‘Common’ understanding

Newly implemented educational standards prepare students for college and careers

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 2/27/2014

The way students are learning has shifted this year with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. Teachers across the country are trying out project-based learning to ensure students have the critical thinking and relevant life skills that will enable them to be successful in college or a career, as opposed to a set of discrete skills that were previously used to outline student success, according to a Pasadena Unified School District official.
Although the Common Core content standards apply only to English and math, there are also literacy standards for history, science, art and physical education.
California adopted the Common Core standards in August 2010, joining 44 other states. Since then, PUSD has been transitioning out of the use of the 1997 standards to meet the expectations that are set out in these new standards. Helen Hill, coordinator for professional development for PUSD, said the changes are subtle but important.
“We’re kind of lucky in California because the content of our standards for English, language arts and math don’t vary significantly from what we’ve previously been accustomed to,” said Hill. “What does change, though, is the expectations and increasing the rigor because these Common Core standards are matched to college and career-ready anchor standards.”
Meeting these new standards is not tied to state or federal funding, but Hill said PUSD is excited about them regardless, because they believe this is the next level that students should be pushed to achieve.
PUSD’s Web site states, “New tests used with the new standards starting in 2014-2015 will de-emphasize penciling in bubbles on multiple choice tests. Instead, essays and math word problems will assess knowledge, comprehension of academic subjects and problem-solving and writing skills.”
Hill said the district won’t necessarily move away from standardized tests. There will still be common assessments that students will be benchmarked to. Those next generation assessments will be authored in California by the Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium, so there will still be a standardized exam. However, they’ll differ in terms of what students will see.
“Our previous standardized tests were entirely multiple-choice with one correct answer,” said Hill. “What we’re going to see on the next generation assessments is constructed response and performance tests, which are types of questions students have not had a lot of exposure in but they’re the types of questions that permit us to see if students are actually making meaning of their learning and transferring their learning, as opposed to just recitation of acquired information.”
PUSD has been following a 5-year transition plan since the adoption of the Common Core standards in August 2010, so by the time the next generation assessments are administered they will be ready. However, this is the first school year they’ve had a full-scale pilot of Common Core units district-wide, so Hill said it’s still too early to tell precisely what’s making the difference in student learning because there are so many variables at play. She said that teachers and students are still getting accustomed to what the content and expectations are, adding that she believes the standards are achievable.
“This is the first year of the pilot, so we have to give time for teachers to learn as well,” said Hill. “There’s a learning curve for them as well, and we’re doing a lot of professional development this year so that teachers can have content readiness as well as pedagogical readiness. Depending on the level of implementation, be it teacher skills, be it student readiness, what the Common Core standards really allow for is a variety of access points, meaning that there’s a lot of inherent differentiations that can occur with the Common Core standards. 
“Additionally,” she said, “PUSD has chosen project-based learning as a preferred instructional method. Project-based learning really speaks to student voice and choice, therefore being able to meet the needs of multiple learners on multiple levels at the same time,” Hill said. “I believe that what we’re going to see in a few years is that the Common Core standards are highly achievable by many students, especially ones who we’ve historically thought could not.” 

