Here’s a sprinkle of good news for an otherwise difficult summer. The first trailer for The North Pole, a comedy webseries about gentrification and “greenwashing” in Oakland, California is up on YouTube and the world premiere screening hs been scheduled for September of this year.
My maternal great-grandparents moved to Oakland in the 40s and had a house on the corner of Manila Avenue and 45th. It was an important place for large family gatherings on the holidays. My mother was born there in 1947 and other relatives have lived in East and West Oakland for as long as I can remember. I was born in Oakland during early 70s. Oakland was an angry and unwelcoming place of extreme differences in wealth, culture and opportunity. It seemed drastically different from neighboring towns like Berkeley where did my K-12 schooling. And yet, I found myself imagining an cyberpunk-inspired story that took place in a future Oakland after attending my first WonderCon at the Oakland Convention Center in 1989. The newer gleaming architecture of the downtown area inspired me that year along with the excitement around Tim Burton’s upcoming Batman film. Sadly, the Def Squad X/Oaklanders story centered around tired themes of battling urban crime, pimps, drugs and prostitution and somehow turned out to share a similar premise with The Mod Squad TV series.
A number of venues and events kept me returning to Oakland after completing my BFA in graphic design. In recent years, an Oakland-based art group (created and run by young artists from outside of Oakland) was instrumental in connecting me to many invaluable opportunities to network and exhibit my work. I even gave the co-working thing a try in Oakland a couple of years back. In spite of this, Oakland’s rapidly changing character due to the influx of workers from outside the area in the tech industry has once again turned me away from Oakland, along with an similarly alienating growth in elite identity activism with its own in-group/out-group dynamic, an explosion in public marijuana use, rudeness at eating and entertainment venues, and a lingering pastiche of the New York rap and hip-hop subculture currently embraced as “realness” and authentic.
Sure, I was born there, but I was never an Oaklander. And I probably never will be.
Even with this deepening drive to once again disassociate myself from the city of my birth, I decided to contribute some illustration work for one of the props in this first episode. The writing, performances and directing looks great based on the trailer and I even caught a split-second glimpse of my artwork in the background. Many thanks to Darren Colston for reaching out to me and to director Yvan Iturriaga for letting me help bring a tiny sliver of his vision to life.
Check out the link below to see the whole trailer: