the stories were there, they were just calling us to be told in that way. Editing was by far the greatest challenge and we're happy about how it all turned out.

POV: You're both credited as writers on the film, together with Lisa Leeman. What's the role of a writer as opposed to an editor? How does it work when you're figuring out how a story is going to be told?

Bahar: We all have a writing credit because a lot of the thinking about the film was structural. All of us pored over the transcripts in the film, saying, "In this scene, these six things happen -- how should they happen? Let's find moments from different interviews that we can include in that scene." That ended up being a collaborative process among the three of us. We also thought a lot about how to weave the stories together. We had someone transcribe the whole script of the film, and we'd look at a scene in the script and say, "This isn't working," and we'd go back to the drawing board with those scenes. That writing was a part of figuring out the structure: making a map of each scene that would then inform the editing process. It was very iterative and creative -- it was one of the most exciting parts of the process.