EP: 05 – NEW KID IN TOWN BY STAN BERTHEAUD
The TCA (Television Critics Association) press tour at the Beverly Hilton, Beverly Hills, US of A took place a few weeks before “Architecture School” hit the airwaves. It was a classic LA industry event; chock full of agents, industry execs and talent… very organized and very cool. We unveiled “Architecture School”, our Sundance Channel series, to a roomful of critics/journalists. Come to think of it, the room might have been full because of the other new Sundance series, “Spectacle: Elvis Costello with…” onstage right after us, an hour of music/interviews hosted by Elvis Costello. We met Elvis in the green room before our presentation (thanks Lynne K.). He was nice and seemed to know his way ’round an architectural discussion; even referenced the Italian renaissance architect Brunelleschi once. The dude is smart… and cool.
Anyway I stray… The show looks great. Michael, Rob and the whole crew did a great job. It’s been at least 5 years since Michael and I began talking about somehow connecting our architect side with our filmmaker side… and it’s finally happened. Michael’s already mentioned how our big epiphany came while I was teaching at Auburn University and he came down to sit on a panel discussion with me (titled: The Architect in Hollywood). Thank you Sam Mockbee and your progeny. We pitched several architecture programs and ultimately choose Tulane. Not enough room in a brief blog to get into the personalities, politics and bureaucratic nuances of the American University system… Suffice to say the show ended up where it was supposed to be – New Orleans, Louisiana. (Aided in no small part by the patience and vision of the folks at Sundance.)
Being from New Orleans and having taught at Tulane it warms my heart to see Byron Mouton (an ex-student of mine) and his studio full of charismatic students design and build in 9 months (insert pregnancy analogy here) a NOLA inspired modern home in a still recovering uptown neighborhood. It’s a story of the fearless idealism we find in architecture schools meeting the cold, hard, sometimes scary reality of post Katrina New Orleans.
I love watching the scenes from the studio. Students second guessing themselves and Byron. The late night soul searching of the students wondering whether to act on their own embryonic design instinct or to “do what Byron wants”. The constructive (occasionally brutal) comments made by design professionals during “pin-ups”. Reed Kroloff, former-Dean of Tulane Architecture, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, being the “bad cop” to Byron’s “good cop”. (Byron became both the good cop and bad cop once building started.) It’s all there. All the stuff that made us the good intentioned, underpaid lot we are… architects.
A half hour before Michael, Byron, Reed and I were scheduled to go onstage in front of the TCA, Byron and I were sitting in the lobby of the Beverly Hilton shooting the breeze. Spike Lee walked by with an entourage of scribbling/taping critics following in lock step. Beautiful people on cell phones wandering conspicuously through the hotel that Merv built… and there’s me and Byron. When out of the blue, a young man walks up to Byron, calls him by his full name, then extends his hand to shake. Byron always the ready professional stood up and shook Aaron Barnhart’s hand, the television critic for the Kansas City Star. Aaron proceeded to sit down and tell us in 5 minutes exactly what our show was about. It made my day… Well, actually meeting Elvis Costello made my day but Aaron’s concise and precise observations about “Architecture School” were a close second…
And my point? …I’ve lived in Los Angeles and the So-Cal area for over twenty years and not one time have I ever been recognized “on the street” for any work I’ve done in the industry. My good friend, Byron Mouton is here for two days and he’s picked out of a lobby full of television heavy hitters… by name. Hey, what about my needs? …Move over Howard Roark and Mike Brady. Apparently, there’s a new kid in town.