Life and Death

Recent food stamp cuts add to the strain on already struggling local families  

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 2/27/2014

It just got much more difficult to put food on the table for struggling American families now that President Barack Obama has signed into law the trillion-dollar Agriculture Act of 2014, which includes billions of dollars in cuts to the nation’s food stamp program. Officials from Pasadena Unified School District and Union Station Homeless Services said those cuts will affect many local families.  
On Feb. 6 the League of Women Voters hosted Socorro Naranjo Rocha, head of PUSD’s Families in Transition Program, and Gil Nelson, director of Union Station’s Family Services, to discuss what those cuts mean for local families who were already struggling to put food on the table. Rocha said her program has been receiving more and more families since the first round of benefit cuts began last fall.
“We have cases where every family member lives in a single-room apartment, so whenever we do home visits it’s sad to see,” said Rocha. “Everybody’s sleeping on the floor or sofa or wherever they can. We have families right now who are living in their cars.”
Nelson said that every family in Union Station’s Family Services program has already had $50 to $60 cut from their food stamp allotment. However, just because their benefits were cut doesn’t mean their situation has changed. They still need to eat the same amount of food and they still need to feed their children, which means they need to use any cash they’ve been saving to get out of the shelter toward that.
“Now they have less money for food,” said Nelson. “They have to use their cash to make up the difference. Now they have less money to save for housing, less money to put gas in their vehicles, repair their vehicles, buy needed clothing, all the things that they need to be self-sufficient. I have volunteers who come in and work with people to show them how to save money, how to increase their budgets, how to find ways to fix their credit so they can become a better looking applicant when they go out looking for housing. But all these things get slowed down; they get delayed because they don’t have money.”
The farm bill cut $8 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. The program received a boost of $5 billion in 2009’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but those benefits were not renewed in November, and another $8 billion was eliminated when the farm bill was signed into law by Obama on Feb. 7.
The latest reductions leave an average of $1.40 per person per meal, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Low-income households will receive about $90 less per month for food, a significant blow to families trying to make ends meet.
“The food stamp benefit reduction was meant to coincide with a better economic outlook, yet many Americans remain stuck in poverty and others will be included due to cuts in unemployment benefits,” Marge Nichols wrote in the League’s newsletter, “The Voter.”
Add to this hardship the fact that the $8 an hour minimum wage in California, while higher than most states and the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, is still not “a living wage,” one set by a local government agency that applies to workers with businesses with contracts with that municipal governmental entity. Since the early 1990s, according to the National Employment Law Project, more than 120 municipalities — among them Pasadena, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and San Fernando — have enacted living wage laws.
On July 1, the state’s minimum wage rises to $9 an hour, and on Jan. 1, 2016, the minimum wage goes up to $10 per hour. 
In Pasadena, a living wage ordinance which has been in place since 1998 applies to contractors providing labor or services to the city in excess of $25,000, except those with a collective bargaining agreement or memorandum of understanding (MOU) with their employees.
The original ordinance stated that all employees must be paid no less than $10.75 per hour, plus medical benefits of no less than $1.85 per hour, or $12.60 per hour without medical benefits. Last month, the city’s living wage was adjusted according to the Consumer Price Index, raising the wage to $12.74 per hour, said Antonio Watson, project manager in the city’s Finance Department. According to MIT’s online living wage calculator, a living wage for one adult with no dependents in Pasadena is $11.37. For one adult with two children, it’s $27.15.
The ordinance includes an exemption for contractors. However, Watson said there are no active contracts with an exemption.
Nelson said that low wages and food stamp benefit cuts are causes of homelessness.
“Food stamp cuts, lack of income, lack of housing, it’s all connected,” he said. “Rent is very expensive in Pasadena; people can’t afford it. Everything snowballs, which is the way a lot of people become homeless. In our shelter we have 15 families right now. In our transitional housing programs we have about 60 children, from the ages of birth to 18. We have three pregnant women who are ready to increase the homeless population. It’s a very sad thing. It hurts to see that something like homeless children continues, having been one myself.”
The idea behind cutting food stamps and other public assistance monies, as espoused by Republicans in Congress, is that public benefits make people dependent on the government. If their benefits are cut, so the reasoning goes, they will be more motivated to get out of poverty, find a job and be self-reliant. Indeed, the Heritage Foundation, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other conservatives argue that the food stamp program costs too much, has grown too quickly, encourages government dependency and discourages work.
At the very least, the last point about discouraging work appears to be detached from reality. According to the California Department of Social Services’ Web site, in order to receive food stamp benefits, able-bodied persons ages 18 to 49 without dependents must work 20 hours per week or participate 20 hours per week in an approved work activity or do workfare. Locally, many food stamp recipients complete their workfare at the Rose Bowl.
Nelson said that reductions in benefits, like those imposed on food stamps, make it more difficult for people already struggling to survive.
“Our people are very, very poor,” said Nelson. “The things they need are very hard to come by. They don’t see the world the way the rest of America does because they have barriers. Some of these barriers are self-imposed, but most of them are things that society has put on them. I’m dealing with people who still have pride, still have a sense of being a part of society, even though society has sometimes excluded them.” 

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler

The 13th Annual Venice Mardi Gras Parade steps off Saturday on Ocean Front Walk

The Argonaut, 2/27/2014

Costumes. Music. Beads!

