Video: The inspiring tales of LA’s ‘ugly, dirty or weird’ places

Written by
Tom Carroll

You may know about Los Angeles, but what about the hidden L.A. in the new web series, “Tom Explores Los Angeles?”  Tom Carroll, a 27-year-old sign artist at Trader Joe’s, recently released the web series, which follows him as he explores the hidden history of Southern California. It brings viewers to a lot of unusual gems in L.A. like the steepest street, the sunken city, a bizarre downtown sculpture, the old  zoo, the waterless river and a 110 walkway. KCRW interviewed Carroll via email about his new series and where the idea came from

KCRW: What is your background?

Carroll: I grew up in La Habra Heights and studied art at Occidental, graduating in 2008. My last few jobs were tour guide jobs.  I gave tours at Los Angeles State Historic Park and prior to that I led discussion based tours at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. A lot of what I learned as tour guide, speaking loudly and slowly, knowing when you are losing your audience, I use for “Tom Explores Los Angeles.”

KCRW: What made you want to do this series?

Carroll: It started as a homework assignment for a class I took this last semester at Pasadena City College. The assignment being, we had to make a video that was under five minutes long, taught someone something and then had to be uploaded to YouTube. After thinking through basic tutorial videos, I realized that the walkway along the 110 would make a great video and I could teach someone something.

KCRW: Why did you choose those places?

Carroll: I pick places that I find interesting but also may not fully appreciated for how great they are. I like places that might change people’s perspective of Los Angeles. It is obvious, but I pick places that may have been derided in the past as “ugly,” “dirty,” or “weird.” Those are the places that excite me; those are places I like to go.

KCRW: What was your craziest experience in producing the series?

Carroll: When we shot the “The Sunken City” episode in San Pedro, there were some goth kids throwing rocks at us; they were quite far away from where we were so we didn’t get hit by any of their projectiles.

KCRW: Are you a one-man band?

Carroll: I most definitely could not do this by myself. Derrick DeBlasis, who directs the series and makes it look awesome, shoots everything himself as well as edits the episodes. Keleigh, my girlfriend, is the production manager for all the shoots. She makes sure I stay on point, helps with equipment, and generally makes the shoots run smoothly. Tim Kirk, who produces the show, helps with the shows research as well as ideas for future episodes. He makes all prior arrangements i.e. getting permits to shoot, scheduling interviews that make up parts of episodes, and is an all around positive force. Most of the episodes we have done so far, have been favorite spots of mine prior to the series; I write the episodes as well as research them.

KCRW: What do you want people to take away from these videos?

Carroll: I hope that people take away a renewed or heightened enthusiasm for the city of Los Angeles, seeing what great things Los Angeles has to offer. Whether the videos inspire them to seek out a part of city they may not have seen before or it simply enlivens the pride they have for their city. I hope that my little nuggets of history motivate people to go out and do their own research.