Watch This Short Doc On How The Last Bookstore Came To Be
By now, The Last Bookstore is far from being a secret. It's on every out-of-towner's itinerary, and you'd be hard pressed to go one month without seeing the store on someone's Instagram.
The bookstore's backstory, however, is a little more obscure, and it is one steeped in hope and blind faith. Prior to opening the store, owner Josh Spencer was involved in car crash in the 90s that rendered him a paraplegic. "There were definitely years of struggling with that, and crying that out, and trying to figure out how can I still be a man when I'm half-paralyzed," Spencer said in a newly-released documentary. He would come to nurture a passion in book-selling, which ultimately led to The Last Bookstore.
Spencer's story is at the core of "Welcome to the Last Bookstore" a 12-minute documentary directed by L.A. native Chad Howitt. The film had toured the festival circuit earlier this year, bouncing from the Newport Beach Film Festival to the AFI Docs fest, and other stops in between. With the festival season wrapping up for Howitt, he decided on Monday to open the film to the public. You can now jump on Vimeo and watch it for free.
The history of The Last Bookstore can be perilous territory for a filmmaker; it can lead to a narrative that's too bloated with platitudes. But Howitt uses an objective eye that remains true throughout. The film is, very simply, a brief look at Spencer and the inner-workings of the bookstore.
Of course, one of the main topics discussed is the very idea of opening a bookstore in this day and age. "I chose the name 'The Last Bookstore' because, at the time, Borders was going out of business, and a lot of other little bookstores were going out of business," Spencer says in the film. The name was a glib (and grim) assessment of the book-selling world. But Spencer was never too concerned with the prospects of failure. "I've lost things in my life [that are] much more traumatic than a business. If I can deal with that, I can certainly deal with a business failing. It's no big deal," says Spencer.
And perhaps it's this fearless attitude that is at the heart of the bookstore's success. In an age when Amazon is the most visible book-seller, The Last Bookstore has cemented itself as an integral part of downtown. It's a phenomenon that Howitt was pondering when he first decided to make the documentary. "The Last Bookstore struck me as such a paradox," Howitt told LAist in an email. "It was like seeing a magic trick. I just couldn't understand how it was possible. So I wanted to find out more about it."
The film is mindful and inherently honest. This also means that there are moments of candid revelations. What does Spencer never want to find in a book? "I hate it when people use toilet paper for a bookmark. It's the worst."