Come Saturday, the spirit of N’awlins is alive on Venice Beach.

The 13th annual Venice Mardi Gras Parade begins at noon at Rose Avenue and Ocean Front Walk, where the Mud Bug Brass Band will lead parade-goers down the boardwalk to Windward Circle. After a pit stop at Danny’s Venice, the parade proceeds north again, ending at the Venice Bistro for an after party at 2 p.m. with music by the Gumbo Brothers.

The show goes on rain or shine, but if faced with severe weather will remain indoors at Venice Bistro from noon until conditions are safe to proceed, organizers said.

Created as a West Coast revival of the New Orleans tradition, parade participants arrive adorned in festive costumes, toss beads to spectators and generally have a great time for the sake of having a great time.

This year’s theme is “Lovelution,” a word combining “love” and “evolution” coined by singer and parade founder Jessica Long, who staged the first parade in 2002 in honor of her boyfriend’s Louisiana traditions (he’s a Gumbo Brother) and to lift people’s spirits in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

“A lot of our friends were really needing something uplifting to happen in their lives because everybody was so depressed and shut down,” Long said. “We basically decided to do something creative to get people moving. [The parade] gave them something to focus on and elicited some creative energies.”

Long’s idea began as a house party, with the first parade taking place in her neighborhood. As the event grew more popular, it moved to the beach. While the parade remains an informal happening without official city permits (which means no floats, bikes or dogs allowed), participants aren’t doing anything illegal as long as the procession keeps moving.

“The beauty of the parade is it’s spontaneous on many levels. A lot of people don’t know what it is, but it’s really fun and exciting and everybody smiles and yells and cheers and throws beads, and it lights up every face,” Long said. “I wanted to create an opportunity for people to be artistic and express themselves, and there’s no better way to do that than on a parade route in a costume, celebrating the environment of Venice.”

In keeping with New Orleans tradition, the Venice Mardi Gras Parade honors a king and queen. This year’s local parade royalty are Venice residents Todd and Theo von Hoffman, who are being celebrated for their contributions to the community.

“We’re very flattered and slightly embarrassed, and ready to serve our beloved fellow Venetians with benevolence and fun and foolishness,” said Todd von Hoffman, who helped spearhead the movement to restore the Venice sign that now hangs over Windward Avenue.

“You’ve got people coming here from all over the world and they see locals getting together for a great time. Everyone gets a kick out of it. It’s going to be a ball,” he said. “The motivation and the joy of seeing people participating in things like the Mardi Gras is that it honors [Venice’s] founder, Abbot Kinney. We believe and hope that he smiles on our efforts.”

Todd von Hoffman also worked to found the Venice Heritage Foundation and currently sits on its board of directors, who are planning the creation of a Venice history museum. He was also involved in Venice’s 2005 centennial celebrations, reviving the 1913-14 minor league baseball team name Venice Tigers for a softball game.

Not only is the parade free and open to the public, it’s a relatively family-friendly event, Long said.

“People think, ‘Oh, it’s a Mardi Gras event, there’s going to be a bunch of girls showing their boobs.’ It’s not that,” said Long. “Although that may happen. It is Venice … but [the parade] doesn’t tend to be like that.”

Also in the Mardi Gras tradition, many different floats and processions are represented by various “krewes.” Long and her friends created the “Krewe of Grand View.” The von Hoffmans formed the “Most Serene and Royal Majesty, the Windward Krewe,” after buying 22 purple tuxedo tails from a movie prop house that was going out of business.

“The parade is an opportunity to be goodwill ambassadors and say, ‘Here we are, we’re loving life,” Long said.

The Venice Mardi Gras Parade steps off at noon from where Rose Avenue meets Ocean Front Walk, continues along the boardwalk to Windward Avenue and loops Windward Circle before a pause for refreshments at Danny’s Venice, 23 Windward Ave. After the break, the parade heads north again to Venice Bistro, 323 Ocean Front Walk, for an after party from 2 to 4 p.m. that includes a concert by the Gumbo Brothers.

