Films Resume


College films saved by former student

BY SUSAN ABRAM, Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 08/03/2007 10:41:47 PM PDT

Erik Andersen's first attempt at Hollywood filmmaking was almost lost, the reels of raw footage he shot as a young film student close to disappearing forever.

But on a whim, Andersen recently visited Los Angeles Valley College, which he attended from 1986 to 1988.

He was there to get a feel for his old campus for a screenplay he and a friend are writing. Instead, he found his student films and those of nearly 200 classmates piled up and ready to be discarded.

"I was told they were getting rid of the films to make space for remodeling," Andersen said. "It was my understanding that the college was supposed to save the projects as part of school property."

College officials said they didn't want to throw the films out, but Andersen decided to take them home to help preserve a piece of the school's history and also to find the rightful owners.

Eric Swelstad, chairman of media arts, said the department has contacted many of the students to pick up their films. But few were found or responded.

"We have had student films here stored for many years, for decades," he said. "But we have a need for space. These are old public service announcements. We are not going to throw them away."

Four-foot-high stacks of cans holding film reels cover the floor of Andersen's studio in his Toluca Lake home. Through telephone numbers found inside the cans, and with the help of the Internet, he hopes to locate students who produced the original work.

One of the few he's located so far is Ron Sobol of Sherman Oaks, who went to Valley College from 1972 to 1976. He made an anti-smoking public-service announcement called "Russian Roulette" and in 1976 won an award for film student of the year.

Sobol went on to the film school at the
University of Southern California, then toured with rock bands as a photographer.

"It was a kind of weird call," Sobol said. "Sometimes, I think about the old days. I have an old box filled with those old films."

Andersen eventually went on to work in the industry as a film editor with credits that include Madonna's, "Truth or Dare," and on the cheerleading movie "Bring it On." He said he would have been sad if the film he had made as a student had been destroyed.

Some of the negatives include cuts for a public-service announcement he directed on alcoholism. The film called "Don't Destroy Your Future", shown on television, won a college award.

"If it wasn't for me doing what I'm doing," Andersen said, "these films would have been lost."
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