WATCH THE TRAILER
  • Explore the map to see the lay of the land, meet the heroes of our story and the filmmakers behind the camera.
  • These are the men with a License to Operate.
    Like the gangs, their territories span the entire city of L.A.
    allowing them to work as a team breaking barriers and
    mediating conflict from one neighborhood to the next.
  • Nikko - Mid City
  • Former gang: PLAYBOY CRIP
  • “I WAS STUCK IN A CYCLE AND DIDN’T
    KNOW A WAY OUT AND DIDN’T CARE.
    IT WAS DEATH OR JAIL AND THAT’S ALL.”
  • Tommie T “Top” - La Brea and Jefferson
  • Former gang: WEST ATHENS
  • “I NEVER WAS A BAD PERSON. BUT
    WHEN IT CAME DOWN TO BANGIN’ I WAS ONE OF THE BEST AT IT.”
  • Filmmakers:
    James Lipetzky - Director
    Director/editor James Lipetzky is the principle and founder of Foundation Content in Los Angeles, an award-winning production company creating original content across multiple platforms. He is currently directing a documentary-style film exploring and celebrating the Mayan culture in conjunction with the upcoming opening of the Museo Maya de America in Guatemala. While working on “License To Operate,” Lipetzky spent nearly a year in South Central Los Angeles delving deep into the lives and stories of the film’s subjects and witnessing first hand the power of the LTO to effect change within the community.

    Lipetzky is a graduate of Iowa Film School. His film “Sweet Dreams Driving School” was a hit on the festival circuit.
    Filmmakers:
    Anna Patel - Editor
    Anna Patel is a natural storyteller with a knack for finding the emotional thread. Her latest documentary, Sole Survivor, recently picked up by CNN Films, is the perfect example: “My last documentary opened my eyes to the heartbreaking struggles of the sole survivor, and the men and woman featured in this film are survivors too.”

    Anna’s spent the last 7 years at Foundation Content, working on both documentary and commercial projects. For Anna, it’s not just a matter of showing what happens, but revealing the heart and poetry that makes this story so beautifully human.
    Filmmakers:
    Jeremiah Hammerling - Cinematographer/
    Director of Photography

    Our fearless DP has spent the last decade making documentaries from Pakistan, to Sudan, Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Morocco, and Chicago's South Side. His experience filming with small crews in war-torn countries coupled with his endless curiosity makes him the ideal DP for this project

    His recent work behind the camera includes Bailout: The Dukes of Moral Hazard covering the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, A Message from the East, telling the story of Pakistan’s spiritual leader, He followed an Egyptian revolutionary through the Arab Spring for Beyond Tahir and Werner Herzog described his film Ba Ne Jek Mal (We Meet in Peace) as “truly rogue.”
    Filmmakers:
    Mike Wallen - Producer
    Mike oversees Omelet Studio developing and producing original strategic content and media innovation for clients and partners. Mike has developed and produced content for Adult Swim, 20th Century Fox, TBS, and Spike. Additionally, Mike ran creative for Fox Mobile Studios, where managed and supervised all business and creative aspects of Fox Mobile Studios where he developed and produced original and licensed content tailored specifically for mobile and online distribution worldwide. Mike also served as Creative Director of Lifestyle and Consumer Products for MGA Entertainment, which included the wildly successful Bratz brand.
    Filmmakers:
    Don Kurz - Executive Producer
    As Omelet’s CEO, Don’s stewardship sets the standard for the entire staff. From development through production, Don’s leadership and knowledge has been paramount to our success. He also serves on the board for A Better LA and the Community Affairs Committee for Johns Hopkins University, focusing on inner-city education and youth development.

