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INDEPENDENT LENS: The Parking Lot Movie

Airs Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Credit: Courtesy of Jon-Phillip Sheridan

Above: Photo of parking attendents Tyler Magill, Harper Hellems, Patrick Baran and parking lot owner, Chris Farina in Charlottesville, Virginia from the film "The Parking Lot Movie."

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Filmmaker Interview

In this interview, filmmaker Meghan Eckman discusses how a friendship with one of the attendants at The Corner Parking Lot led to an entire movie, and the challenges of creating a narrative arc in a movie about pavement.

"The Parking Lot Movie" is on Facebook and you can follow @ParkingLotMovie on Twitter.

"The Parking Lot Movie" is a documentary about a singular parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia. The film follows a select group of parking lot attendants and their strange rite of passage. The eccentric brotherhood of attendants consists of grad students, overeducated philosophers, surly artists, middle-age slackers, and others.

This self-described "ragtag group of fractured poets" prefers skateboards and bicycles to cars and have, at best, a tolerant contempt for the people they serve. That's not to say they don't care about anything. They hang out at the lot even in their spare time, shooting the breeze or playing a spirited game of "flip cone," just because … they like it there. They conduct their own private "war" against the elites, the pretentious and obnoxious customers who park their BMWs, Hummers, Suburbans in the lot. They study the art of doing nothing and the knack of getting even with rude, SUV-driving dolts who treat them like inferior beings.

The gradual devolution from enthusiasm to resentment in the psyches of guys self-aware enough to notice it is an interesting process; in an attempt to distract themselves from the rapidly mounting bitterness, the attendants amuse themselves any way they can — stenciling random messages on the parking gate, writing songs, and even dancing for tips.

Through interviews with former attendants who have moved on, we see that their time at the lot has was an important rite of passage and afforded them Zen-like perspective.

As one former attendant laments, "We had it all in a world that had nothing to offer us."

If the intersection between the status quo and the quest for freedom is their ultimate challenge, could a slab of asphalt be an emotional way station for The American Dream?

The Parking Lot Movie Music Video

"The Parking Lot Movie" is a documentary about a singular parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia and its select group of attendants that inhabit its microcosm. The employees are a uniquely varied group comprised of undergraduate and graduate students, philosophers, intellectuals, musicians, artists, and marginal-type characters. For these toll-booth toilers, the intersection between the status quo and the quest for freedom becomes the challenge.

Video Excerpt: Independent Lens: The Parking Lot Movie

"The Parking Lot Movie" chronicles the rarefied world of one small parking lot in a college town, and the asphalt philosophers who work as attendants there scrutinizing cars and license plates, capitalism, anger, justice, drunkenness, spiritual awareness, class struggle, entitlement, and the plight of the service sector worker.

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