Interview with Josh Paget, Director of the New Urbanism Film Festival

Joshua Paget, co-founder and Festival Director for the New Urbanism Film Festival
Josh Paget, co-founder and Festival Director for the New Urbanism Film Festival. Photo by John Paget, taken at the Congress for the New Urbanism, Buffalo NY

On Park(ing) Day, I pedaled out to a park(ing) space on La Brea where I met Josh Paget. He is one of the co-founders of and the current Festival Director for the New Urbanism Film Festival. The festival, now in its second year, is coming up November 6-9 at the Acme Theater in Hollywood. Festival details here. Note that, in addition to plenty of great films, it also boasts speakers, walks, rides, etc. Keep up with #NUFF and #NUFF2014 via Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, too. We conducted the following interview via email.  

SBLA: Tell us about yourself. What’s your background? How did you get interested in livability and new urbanism?

Paget: I moved to L.A. to be a stand up comedian. Which is a great way to see the city because you are constantly roaming around town from club to club. And I began asking why some of the places were better than others.

Someone recommended that I read the The Geography of Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler. I got hooked on urbanism from that angle: How does this affect me? I started a book group with my friend Joel Karahadian, and out of that we started the film festival. People always say the book is better than the movie, but we think film festivals are better than book groups, as far as generating conversation.

At Park(ing) Day, we met up at the Mid City West Community Council park(ing) space. Some Neighborhood Councils have been progressive on livability, others not so much. What’s MidCityWest NC like? What initiatives are you excited about there?

I think that everyone on the council recognizes that our neighborhood is very “walkable.” The transportation committee also has a history of being progressive on transportation issues and it still is. We did the park(ing0 day installation. We are pushing a Bicycle Friendly Streets proposal. In fact, during the festival, one of the events is “The Friendly Ride” a group bike ride through MidCityWest showing off their Bicycle Friendly Streets/Neighborhood Greenways proposal.

How do you get around Los Angeles?

I ride a three speed Linus roadster. Or I take the bus. I also have a car but I rarely use it because there’s too much traffic.

Tell us about the New Urbanism Film Festival.

The New Urbanism Film Festival is a four-day festival in Los Angeles that hosts screenings, workshops, and panel discussions on Urbanism. We focus on themes of architecture, bicycling, transportation, and urban design. Our slogan is “better streets, better living.” The hope is that it will be a new way to engage the public in topics of urbanism. We have lots of issues facing us as a city, and we want these conversations to have a baseline and a focus. There’s lots of books on it, there’s festivals, or podcasts, we’re showing films.

What’s your favorite New Urbanism film ever? Why? 

I am partial to the Tim Tielman videos from Buffalo. One of which will be in the Architecture Short Films screenings. He makes architecture and planning issues very accessible and even humorous.

Also, American Makeover, which is the opening night feature. A lot of the films show off great ideas, whether it is BRT, or the highline, or road diets, etc. I feel like American Makeover, by examining different issues in different cities, it goes beyond the ‘how-to’s of a project, and really explores the ideals, the goals, of New Urbanism: creating healthy, sustainable, communities.

Tell us about your audiences. Does NUFF appeal to L.A. film industry folks? Plannerds? Who else?

I think the appeal is to the general public. The whole goal is to achieve an audience as broad as the city. The film quality has a wide range from technical films to beautiful narrative pieces. The technical details don’t get too specific.

If you had a magic wand and could instantaneously change anything about Los Angeles transportation and livability, what would it be?

I’d like the Wilshire 720 line to become a true BRT. Wilshire really is the Grand Concourse of L.A. and it should be seen. A dedicated lane for buses, with prepay stations, and at-level boarding platforms, would be an amazing project.

The New Urbanist Film Festival returns to the Acme Theater November 6-9 2014. Photo via NUFF
The New Urbanism Film Festival returns to Hollywood’s Acme Theater November 6-9 2014. Photo via NUFF
  • Fakey McFakename

    I think Wilshire full-BRT is probably overkill, given that there’ll soon be a subway along the same corridor – better to put that money into corridors that are really lacking the transit they deserve.

    For Mid-City West, the game-changing project would be extending the Crenshaw Line north (along San Vicente and Fairfax, or possibly La Cienega, through WeHo to Hollywood).

    But in the meantime, upgrading the Metro Rapids to provide acceptable levels of service (including weekend service) on La Cienega, Fairfax, and La Brea would be a good start.

  • Joe Linton

    Did anyone ever say that widening the 405 is probably overkill, given that Sepulveda Blvd already exists along the same corridor? Wilshire BRT wouldn’t necessarily be where I would spend my first $40M transit dollars, but some redundancy can be a good thing, just ask people driving cars. BRT and rail in the same corridor could complement each other.

  • Taylor Nichols

    Word is that the overkill on the 405 speeded up traffic by slowing down travel times by a second or two. Good use of a couple billion dollars. The NUFF is a great asset to our city and film community. I saw many of the films from last year and loved ’em. A chance for Film geeks and Plannerds to mingle. Looking forward to opening night Thur. Nov. 6.

  • Fakey McFakename

    I like Wilshire BRT as it currently is planned plus filling the gaps. I disagree with raising it to full-BRT standards (center platforms, pay before boarding, etc.). That would be a waste of money for limited mobility benefit. Better to spend that money on other transit projects.

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