2020 has been a year like no other.. but it's been particularly jarring for us here in Los Angeles. With music venues, movie studios, amusement parks all closed, not to mention countless restaurants and bars, we’ve been dealing with the fight for racial justice, overthrowing a President, and basically eating shit for much of the year. It’s been easy to forget what makes this city so magical, especially as we enter another lockdown.
The Kollection—an LA-based events company and musical discovery crew—have been hit hard, just last year they were throwing sold out events with the likes of Flight Facilities and Amtrak around LA, in 2020 all their events have been scrapped. But they pulled a classic pandemic pivot, and took to the streets with their cameras to document 2020 in LA, capturing the people and events that defined this year. They hit up the OG LA rapping icon, Spider Loc to narrate, enlisted an original score from Hablot Brown and tapped graphic artist Nate Mohler for projection mapping duties. The result is a snapshot of the creatives that make LA tick, from a crew on the rise.
Flaunt touched base with The Kollection's partners, Kian McHugh and Bryce Sexton, to chat about how the short film came together and get their thoughts on the return of LA's nightlife and music scene.
Tell us a little about The Kollection and how the company has evolved in the past few years
(The whole K team) The Kollection was founded in 2010 as a music blog aiming to facilitate superior music discovery! The team garnered respect from fans and artists for discovering and helping grow the early careers of notable artists including Mac Miller, Kygo, and G-Eazy. In 2014, The K moved to the beach community of Isla Vista and focused on playlist curation, film photography, and bringing innovative events to Santa Barbara. After graduating in 2018, the team relocated to Los Angeles where the first three partners—Kian McHugh, Kenzie Jones, and Bryce Sexton—each pursued careers in music while honing in on the brand identity of The Kollection, launching a new web presence, and growing their existing playlists and editorial.
The final two Kollection partners, Drake Allen and Mitch Meleski, joined the team in the months that followed, and together the team of 5 set their sights on establishing The K as a lifestyle brand built on immersive events, editorial, and experiences for like minded humans. In 2019, the team gained notoriety for their sold-out event circuit that brought as many as 1,000 attendees and notable artists such as Flight Facilities and Amtrac to untraditional venues throughout Los Angeles. Their experiential themes unified aspiring artists, vendors, and large scale art installations to disrupt Los Angeles’ oddly homogenous nightlife scene. The team of 5 looked to create and curate all forms of true expression in an attempt to connect contrasting sounds and bridge gaps between artists, fans, and communities who might not interact otherwise.
Coming off of their strongest year, The Kollection geared up for 2020 and planned to throw 10 events in Los Angeles over the course of the year to further establish themselves as innovators of the events industry. Two days before their first scheduled event of the year was intended to take place, the first of the COVID lockdowns went into effect and the team’s plans for the year were replaced by a blank slate. After running a number of interactive challenges and charitable endeavors to keep The Kollection community entertained, the team landed on the idea for “Dear Los Angeles” and spent the rest of the year carefully building out the production while growing each of their digital channels, expanding their editorial structure, and building out an e-commerce platform that will go live in the months to come.
How did the "Dear Los Angeles" video come together? And what were the biggest challenges in terms of pulling it off? How did you connect with Spider Loc for the narration? How involved was he in terms of writing the narrative copy?
(The whole K team) “Dear Los Angeles” came together as the varying levels of quarantine caused all of Los Angeles’ creatives to reconcile with a lack of opportunities to express themselves. When we realized what was possible with a projector and a city on pause, we jumped on the idea.
While Kian started in on the screenplay, The Kollection looked to find the perfect collaborator to bring the script to its fullest potential. The team brainstormed on creatives who were well versed in the spirit and voice of Los Angeles and could both build upon and narrate the original script. Kian had remembered listening to Spider Loc’s music in his teens and feeling that there was something unmistakably LA about his voice and story. Other Kollection team members voiced a similar sentiment and as a result, Curtis “Spider Loc” Williams was the first person we reached out to. Serendipitously, Williams told us he had always wanted to do voice over work and took interest in the project right away. The first of the two remote studio sessions took place in April and was primarily focused on testing out the wording of the proposed screenplay to see how it would flow and where there was room for improvement. The second studio session was two months later. In this session, Spider Loc took the refined script and then recorded numerous takes, improvising and changing elements each time. We actually took those recordings to our close friend and incredible producer Andrew Luce who helped us break down which clips sounded best before finalizing the order to shape a cohesive narrative structure.
