To Justin Miller and Sam Zvibleman, Echo Park is raw.
Raw enough that they dodged whipping BB gun pellets and cast Echo Park as a main character in their upcoming new film, The Sound and the Shadow.
Miller, a La Crescenta native, wrote the screenplay with Zvibleman along walks through Echo Park. The two graduated from USC's School of Cinematic Arts and used their strolls to tell a new story.
"All of our characters are almost all based on people we've come across in the community, actual neighbors that Justin would hear or actual neighbors that we knew because they were out and about. We'd say, 'Oh, that guy has got to be in the film. This person is just kind of a staple and fits totally, down to the street," Zvibleman said.
The film plot revolves around a missing girl, Pearl, and the main character Harold who is a sound recordist. Harold discovers that his recordings of the neighborhood hold evidence and clues about how Pearl went missing and who might be responsible for her disappearance.
The mystery sends Harold on an adventure with his new bike mechanic roommate, Ally, to try and finding missing Pearl.
"The story of the film is also about their relationship and how Harold is very reclusive guy, who for years, has been living with the sounds that he's recording," Miller said.
Harold begins to develop his first real friendship with Ally and wanders from his own world of recordings into a new one and smack into his community--Echo Park.
"The neighborhood I lived in was just so unique and so vibrant... Every weekend there were quinceañeras, and weddings and parties and in the proximity of your neighbors you really learn about them just by what you hear. So that's kind of where the concept of the film started to come from, but in terms of the world the film lives in, Echo Park, has a big influence on that because there's something very unique about it," Miller said.
Peach-burned Spanish bungalows and Spiraling Orchard Park along Court Street are the live backdrop for the film, examining another piece of Los Angeles' culture.
"It's not skyscrapers and gangs or Hollywood. This is a neighborhood in L.A. These are the people from L.A. These are the people who've been here and the neighborhood is very unique and deserves its own story. We set out to try and tell that," Miller said.
These locations couldn't be recreated for Miller or Zvibleman, so Echo Park was one of the main characters and filming destinations. Sometimes, they became a target, but it was just the authenticity and thrill they craved.
"We were shot at a couple times. We were shot with pellet guns. The worst thing was the rock that got thrown at us. That could have also been a BB gun. Most assaults on us have been in the air rifle categories," Miller said.
The brave crew plans to submit the film in 2013 to Sundance, Tribeca, Los Angeles, South by Southwest and Telluride film festivals.
To learn more about the mystery film shot in Echo Park and to find out the premiere dates expected in 2013, visit The Sound and the Shadow website.