Flamenco guitarist, photographer and cutting edge documentarian, Tao Ruspoli, founded the Los Angeles Filmmakers’ Cooperative (LAFCO) in 2000. In 1999, Tao purchased a 1985 school bus on eBay, replaced the seats with professional video editing equipment, and spray-painted the side with a quote from Jean Cocteau: “Film will only become art when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper.” Tao began collecting people with similar beliefs and the collective embarked on a cross-country journey in August 2006, filming and editing out of their bus, which by then contained several HD video cameras, three editing stations, a screening room, and rooftop boarding for five. Over the years, their mix of documentaries, music videos, and narrative films has produced a remarkable amount of press and an impressive list of clients for their commercial projects, including Sony, Talib Kweli, and Yellowcard.
Film projects (commercial and personal) and behind-the-scenes videos showing the bus experience (which they refer to as a “Cine Circus”) vary in length, but they’re always top quality. Whether it’s a candid moment caught on film, or a finely-polished music video, their editing is superb. Divided into films, music videos, and interviews, LAFCO rarely fails to impress. One of their best interviews, for example, is a brief moment the group snagged with Oliver Stone, where Tao picks the legendary director’s brain about art and politics. And an experiment in the music video section finds all the members of the LAFCO troupe contributing their individual skills; playing with travel and motion images, the group pits a collection of old and found footage together with an original electro-pop soundtrack to make a cumulative travelogue. There’s also a photo blog and a space for fans to donate money to supply the adventurers with gas and food.
At first, I was unimpressed with a Slick and Rose music video for their song “Chemical.” But after watching a four-minute excerpt from Tao’s Just Say Know, an award-winning documentary about his family’s battle with heroin and opium additions, the video struck me as nuanced and expressive.