‘Creating peace’

The first interfaith high school teaches children about their religion in the context of other faiths

Pasadena Weekly, 2/27/2014

Randy Christopher and Kimberly Medendorp are putting that sentiment to the test with the nation’s first interfaith high school right here in Pasadena, and the results have been transformational.
Now in its fifth year, the Peace and Justice Academy that they founded brings kids of all faiths together to learn not only about their religion, but all the others as well. Medendorp said this may be the first interfaith high school in the world, as they haven’t been able to find another one quite like it.
“There are schools that are tolerant of religion, that have students from a variety of faiths, but ours is specifically designed for kids to continue to explore their own faith in the context of other faiths,” she said. “We want people to be tolerant, but that’s just a place to start. To celebrate each other’s differences is where you want to get. Tolerance should be the starting point, not the ending point.”
Prior to founding the Peace and Justice Academy, Medendorp was a teacher and Christopher worked for an organization that owned and operated special education boarding schools around the country. Around the time the recession hit, Christopher began contemplating what he wanted to do next in case he got laid off. He decided to open a new school with a model similar to performing arts high schools, but instead of teaching kids to act and sing and draw, it would be a place where kids go when they want to learn how to become activists.
“When we look at Pasadena, there’s a Jewish K-8 school and a Muslim K-8 school, but there’s no high school for those communities,” said Medendorp, who along with Christopher identifies as Mennonite. “So much of the world’s conflict is strife because of religion, and our contention is that the world’s religions need to band together and start creating the world’s peace, not just being the cause of conflict.”
The Peace and Justice Academy, according to its literature, meets in “the intersection of all the world’s great religions, in the common ethic of love, compassion, justice and peace.” The school operates on a cohort model, and Medendorp said it’s an intentionally small school. Currently they have 25 students. They’re hoping to expand to a maximum of 80 students, but no more than that in order to maintain a sense of community. Ideally, they would have five Muslim kids, five Jewish kids and five Christian kids in their freshman class next year, she said. All 15 students would take the same academic classes together. 
“Then, during their faith development class, there will be some classes where they’re individually with their own Christian, Muslim or Jewish instructor,” said Christopher. “For example, for three weeks a month they’d be in their own class and one week all the students would be together and discuss the topics they’ve discussed in their own class in a collaborative model. When the Christians learn about Jewish traditions, they’ll learn from a rabbi or a Jewish instructor. They’re not going to learn from their Christian instructor telling them about someone else’s religion.”
Once a month they bring the students on a unique field trip called a Peace and Justice Lab. They go out into the community and explore issues of social justice in the world. During one lab, students were given the scenario of being homeless and had to figure out on their own what to do and where to go.
“That’s where these discussions from our faith traditions get put in context,” said Medendorp, “where the rubber meets the road. The kids go out and learn about homelessness and say, ‘What does my faith tradition compel me to do about this? What do I know about it? How do I respond to this? How do we respond to this together?’”
Other labs have included a trip to San Diego to learn about immigration, a drive from Rodeo Drive to Skid Row to see the economic disparity in our own backyard, a visit to Manzanar to learn about the Japanese internment camps and many others.
“Our trips deal with questions like, ‘Where does your food come from? Where does your water come from? Where does your trash go?’ The field trips we go on are not typical,” said Christopher. “There’s no substitute for experiential learning. What is not so much of a secret is that all these faith traditions mandate that we do the same thing, which is to help the poor and to serve others. We have this common ethic. Where do all the great religions of the world come together? Around the common ethic of peace and justice. All the religions could send their kids here and we could learn to live in peace together and serve the world.” 
For more information about the Peace and Justice Academy, visit thepeaceacademy.org/hs.

Stretching the truth

Former reporter Kathy Braidhill claims the city fudged the facts about her Pilates business  