After finalizing the script, The Kollection sold projection specialist Nate Mohler on the idea just before connecting with Emma Stehli and Brad Virshup to round out the small crew of creatives. As each of them had worked with The Kollection in years past, The Kollection team knew that they would exceed all expectations if given the creative freedom to do so. Over the course of 3 months, the “Dear Los Angeles” team would meet in their respective cars and then hit the town until as late as 4:30 AM.
The biggest challenges came from staying compliant with Los Angeles’ constantly changing regulations and still finding times that worked with the crew necessary to execute any given evening of shooting. Ultimately, patience was the only answer. When things shut down entirely for weeks on end, we shut down. When our editor was called onto another project for a week, we would focus on getting more b-roll while she was gone. There were days that Emma, our producer, scheduled and coordinated all the way from Maine when she had to go back home. Everyone was working on the project out of love for the city and because of a shared excitement that we were working together on something that felt special each step of the way. Ultimately, everyone showed up when they were needed most and gave it their all. While it took moving at an untraditional pace for any production to complete the video, this ultimately played in our favor.
What does LA mean to you? What were the intangible elements of the city that you were trying to capture in this film?
(Kian McHugh, Kollection partner) We love LA! We really, really do. While Bryce is the only one from here (needless to say he loves it the most), each of us adores this city. We often discuss how silly it is that people give Los Angeles such a bad wrap or label it fake/superficial simply because they haven’t taken the time to find their place here or explore all that it has to offer. Los Angeles is enormous. So often in film and media, Hollywood or Malibu or Silverlake comes to represent Los Angeles. In actuality, each is a relevantly insignificant slice of the pie. When most anyone speaks about Los Angeles, they aren’t referring to the big picture. This big picture is what we were drawn to.
Honestly, I can’t think of anyone who truly captured the intangible elements of this city other than Jonathan Gold through his food reviews. Gold was able capture the big picture of LA using food as a common denominator. I rewatched City Of Gold and kept Jonathan Gold’s approach in the back of my head throughout the production. Rather than looking to capture the intangible elements, we wanted to capture the common denominator affecting the city that was 2020.
Do you expect nightlife to return full swing in 2021 once we've all been vaccinated? Or do you think it'll be a few years before things return to normal?
(Bryce Sexton, Kollection partner) Great question, one that's certainly burning for many people in the music industry right now. I believe nightlife will return in 2021... but not full swing. It will start gradually in outdoor spaces, we may even see some sort of cubby scenario where you are allowed to stand only with your ‘bubble.’ I think the more interesting facet of this question is how clubs and venues will operate with respect to the artists they book once this whole thing is in the rearview mirror. Traditionally, clubs and venues offer artists a guaranteed fee. If the artist sells out the room, they will often get a percentage of the gross box office receipts on top of the guarantee. As the promoters/venues who still stand after the pandemic will be seriously hurting for money, I think they will change the kind of deals that they do with artists. We may see something to the effect of a ‘door deal’ meaning the artists only take a percentage of what they sell in tickets—less risk for the promoters, more risk for the artists... If this happens, I believe we will see a trimming of the fat so to speak. Larger artists with less devoted fans will not do as well & smaller artists will be on a more level playing field when it comes to touring. To support my last point... the moment artists are allowed to play in front of people again, every single one of them will go on tour—leading to a massive oversaturation of concerts in major entertainment markets around the world & showing which artists matter in the grand scheme of things. People (speaking generally) will not have the money to go to two shows in a weekend, or even in a month for that matter… They will have to pick and choose which artists matter to them most… Long winded I know!