    The vision for this film began when fellow ABLA board member Matt Celenza approached Don. “Given the strong passion our team showed for the subject, we felt strongly that a movie should be made to tell this remarkable story. And through the entire journey, it’s been a privilege to be part of this project.”
    Filmmakers:
    Samantha Hart - Executive Producer
    As a Marketing and Creative Executive in the film industry, Samantha has had the opportunity to work with some outstanding directors including the Coen Bros, Steven Soderbergh and Kimberly Pierce. She’s witnessed the hard work, sweat equity and above all, the passion it takes to bring a film to life. Having Samantha on board has been an incredible asset, as she’s been able to share that creative perspective with the team on a day-to-day basis. In her words: “Seeing director, James Lipetzky, become increasingly passionate about the subject matter as he took it from a fundraising video to a feature? That’s been incredibly rewarding. That passion is what will set it apart.”
    Filmmakers:
    Matt Celenza - Executive Producer
    Matt started out as a volunteer for A Better LA and now serves as the board chairman. “I was overwhelmed by the potential I saw in these inner city neighborhoods and recognized that without the proper support, that potential would never be realized.” ABLA’s unique approach to gang intervention has been immensely effective, and Matt's involvement has become a key component to its success. Through the trust and respect he has earned with the LTO's in these communities, Matt has been instrumental in arranging unprecedented access for our film crew. Matt’s passion is palpable, and continues to serve as a driving force behind this entire film production.
    Filmmakers:
    Edgar Burcksen - Editor
    Editor Edgar Burcksen, ACE is a seasoned veteran in the film business. He left his native Netherlands for California after editing 15 feature films and winning the Dutch Academy Award in 1985. George Lucas chose him to edit the two hour pilot for “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”, for which he won a primetime Emmy. He received an Oscar nomination for the 1996 documentary Colors Straight Up. The critically-acclaimed documentary Darfur Now earned Edgar Burcksen an ACE Eddie nomination in 2007. He was awarded the ACE Robert Wise Award for his outstanding contribution in journalistic achievement advocating the art of editing. His work on LTO signals another fine accomplishment that combines his sense for drama and the reality of everyday life.
  • Filmmakers:
  • Other contributors
  • EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Pete Carroll
  • EXECUTIVE PRODUCER:  Dave Belfiore
  • EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Samantha Hart
  • EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Robert Hoff
  • EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Larry Digioia
  • CO-PRODUCED: Steven Amato
  • CINEMATOGRAPHY: Jeremiah Hammerling
  • MUSIC SUPERVISOR: Michael Gross
  • ORIGINAL MUSIC: Tim Adams Patrick McArthur Massive Music
  • ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: Anna Nesser
  • ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: Stacy Paris
  • ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: Sarah Ceglarski
  • FIELD PRODUCER: Matthew Goodhue
  • FIELD PRODUCER: Rita Baghdadi
  • Aquil
  • PCITI Founder
  • “UNLESS WE WORK TOGETHER TO
    MITIGATE THIS ISSUE, WE ALL PAY
    THE COST.”
  • Sergeant Curtis Woodle - LAPD
  • GANG INTERVENTION UNIT
  • “IN 1992 WE HAD 1,013 MURDERS IN THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES. FAST FORWARD TO NOW, WE HAVE LESS THAN 300 A YEAR.”
  • Alfred - Florence-Firestone
  • Former gang: FLORENCIA 13
  • “I KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO PICK UP A
    GUN AND TRY TO GAIN SOME SENSE
    OF CONTROL.”
  • Anthony - Inglewood
  • Former gang: BLOOD
  • “WE WERE ONCE THE PROBLEMS IN OUR
    COMMUNITIES. NOW WE’RE PART OF
    THE SOLUTION.”
  • Reynaldo - West Athens
  • Former gang: RAYMOND CRIP
  • “WHAT I HAVE DONE IN A NEGATIVE
    WAY GAVE ME THE RESPECT IN MY
    NEIGHBORHOOD TO DO WHAT I NEED
    TO DO IN A POSITIVE WAY.”
  • Kenny - Athens Park
  • Former gang: BLOOD
  • “WE TRY TO GIVE THEM THE PROPER
    GUIDANCE, BUT THAT DON’T MEAN
    THEY’LL ALWAYS DO THE RIGHT THING.”
About the Film Across the country, there is a growing distrust between members of the community and those who are meant to protect it. In Los Angeles, a group of former gang members have joined forces with community leaders and law enforcement on a mission to break the cycle of violence that they were once a part of creating.

At its heart, License to Operate is a film about redemption, hope and change. It's about rebuilding relationships and forging new alliances. It's about healing the wounds of a community. It's about how the effort of a few can change the direction of an entire city.
The Cause The neighborhoods of L.A. have been trapped in a cycle of poverty and violence, but this model of gang intervention has proven effective. Thanks, in part, to this "change from within" approach of intervention murder rates in Los Angeles have been on a steady decline, recently hitting a 20-year low. However, there is much work yet to be done, and balancing the battle between success and failure is something that is constantly being put to the test.
Get Involved You can help us get the word out and build awareness by sharing this site and the LTO Facebook and Twitter pages. Tell your friends and family. Start a conversation about the gang-intervention movement and how it’s succeeding. We have posters: Help us promote the film and the intervention movement. Download, print and post them at your school, neighborhood coffee shops, rec centers, community centers, and at work.
Get in Touch with A Better L.A.
To learn more about how you can get directly involved in the local community outreach programs near you, visit http://www.abetterla.org/
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