Culver City Observer -

'Losing the West' Aims to Lasso Awareness

 

By Sandra Coopersmith

Features Writer

Look up "dedication," commitment," "resourcefulness" and "perseverance" and you may just find a picture of Alex Warren. This Santa Monica resident is the very definition of those words, having long been involved in conservation and humanitarian causes.

Get ready for a memorable and meaningful evening.

On Tuesday, June 9 the Kirk Douglas Theatre at 9820 Washington Blvd. in Culver City will screen her documentary, "Losing the West," a film she wrote, directed and produced. By the end of this year it will have been shown at over 20 major universities throughout the nation.

"The film is a discussion about land use, preserving open space and agricultural lands and, de facto, one on water use because one doesn't exist without the other," Warren said. "The California drought makes the film more relevant than ever."

This special event will benefit the Culver City Education Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to supporting and enhancing quality educational programs for every student in the Culver City Unified School District. To order tickets ($42 donation), go to http://www.losingthewestthemovie.com/screenings or call (213) 628-2772. Free parking is available at City Hall across Culver Blvd. from the rear of the theatre, with entrance on Duquesne.

Event partners are the Jr. Posse Youth Equestrian Program, TreePeople, the City of Santa Monica and the Culver City Chamber of Commerce.

The event will start at 6 p.m. with appetizers catered by local restaurants and an open bar. The 7 p.m. screening will be followed by a Q & A with Warren, Meghan Sahli-Wells, Richard Katz, Mayisha Akbar and Neal Shapiro.

Warren believes the film is very relevant to urban audiences because "gentrification is a hot topic, and the film looks at the issue and how it affects the central character Howard's business. One of our panelists has a horse operation in Compton much like Howard's. As land values rise around these community landmarks and the pressures that come with 'progress' mount, how will they compete or even remain in operation? Some solutions are discussed in the film."

Given the issues of drought and land use that are of current concern this promises to be a valuable educational experience, especially considering the background of the panelists.

Culver City's immediate past mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells, who is entering her fourth year on the City Council, has championed initiatives to improve the lives of children in the community, as well as leading efforts to address water conservation, active transportation, affordable housing, homeless services and comprehensive oil drilling regulations.

Former legislator Richard Katz, who was California's lead negotiator for the landmark Colorado River Agreement between California, the federal government and four California water agencies, played a pivotal role in renegotiating $30 billion worth of California's energy contracts and developing California's Transportation Blueprint for the 21st Century.

Loyola Marymount graduate Mayisha Akbar, Executive Director of the Compton Jr. Posse (CJP) Youth Equestrian Program, has been involved with horses since childhood. Following her move to the Richland Farms area of Compton, CJP was created for at-risk youth to keep kids on horses and off the streets by providing a year round after-school program using equine science and equestrian activities to inspire them to reach their personal, academic and career goals.

Neal Shapiro, a Watershed Section Supervisor and Watershed (Urban Runoff) Management Coordinator for the City of Santa Monica's Office of Sustainability and the Environment, oversees water conservation and efficiency programs and watershed management programs, all geared to reduce water pollution and use our precious limited resources wisely.

Filmmaker Warren was born in Colorado, where she resided many years. For quite some time her family lived at a small ranch outside of Ridgway, Colorado. Her deeply ingrained love for the American West led her to investigate what could be done to ensure our future food supply and the existence of open spaces and natural resources for generations to come.

"Losing the West" was the result, illustrating the story of Howard Linscott, a gruff, chain-smoking Colorado cowboy and lifelong rancher. With the magnificent Colorado Rockies as backdrop, the film explores whether small ranches and farms and the fiercely independent lifestyle they embody can survive the inevitable population growth and dwindling natural resources in the West.

Sadly, that world is quickly disappearing. Most independent farmers and ranchers have low earnings, long hours, and kids who are city bound for careers that pay more and demand less. As world population careens toward nine billion, development is inevitable, the tradeoff being that a way of life is eroding along with its underlying lands.

With many having decided to sell their land, questions arise about who will raise our crops and livestock, how can we preserve the resources we need to sustain life, how will we feed twice as many people, what will happen if we lose our fertile lands and open spaces, and how can we avert a potential dystopia.

The film includes interviews with Dr. Patricia Nelson Limerick of the Center of the American West; U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado); Colorado State Senator Ellen Roberts (R); Andy Lipkis, founder and president of TreePeople, one of California's preeminent environmental organizations; representatives of the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts and the Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust; and Linscott's family, friends and co-workers.

Warren is far from a one-trick pony when it comes to her passion to make the world a better place.

Explaining that she "started this campaign eight years ago and am doing everything I can to get the messages the film makes out there," she summed up her personal doctrine: "Let's just roll up our sleeves and do this whether it's conservation, disaster relief or providing on-ramps through education. We all have a say in how things turn out."

A frequent public speaker for various causes, Warren spoke at the 2014 Motion Picture & Television Fund's Conference on Women. She has sponsored urban gardens at elementary schools across Los Angeles. An active investor in various businesses, from 1999 until 2010 she helped build Ferrari and Maserati of Beverly Hills, the largest Ferrari dealership in the world.

In 2010 Warren spearheaded a team of doctors with supplies for earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Arriving 10 days after the disaster when few could get in, the effectiveness of her small group demonstrates how efforts by individuals and smaller organizations can make a major contribution in critical situations.

And she somehow harnesses the time to serve on the board of the Jordan Farmar Foundation (JFF) as its Vice President in charge of the new education center, and partners with the Watts/Willowbrook Boys and Girls Club. The education center will be in effect in September, serving the 2015/2016 school year by providing after-school enrichment programs including homework assistance and standardized test preparation to children in grades 1-12. For further information, see http://www.farmargives.org.

"Jordan Farmar plays professional basketball and has a desire to teach and assist the next generation through sports camps and after-school programs," said Durón Sylvester, a USC MBA student working with JFF as a new board member. "His foundation has sponsored children's basketball camps at UCLA and other parts of town, offering scholarships for children in need. The program will now offer a brick and mortar after-school center partnered with local businesses, schools and people who have a heart for serving communities of need around the Los Angeles area."

Stating that there were no similar programs near West Adams and Crenshaw Blvd. within several miles of the center, Sylvester described plans to partner with the existing schools in the area to service their "overflow" students ages 8 - 13.

"This education center provides an opportunity for community service in an educational setting," he said. "Though this program will run Monday - Thursdays from 3 p.m. – to 6 p.m., we plan to have tutors/mentors to serve weekly to help with test prep for students who are below average on their testing and reading abilities as diagnosed by their school."

Producer-Director Alex Warren with camera on set of Losing The West

"Small organizations and small scale missions have the ability to create large impact," Warren said. "I learned this when I landed in Haiti with nine doctors, just days after the earthquake when still very few could get in. The education center on Adams and Crenshaw will be similar. It's a 'just do it' philosophy, and if I have to pay for the first few desks and computers, that's fine."

To live a meaningful life is an art so leave it to an artist to define what it takes, and a quote by Picasso seems to fit right in with Warren's style: "What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing."

Considering her efforts regarding "Losing the West," her involvement in the new JFF education center, her instant response to the Haitian crisis and her determination to improve the lives of others, Warren clearly portrays one very determined doer. Picasso would have approved.

 

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