Hermosa Beach native Rory Uphold calls her web series “Only in HelLA” her “love/hate letter to Los Angeles.” Even with her conflicted emotions, Uphold wanted to show her love for the City of Angels.
“To me, L.A. is this very magical place, but I can understand to an outsider how you can visit or move here and be like 'I don't understand it, it's sunny all the time, traffic sucks, there's smog everywhere, the people are obsessed with what they look like.' But there are a lot of things that are funny about L.A.”
Six of the dozen planned episodes of the first season explore issues such as trying on clothes next to a supermodel and finding parking in L.A. New “HelLA” (pronounced Hell-Lay) episodes, many of which were shot in the beach cities, are posted every Tuesday on YouTube and on Uphold's site onlyinhella.com.
Uphold grew up in the beach cities, and her perception of Los Angeles changed when she went to art school in Michigan and returned to a city that “seemed very foreign to me.”
“A lot of the gripes I heard were the same things that I had issues with,” she said. “I feel L.A. is what you make of it and it just takes time. I think with Los Angeles, it's about the friends that you have and the things you do. It doesn't really matter where you live, good friendships take time. So for me, I love Los Angeles … because I feel comfortable everywhere. I don't need GPS, I always know where I am. I have a wonderful network of these creative and inspiring and supportive friends.”
Uphold went to USC to study acting, but she landed a record deal and toured the country on a solo tour and worked with other artists including E-40 and Colby O'Donis. She went back to acting, but wasn't getting the roles she wanted.
“I was having a really hard time,” Uphold said. “My personality doesn't necessarily fit the stereotypical character that looks like me because I'm blonde, blue eyed. People were telling to dye my hair to brunette. 'You seem so edgy,' or whatever it was. So I decided I just needed to make my own stuff. It was something I did out of necessity.”
So Uphold wrote, directed and starred in her first short, “Safety,” a “dark comedy about rebound and rejection,” that has been screened in 15 film festivals and won four awards, including Best Narrative Short at the Oxford Film Festival this month in Mississippi. “Safety” became the launching pad for “Only in HelLA.”
Uphold said she has had substantial support from local businesses that have let her film her short. Buona Vita Trattoria in Hermosa Beach filled in for a West Hollywood restaurant in her second short, “Dinner in West Hollywood.” Episode five, “Shopping 'organic' in L.A.,” was filmed at Grow in Manhattan Beach. Episode three, “Parking in L.A.,” was shot in the parking lot behind the Underground Pub & Grill in Hermosa Beach. Episode 10 was shot at Two Guns Espresso in Manhattan Beach. Her acupuncturist, Kathleen Lowry, let her film in her building in Hermosa Beach for the eighth episode. This week's episode, “Gluten-Free Homeless … #OnlyinHelLA,” features David Wilkins, who was part of the team behind the Doritos time machine commercial that won $1 million Super Bowl competition.
“There's a small town-ness to it I think is really awesome, where my mom's friends can pick up the phone, a friend of a friend, and they're willing to let me shoot there,” Uphold said. “I think that's special and I felt fortunate having had those resources.”
Uphold said she has two more episodes to shoot and she expects to start a Kickstarter.com campaign soon after to help fund the second season of “Only in HelLA.”