The Dream

Filmmobile was born in the summer of 2006, while the Echo Park Film Center team was working on a documentary film project in South Dakota. With our colleagues from Farmlab, we had travelled to the Rosebud Reservation, home of the Lakota Sioux, to assist in building a ceremonial house for some community elders.

Rosebud is one of the poorest communities in North America and has virtually no access to film and video making resources. We began thinking that if we could take the beauty and power of our film center and make it mobile, we could come to Rosebud, and other towns across the country, and provide access to media tools and teach media literacy.

We wrote a proposal and sent a request to the Annenberg Foundation to help fund the Filmmobile. The grant was accepted and the dream came to life.

The Search

After receiving funding in early 2007, we spent the remainder of the year searching for a bus. Countless hours were spent scouring the web, chatting with mechanics, visiting bus dealers and even enrolling in a “bus driving school” in search for the perfect bus.

There were many buses to choose from in every shape, size and color but the blue bus from Tacoma, Washington seduced us. It had character. It had style. It had charm. It also had low mileage, a good engine and no rust!

The Transformation

With help from local sustainable energy and design experts, we transformed a former school bus from a diesel-guzzling hunk of metal into an eco-friendly mobile cinema and educational facility with the ability to provide free documentary film screenings and filmmaking workshops in non-traditional venues to media-marginalized populations, specifically at-risk youth, girls and young women, recent immigrants, the homeless, people of color, seniors and low-income earners. These programs provide a fertile meeting space for the exchange and validation of ideas, knowledge, and experiences, empowering individuals to share their unique stories with the world. The bus itself serves as a model of sustainability through the implementation of green technology while simultaneously regenerating the long and noble tradition of itinerant cinema.