Lost Soulz Longing for a Home

Lost Soulz writer-director Katherine Propper returns to L.A. after a long time away and ponders ideas of home.

It’s Sunday, the day before my 31st birthday, and I just moved back to Los Angeles a month and a half ago. It’s weird being back in my hometown for good, after having been gone for eight years, living in the slow heat of Austin, Texas. I’m in Koreatown again. And it’s hectic, but I love it.

It’s a full circle moment for me, being back here. The last time I lived in L.A., I was 23, had braces and was working as a hostess at the local Brazilian churrascaria, while dreaming of becoming a movie director. I spent all my free time back then going to rep screenings at the Aero, Egyptian, New Bev, Cinefamily and LACMA. Some of those theaters are gone now … Some are still here with seemingly more advanced operations … I haven’t quite gotten in the groove of going to the theaters again. I think I’m hesitant to adopt my 23-year-old life. I hope my new life in L.A. will be different from before, like my crooked teeth, which are now straight …

A still from Katherine Propper’s film Lost Soulz.

My first feature film, Lost Soulz, is coming to L.A. theaters very soon — Laemmle theaters in North Hollywood and even an Academy screening at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. It’s surreal for me, because I used to go to Samuel Goldwyn to watch some of the very best films. That theater is one of the most special, evocative theaters in Los Angeles and still has a certain gravitas that very few places in L.A. retain. So many historic, meaningful buildings in Los Angeles go to ruin and are swiftly replaced. I’m still grieving the demolished LACMA movie theater and the loss of the Arclight Hollywood. Actually, I’m really sad this city destroyed the Ambassador Hotel building. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it!

Even though I grew up in Los Angeles and went to public high school in an idyllic suburb, I always feel a bit like an outsider here. I lived with friends for the last part of high school and came from a very complicated, broken family situation. I don’t have childhood photos, school yearbooks or sentimental keepsakes from youth. I only owned and kept what fit in a single suitcase during my senior year of high school, as I moved from friends’ houses, hoping to leave L.A. and find something better elsewhere.

In Lost Soulz, I reflect on the families and homes we get to choose; friendships and passions; people who share dreams and struggles; the beautiful places that still give us hope for beautiful things. The film is also about the way artists express themselves and navigate grief and loneliness and the feeling that they don’t have a home. Those feelings live deep in my soul. I don’t know if I found something better, but I definitely realized the feeling of homelessness never leaves you if you don’t have available family or a “home base” – like a house with old stuff in it that’s yours.

I get really attached to places and even buildings, so it’s really hard when those places go to waste and change. There’s gentrification, and there’s also just people, communities and governments who don’t always take care of things or see their true collective value. One tree’s shade on a sunny concrete sidewalk is a slice of paradise for so many. I saw first hand what happens when “coastal wealth” moves in and makes things “better.” Hermès and Lululemon stripped decades of character on Austin’s historic South Congress street. Austin’s rapid shift in identity from a quirky artistic town to a clinical tech city is maybe because people don’t always know what’s good about a place until the things that made it so special are gone.

In Lost Soulz, the young characters happen upon an elderly rancher who cultivated his land near Austin for 50 years and kept it beautiful for both cattle and campers. “You’re living the dream, man,” the character Seven says. I think so too. Even a Soundcloud rapper living moments, one fleeting Instagram story at a time, recognizes the virtue of cultivating something over a lifetime.

Memories are nostalgic, but film is forever, right? So I guess if I don’t feel I have a home right now, I hope that people who watch the film, and feel the same way I do, will feel some hope that there are some beautiful, lasting things for us too! And the beautiful things that don’t always last, or the people we lose, can live in our hearts and in art forever.

Featured image, showing Katherine Propper (center) on the set of Lost Soulz with sound mixer Jorge Rendon and first A.C. Katie Mlinek, is by Callie Keels Ju. All images courtesy Katherine Propper.

Katherine Propper is a writer-director born and raised in Los Angeles. Her feature directorial debut, Lost Soulz, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival 2023 and is now in theaters through Kino Lorber. Her 2022 short film Birds won the Grand Jury Prize at AFI Fest, a Special Jury Award for Vision at SXSW, and a Special Jury Prize in the International Competition at Clermont-Ferrand in France. Her 2019 short film Street Flame screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. She enjoys merging both fictional and non-fictional worlds in her filmmaking, and drawing upon experiences including working on director Terrence Malick’s editing team. Her short films can be streamed on The New Yorker, Short of the Week and Omeleto. Katherine received her MFA in Film Directing from the University of Texas at Austin and a BA in Art History from Georgetown University.