Not everyone sees the beauty in Venice, but local filmmaker Nic Bettauer has been inspired by the raw character of this neighborhood ever since she rented her first place on Abbot Kinney back in the '80s. Her unique perspective reflects back in the poignant stories she manifests through film, her exquisite eye for design and the social causes she champions.
All of these influences are bundled up into her most recent creative endeavor The Social Pact, a line of modern sporty backpacks with a straightforward, functional style that transcends lifestyle labels. So you could easily see these fitting in at the Skate Park, a local college campus or A+R on Abbot Kinney. It's the beauty of great design and no surprise that they originated from Bettauer's quest to develop the perfect bag for herself to use on set or when traveling from place to place. Even when standing on her signature platform sneakers, her petite frame peaks around 5 feet, so she needed something sleek but sturdy that packed a lot without getting too bulky or heavy.
Styles are available in chick size or dude size, and they're all made using high-performance, non-animal materials. The futuristic pixelated sparkle of the digital print is made with a premium architectural upholstery, which as Bettauer points out, doesn't cause you to sweat like the rubber pants of the '80s.
"I was going after a trinity," she says. "Works great, feels great, looks great. Plus, does some good. Simply done… but, not easy."
Bettauer is passionate about second chances and redemption, and she makes this apparent in all of her projects. Her award-winning feature film DUCK, which she wrote, directed and produced in 2005, stars Philip Baker Hall as Arthur, a retired history professor who has outlived his family, friends and savings. The widower is displaced from his home and about to lose hope when befriended by a duck who he names Joe. Together they travel the L.A. urban desert west to find Joe a forever home, eventually making their way to the Venice Canals. The disheartening circumstances of Arthur and Joe are balanced by the humorous situations they encounter, and Bettauer ends with a message about adaptation, perseverance and the power of an unlikely friendship.
It's a recurring message in all of her work – from the short films and documentaries she writes and produces, to her role as an arts facilitator and videographer for The Painted Brain, a non-profit that uses art to empower young adults living with mental illness. The Social Pact also carries a deliberate message and raises funds for Mutt Scouts, one of Bettauer's favorite charities. It's a non-profit dog rescue based in LA that rescues, rehabilitates and finds homes for homeless and abused dogs of any breed. It has a soft spot for special-need souls who others cannot rescue. With every purchase of a Social Pact backpack, 10 percent goes to Mutt Scouts. It's no surprise that when asked which celebrity she'd most like to see in a Social Pact backpack, Bettauer picks fellow avant garde champion of underdogs, Lady Gaga.
"The Mutt Scouts was co-founded by one of my fave people, Jf Pryor, almost a decade ago," says Bettauer. According to Pryor, these are all animals who have so much love to give, and just need skilled advocates to save them and see them onto their next, finest chapter. The team has helped thousands of dogs find their new families; In turn, our Scouts have helped an equal number of human families find their new finest friend.
"I like to give back to organizations and individuals whom I believe in and volunteer with myself," says Bettauer. The Mutt Scouts is one such shining example." Bettauer found her finest friend in one of the original Mutt Scouts, Mr. Rickles.
"He was found and rescued on the streets of LA when he was just a pup," says Bettauer. "Dumped, if you can believe it. He's got a huge personality and defines the notion of impossibly cute. Here's his first photo in answer to the question, 'Why was he adopted by me?'"
Mr. Rickles shadows Bettauer throughout her day, napping in his bed beside her desk, greeting guests at the door, and welcoming them into an indoor-outdoor haven of sleek and sculptural comforts designed by Bettauer's husband and local architect Tom Carson. On the day we visit, Bettauer and Mr. Rickles are setting up in the living room to shoot a video submission of The Social Pact for consideration on ABC's Shark Tank. Paws crossed that these bags make it into many, many more homes and help transform the lives of all the other Mr. Rickles' out there.