From its very beginning, Venice played an important part in the fledgling motion picture industry, which was quick to take advantage of the unique architecture, picturesque waterways and colorful amusement area. Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford acted out some of their roles with Venice as a backdrop.

Through the years, Venice has continued as a popular locale for filming — Windward Avenue as Tijuana in the 1950s Touch of Evil, the Venice Place building on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in the opening scenes of the 1970s Starsky and Hutch, and the Ocean Front Walk basketball court in the 1990s White Men Can’t Jump are among many, many movies, television shows and commercials shot in Venice.

With the exception of industry stalwarts such as Tony Bill and Dennis Hopper, who early-on recognized the potential in making Venice their home, the majority of those who relocated to Venice to make these movies, television shows and commercials did so only during the past 15 to 20 years.

Robert Feist started his Ravenswork Studio, an audio post-production company, over ten years ago on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. He became aware of other media-oriented businesses in the area and realized that they didn’t know each other existed.

Several years ago, as president of the Venice Chamber of Commerce, Robert came up with the idea to brand a media district.

“Venice has a reputation for a crazy beach, wild real estate; but, what we don’t have is a reputation for the great media work that is coming out of the area,” he says.

In November, the Venice Media District (VMD) was launched by Councilman Bill Rosendahl at its first mixer.

Robert received a certificate with the official motion creating the district signed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, City Controller Laura Chick and all 15 City Council members.

The certificate read, in part, “The Venice Media District, established in a community known for its distinct culture, within the city known for its well defined diversity, within the state known for its unparalleled innovation, incorporated all three promoting Venice as a pillar of strength in accepting the constant changes and challenges so necessary in exploring the wonders, advancements and benefits that come with success within the entertainment industry.”

One of the goals of the Venice Media District is to create networking opportunities and business-to-business awareness. This type of work — so vital to the success of a project, such as editing, sound design, special effects and graphic design to mention a few — is low profile by nature.

The inaugural mixer proved just how many media businesses are in Venice.

“I personally knew of only 25 or 30,” says Robert. “I thought that we had probably 50 involved in the media. We now have over 110 media-oriented businesses and we know we haven’t reached everybody yet.”

A directory, both printed and on-line, is planned to list businesses and services. “I think it would be cool to call it the ‘Venice Media Menu’,” says Robert.

Another aspect of the directory will be to list short-term rentals for people who live out of the area but need to work here for limited periods of time.

“By keeping people here in a rental or hotel, they will spend more money in the shops and restaurants and that will help other Venice businesses,” he says.

Robert doesn’t want to confine the networking to only Venice.

“If we do this right, it will grow and people outside the community will want to come to our mixers because they’ll see value to it,” he says. “I’d love to see people from Hollywood come to a Venice Media District mixer.”

He also wants to attract more entrepreneurs to start businesses in Venice, who, in turn, will support other local businesses and services.

Another goal is to create a vehicle for nonprofit organizations to access the assets of the Venice Media District. This is something that has real meaning to Robert.

“Many years ago I thought that maybe I should give up the recording industry and do something worthwhile with my life like tie myself to a redwood tree or something like that,” he says. “After a lot of soul searching I realized that the best we can do is do what we do best and offer it.”

Robert has been able to do that with his own business over the years and he thinks that it is important to help others, especially youth. “An internship program will give them an opportunity to see that you can make a living with your imagination and creativity.”

The first intern project is in cooperation with the Venice Arts: In Neighborhoods organization, an innovative art center that brings talented artists together with low-income youths to nurture their creativity, imagination and talent. “They’re in the program for five years and then they really don’t have anywhere to go,” says Robert. “The internship program will keep them moving forward. It’s going to be great for everybody — the kids and the businesses.”

Although the Venice Media District was Robert’s idea, it’s important to him to acknowledge a group of volunteers that helped get it off the ground. “I just want to give credit where credit is due,” he says.

Among the volunteers are:

Colleen O’Mara of “Hype,” a publicity and marketing company (expertise, focus and energy);

Toni O’Bryan of “Kaching-Creative,” a branding and design company (designing logo and promotional materials);

Daryl Barnett (outreach and data base compilation and organized mixer);

David Buchanan of “Tenacity,” an advertising and marketing agency (point person with the council office for the certificate of recognition);

Randy Huchins (designs he Web pages, and has volunteered to do more work on the site);

Lynn Warshafsky of Venice Arts (handling the internship program);

Tim Anderson and Enrique Aguirre of King Cut, an editing, finishing, visual effects, design and 3D animation company (sponsored the drink tickets for the mixer);

Jean Pritchard of “My Favorite Black and White Lab” (event photographer);

Daniel Samakow and James Evans, owners of James Beach, Canal Club and Danny’s Venice Deli (use of restaurant for committee meetings and mixer, donated appetizers and coffee for mixer).

The way Robert plans for the organization to grow is through volunteer efforts of the VMD members. People are needed to come up with ideas, serve on committees and donate time or services.

Information, (310) 429-4169 or info@venicemediadistrict.org

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