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Producer of The Soloist plays songs of inspiration

A conversation with Steve Lopez and Gary Foster

Vanessa Osio

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Gary Foster, producer of The Soloist and Steve Lopez, author of the book, held an open forum in the Golden Eagle Ballroom on Monday, Feb. 22.

Students came together to hear what Foster and Lopez had to say about the transition of a newspaper column, to a book, and finally, a movie about the friendship between a Los Angeles Times columnist and a homeless musician from Skid Row.

Foster has been a producer since his early twenties and attended the University of Southern California. He is also known for his work in the movie Sleepless in Seattle and the comedy series Community.

Foster got involved with The Soloist after being introduced to Lopez at a luncheon. They had lunch and walked down the heart of Skid Row to meet the real life subject Nathaniel Ayers.

Before filming, Foster would go down to Skid Row and talk to the people living there.

“Some of the people who were part of the LAMP Community became really dear friends,” Foster said.

The film inspired Foster to join the Board of Directors of LAMP Community, a homeless shelter and mental health services provider in the center of skid row in Downtown L.A. Foster who was asked two and a half years ago is now board chair at LAMP Community.

And when looking back at the movie, Foster remembers while the screenplay was being written not everything correlated to the book. He also said he would have changed the parts where Robert Downey Jr. was speaking into a tape recorder and made him have a reporter’s notebook. During the panel, Foster told the audience he had one major condition while making the movie.

“We are going to make sure that the community is alive and part of the movie,” Foster said.

Foster wanted to see real people—the ones who really live on the streets of Skid Row—become part of the movie. He wanted the movie to have a real feel with real people, not actors playing the role of someone living on Skid Row.

And while Foster is happy with the film’s portrayal and outcome, he still wants to inspire a change in the film industry.

“I think that people who fund movies and television should be looking to fund original voices and creative ideas. The best movies come from those people who have a clear vision and passion for something. They can choose to who they want to fund, but once they choose let them tell their story, let them create what they intend to create,” says Foster.

The Soloist was nominated for performance in a Feature Film and won a Prism Award for Feature Film in Mental Health. As for Lopez, he continues to write for the L.A. Times and is our Public Relations and Communications Director on campus.

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Producer of The Soloist plays songs of inspiration