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 2/6/2014

Three weeks ago, a Superior Court judge awarded Pilates instructor and former Pasadena Star-News reporter Kathy Braidhill just more than a quarter of the damages requested in a complaint she filed last year against the city of Pasadena, a city code compliance officer and Mehran Baghgegian, the owner of a building she rented space from to open her Pilates studio.   
In the end, the judge ruled against Baghgegian, but dismissed the city from Braidhill’s lawsuit.
Despite Braidhill never receiving written notice from the city prohibiting her from operating her business at that building because of a code compliance issue, Judge Bruce Mitchell agreed with the city and city Code Compliance Officer Sharon Gray and absolved the city of responsibility for the $15,413 that Braidhill poured into the business while awaiting word on her business license application. 
The city argued, and Mitchell agreed, that one phone call from Gray to Braidhill was adequate notice of the building’s compliance problem. According to court documents, Gray argued that Braidhill understood the issue because she got into a bicycle accident after hearing the information. However, hospital documents show the accident actually happened several weeks after that phone call.
“There’s this regulatory vacuum in the city in which small business owners are trapped and fall prey,” said Braidhill. “They wind up paying a lot of money, the property owner gets the money, the city doesn’t do its job and doesn’t enforce its own laws, and we wind up having this really bad climate for small businesses.”
In October 2011, Baghgegian rented space at 55 Waverly Drive in Pasadena to Braidhill for her business, Studio K Pilates, without informing her that the only use permitted for that site was a warehouse. 
On Oct. 14, 2011, Braidhill submitted an application with the city for a Code Compliance Certificate and a business license, according to court documents. 
On Oct. 28, 2011, Gray denied Braidhill’s Code Compliance Certificate because the building did not have a Certificate of Occupancy. She called Braidhill that day and told her that her application was being denied, but Braidhill did not consider that “confusing” phone call to be proper notice.
“I remember asking her, ‘Why are you calling me if there’s a problem with the building?’” said Braidhill. “There was a lot of traffic and I couldn’t understand what she was really saying. It was very noisy.”
That call lasted 12 minutes, according to phone records provided by the city. Gray said she would write a letter that day explaining the situation, but she never sent it. Braidhill spent months calling Gray and the city, as well as going to City Hall in person, despite significant injuries she suffered in the accident on her bike, to find out the status of her business license application, unsuccessfully. She was told it wasn’t ready yet. She was not told that it had been denied.
“I sought out the information time and time again,” she said. “I did not get a message saying I needed to move out immediately. My impression was that I wasn’t supposed to do anything because I didn’t own the building and I didn’t receive a letter.”
In April 2012, Braidhill hired an attorney who had a meeting with Gray and received from her the letter dated Oct. 28, 2011. That’s when Braidhill said she first understood that she could not run her studio at that location, and had to uproot her business immediately having already invested thousands of dollars into it.
Gray stated in court documents that “the letter was not mailed due to an investigation concerning the status of the building.” In April 2012, Gray opened a code compliance case against Baghgegian regarding his use of the building for other than that of a warehouse. Braidhill’s attorney was told that Baghgegian had not complied with city rules regarding the 55 Waverly Drive property for more than a decade.
“How long does it take to bring a property owner into compliance?” asked Braidhill.
She contends that the city did not properly notify her that the building was out of compliance, which ended up costing her more than $15,000. Gray and the city argued in court papers that since Braidhill called Gray on Oct. 31, 2011 and told her during a one-minute conversation that the information provided to Braidhill during the Oct. 28, 2011 phone conversation was “so surprising that she had gotten into an accident on her bicycle,” she had therefore been properly notified. Braidhill said this was not true. She was actually hit by a tile truck on her bike on Nov. 10, not during the Oct. 28 phone call. Records from Huntington Hospital show that she was admitted on Nov. 10.
Then, during the hearing on Jan. 15, Braidhill claimed that Gray told her in the Alhambra Courthouse hallway that Braidhill told her about the bike accident during a phone call on Nov. 16, a different date than she argued in court papers. However, according to the city’s phone records, that phone call was placed by Sgt. Bruce George, the Pasadena police officer who responded to Braidhill’s accident, to Braidhill, not from Braidhill to Gray. It is unknown how Gray actually found out about the accident.
Gray, who retired last month, referred all questions to Chief Assistant City Attorney Javan Rad.
“The declaration says what it says, and Sharon Gray testified consistent to what her declaration said,” Rad told the Weekly after the discrepancy about the accident was pointed out to him. “The real date that matters here is on Oct. 28 [Braidhill] was given notice that her code compliance certificate was denied. It’s a matter of following the rules.” 
“I don’t know how an imaginary bike accident serves as a legal notice,” Braidhill said. “I sued the city because they didn’t send me the letter informing me that the property didn’t have a Certificate of Occupancy until I hired an attorney to extract it from them.”
Either way, the judge sided with the city, saying it wasn’t the city’s fault that it was noisy when Gray called to inform her that her application was being denied. The judge agreed with the city that the issue was between Braidhill and Baghgegian, who was ordered to pay her the settlement amount of $4,201 by Feb. 15 or appeal the decision. Braidhill said the settlement amount is nowhere near how much money she lost because of this incident.
“I felt as though the city took advantage of the fact that I had been the victim of a horrible accident and turned it against me in order to re-victimize me and wants to pass that off as ‘litigation,’” she said.
She recently opened another studio at Hill Avenue and Walnut Street called Pilates Pasadena.
“I’m fighting on, so to speak,” she said, “despite being ground by the boot heel of the city and the property owner. The city can do a better job of taking care of these property owners and actually notifying small business owners. I’m not interested in suing Gray personally, but if the city wants to encourage a small business climate and allow us to make a living and not get sucked in by these property owners who are out to deceive people, we need protection.”
Last week, Braidhill received a photocopy of the mediation confidentiality agreement in the mail from the office of the City Attorney/City Prosecutor, without any note or letter. She interpreted this as “ham-handed intimidation” by the city, and wrote a letter to her City Council representative, Councilman Terry Tornek. Tornek said he would comment after receiving the letter, which he had not yet seen.
“As a proud, longtime resident of Pasadena and a proud small business owner, I am ashamed at the conduct of the city,” she said. “I am embarrassed that the city concocted an odd down-the-rabbit-hole story instead of conducting itself honorably and telling the truth. I would like, perhaps, to get my $109.40 (business license application fee) back, if not the nearly $3,000 in legal fees to extract the letter I was promised and never received. And to conduct a formal review of this matter to determine the truth of what happened so that others hoping to start a small business don’t have to suffer thousands of dollars in losses like I did as a result of the city’s double standard. And yes, I would like the city to do me the courtesy, as I have in done in its forms and applications, to receive an answer in writing.” 

