Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Allie in the Eagle!
On the Cover page no less. Congradulations little big sis! Nice going Shawnee on the article write up.
EGREMONT — When Alethea Root settled in Los Angeles with her degree in theater and directing, she supported herself cleaning houses and working as a clown.
On this year's Oscar night on Sunday, Root could find herself in the spotlight, with friends back home cheering her on.
After four years of building her professional portfolio, the Egremont native has found her work is paying off.
Root, now a film-production designer creating movie sets in Hollywood, is on the team for a film that's been nominated for an Academy Award for best live-action short film. The film is up against four others in the category.
The short musical comedy, "West Bank Story," directed and co-written by Ari Sandel, tells the story of competing falafel stands — "Kosher King" and "Hummus Hut" — in Israel. The tale focuses on a young couple, each working at the opposing falafel joints, who are secretly in love with each other.
Creating a scene to represent the Middle East on a tight budget was a "huge undertaking, but not impossible," said Root, in a phone interview from Los Angeles.
Her challenge as production designer was creating the set in
the Southern California hills that resembled the West Bank.
With a small crew, she built two falafel stands from the ground up.
"The director was very specific," said Root. "We worked 24-hour days for six days with a one-month prep time."
The brutal schedule is not uncommon in the film industry, said Root, who is 28.
The Oscar nomination is a significant milestone, and she plans to keep moving in the industry.
"It gives me clout and it looks good on the résumé, but I'm still holding out for my own Oscar," she said.
Her dream is to direct her own films, and she hopes this will bring her a step closer.
She is a freelance production designer, collaborating with the directors on putting together meticulous sets for each scene.
During the last four years, she's worked on low-budget feature films, dozens of student films, commercials and music videos. She's now working on a script for a film she hopes to direct.
In the Berkshires, Root is known for other achievements such as helping found Railroad Street Youth Project, a youth advocacy organization based in Great Barrington.
A Monument Mountain Regional High School graduate, Root also worked for local theaters, directing productions with area young people.
She enjoyed working with teens to "give them a creative outlet," she said.
» At a glance ...
Academy Award nominees for 'best live-action short film': 'Binta and the Great Idea,' 'Éramos Pocos (One Too Many),' 'Helmer & Son,' 'The Saviour' and 'West Bank Story.'
* The 79th Annual Academy Awards airs on ABC at 8 p.m., Sunday. For live coverage of the awards by Laura Marshall, The Eagle's TV blogger, tune in to www.blogtheberkshires.com starting at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Julianne Boyd, artistic director of Barrington Stage Company, remembers working with Root on the play "Suburbia," about at-risk youths.
"She had such a sparkling personality and a real love for life," said Boyd. "She needed only a little encouragement to go for it. She had a great sense of confidence that she could accomplish something."
» About the film ...
'West Bank Story' is a musical comedy about David, an Israeli soldier, and Fatima, a Palestinian fast food cashier — an unlikely couple who fall in love amid the animosity of their families' dueling falafel stands in the West Bank.
Tensions mount when the Kosher King's new pastry machine juts onto Hummus Hut property. The Palestinians ruin the machine, and the Israelis respond by building a wall between the two eating establishments.
The couple professes their love for each other, triggering a chain of events that destroys both restaurants and forces all to find common ground in an effort to rebuild, planting a seed of hope.
— From www.westbankstory.com
Root got a degree in theater and directing from Bennington (Vt.) College and then to set her goal on Hollywood.
She moved to Los Angeles with little money, and slept on friends' couches for the first couple of months, until saving enough to get her own place.
"I was basically homeless for six months, staying with friends," she said.
"The film industry demands you build up a résumé and clientele, so I worked for free on many projects and supported myself by working as a clown and cleaning houses," she said. "Now I can turn down work, and that's a nice position to be in."