Cinema City

The first-ever Pasadena International Film Festival kicks off Wednesday

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 2/6/2014

Although the films selected by the curators of the first annual Pasadena International Film Festival begin screening on Wednesday at the Laemmle Playhouse 7, the curators themselves are especially excited about Thursday night. That’s when the Westin Pasadena will host the festival’s Great Gatsby-themed gala, a black-tie affair that’s free and open to the public.
The festival, which will screen 85 films from Wednesday, Feb. 12, through Sunday, Feb. 16, features a different party every night, with the gala Thursday, industry mixers at various bars and restaurants in Pasadena on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and the awards ceremony at the Laemmle theater on Sunday night. There will also be speakers and panels at the Pasadena Museum of History and the Pasadena Central Library.
The theme of the festival itself is 1920s Old Hollywood, a metaphor for “where the old world of film meets the new world of new media.”
“Film as we know it is over,” said the festival’s founder and Pasadena resident Jessica Hardin. “Everything’s going through this huge overhaul and huge shift. The studios are basically just focused on distribution at this point. I and a lot of other people miss the old Hollywood where everything was fresh and new and a smaller amount of people were involved. Everything had a sense of elegance about it. With new media, it’s a whole new thing where people are starting to try to make names for themselves online and with Web series, because the market is so super saturated that they’re trying to find vehicles to squeeze their projects in.”
Hardin and her husband, Marco Neves, both actors, decided to bring a film fest to Pasadena after Neves toured the festival circuit for his 2011 movie “Redemption.” Neves, the festival’s creative director, went to the Almería Western Film Festival in Spain and got an inside look at what it takes to prepare a festival.
“I shared that information with Jessica and we realized, ‘We could do this,’” he said. “Of course, we had no idea how hard this was going to be. This is a behemoth.”
Hardin and Neves have been developing the festival for more than two years. Now in the home stretch, they’ve had to deal with threats of litigation. One of their rules is that filmmakers who submit films must own all the copyrights. An attorney called them and said there was a disagreement between a writer and the directors and producers of a film about copyrights regarding the film, so it was taken out of the running for the festival. The filmmakers actually showed up at Hardin and Neves’ door, yelling and screaming and asking why they were no longer in the lineup and threatened to sue them unless they showed the film. Hardin had to call the cops and got a restraining order against them a couple days later.
Still, Hardin said all the hard work and craziness has been worth it.
“I started laying the groundwork and it sort of snowballed because I think Pasadena was really ripe and ready for a festival,” said Hardin. “When I moved here what I liked was all these events, Art Night, dance festivals, Cheeseburger Week, jazz and wine; it seems like every week there’s something going on. Pasadena is the best of all worlds.”
They met with Mayor Bill Bogaard who said there have been a lot of festivals that have tried to make it in Pasadena but couldn’t get the funding. Method Fest moved to Calabasas and Action on Film moved to Monrovia. The Pasadena International Film Festival’s sponsors include the Pasadena Film Office, the Pasadena Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the city’s Department of Water and Power. 
“We hope that with the success of this year’s festival, next year the city will be a little more supportive,” said Hardin. “Most high-end festivals cost seven figures to put on. I’d say it’s unheard of to do it at the low end we’re doing it at. But the low levels do not represent the quality of the festival. We were smart about it, got creative and used the barter system a lot. We were actually able to not only have a festival, but have a very nice festival.”
As for the films themselves, Hardin and Neves were surprised by the high quality of the submissions they received. Out of 300 submissions, they’ve selected 85.
“We’ve got some really good films in this festival,” said Hardin. “And names, like shorts with Luke Wilson, Ernie Hudson … surprising stuff. It’s more of that super saturation I was talking about. There’s so much out there now that even the stars are going to festivals because at least it’s a vehicle to show their movies.”
The festival includes 15 foreign films from 12  countries, including Russia, Brazil, India, France, South Korea and New Zealand, as well as the United States. Three films are local productions. One, a film that was originally called “Pasadena” until the film’s distributors made the filmmakers change the name to “Cold Turkey,” was filmed in Pasadena and stars Peter Bogdanovich, Alicia Witt and Cheryl Hines. The filmmaker’s idea was that Pasadena is like an East Coast town on the West Coast. There’s also a Pasadena-based production company called Moonhill Productions that has two films playing in the festival: “Salvage” is a documentary about the homeless problem in Los Angeles, and “Zombeo and Juliécula” is the story of Romeo and Juliet with zombies and vampires.
Hardin said the festival will include some great documentaries. “Not My Life,” narrated by Glenn Close, is about human trafficking. “After Kony — Staging Hope,” produced by Melissa Fitzgerald and Martin Sheen, documents the use of drama and writing therapy in Uganda as a creative outlet. “Uniform Betrayal” is about rape in the military.
Film screenings will run from 11 a.m. each day until about midnight. All Access Passes for all screenings cost $95. Industry Passes cost $50 with industry business cards or guild membership cards. Daily Passes cost $25. All of the festival’s events are within walking distance of each other.
“Another thing I love about Pasadena is the walkability of it,” said Hardin. “I wanted to make a walkable event so people could stay at the Westin, go to the Laemmle and walk to pretty much everything. We’re trying to build a film community in the city, because there’s so much culture here. We wanted to make everything accessible.”
On Wednesday a soft opening party will be held at Japon Bistro. Screenings will take a break Thursday evening so the Great Gatsby gala can kick off at 6 p.m. at the Westin, complete with a red carpet, hors d’oeuvres, dinner, cocktails, a performance by the Pasadena Symphony and POPS, speeches, awards, a deejay and dancing. Friday’s industry mixer will be held at the Speakeasy, known during the day as New York Deli. Check their Facebook page for the password to get in.
At 1:30 p.m. Saturday producer Tim Harms will moderate a panel of industry leaders as they discuss “The Future of Film” in the Donald Wright Auditorium at the Pasadena Central Library. That panel will be followed by another one moderated by actress and writer T. Lynn Mikeska. The topic of the second panel will be “The Transformational Power of Women in Film.” The industry mixer on Saturday night will be held at SECO: New American Restaurant.
On Sunday, world renowned film historian Marc Wanamaker will give a lecture on Old Hollywood, the history of film and its relation to Pasadena, starting at 4 p.m. That event costs $15 for non-members, $10 for members and $20 at the door. Tickets include museum admission, Wanamaker’s lecture, a wine and cheese reception and parking. To cap off a whirlwind weekend of films, parties and events, the Pasadena International Film Festival’s award ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Laemmle, followed by a final reception at the Vertical Wine Bistro. 
For tickets and more information, visit pasadenafilmfestival.org.