Coast Film & Music Festival returns to shine spotlight on the environment

todayNovember 9, 2023 1

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With an environmentally conscious community as its backdrop, the Coast Film & Music Festival is set to show nearly 80 films in its fifth year in Laguna Beach.

The film festival brings the ideas of conservation and sustainability to the forefront, while also tapping into an appreciation for outdoor activities.

Laguna Beach residents Ben Warner and Enich Harris co-founded the festival, which debuted in 2019. As a reflection of its host community, Warner said they like to refer to the festival as a “green-carpet event.”

While the festival had a kick-off event at Hobie Surf Shop on Wednesday night, Thursday marks the first full day of programming, beginning with the Coast Summit from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Forum Theater on the Festival of Arts grounds.

Festival co-Founders Enich Harris, left, and Ben Warner greet the audience on opening night of the Coast Film Festival at Hobies Surf Shop in Laguna Beach.

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The summit is sponsored by A New Earth Project and is bringing athletes, environmentalists and filmmakers together to discuss the issue of environmental stewardship.

Don Meek, managing director of A New Earth Project, said discussion to have a sustainability symposium with Warner and Harris began last year. A New Earth Project is the sustainability initiative of Atlantic Packaging, a privately owned packaging company that has been around for 77 years.

“There’s a big push to how Laguna is the most water-wise city in America,” Meek said. “We want to push to make Laguna the most waste-wise city [anywhere]. I think there’s a lot of really cool things that are coming together in this area, and this problem of packaging waste and packaging pollution is actually one of the global crises that we can actually solve. It’s a solvable problem, and we’re very excited about being part of that.”

As the festival has made more of a name for itself, more filmmakers have sought a spot to screen their film. The growth is allowing the organizers to bring more people together.

Local artist Ben Young, left, and Coast Film Festival host Pat Parnell chat.

Local artist Ben Young, left, and Coast Film Festival host Pat Parnell chat before start of opening night of the Coast Film Festival at Hobies Surf Shop in Laguna Beach on Wednesday.

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“It being our fifth year, we’re really amplifying our efforts in several different ways,” Warner said. “I’d say the summit is the best example of that, where we’ve had these incredible speakers and change-makers come to Laguna each year for the last four years, and we realized that the opportunity truly is when they’re all in the same room together and meeting each other, often for the first time, and then sharing stories, the experiences, and ultimately igniting some positive reaction from that.”

The musical entertainment will include Matt Costa and the band Cayucas. The artists, who recently toured together, will perform on Friday afternoon.

Locals will also enjoy a performance by Laguna Beach-based jam band the Great North Special on Thursday. Common Sense, a surf reggae band with roots in Laguna Beach, will play on Sunday.

Greg MacGillivray, an accomplished filmmaker in the realm of iMax, will offer a director’s cut preview of his upcoming production, “Cities of the Future,” on Sunday afternoon. The film looks into how civil engineers could shape smart cities down the line, from the use of renewable energy to their modes of transportation.

The screening will provide the audience with a chance to provide feedback and influence the final product. MacGillivray said he has solicited input on his work from his first days in the industry. His earliest critics were his friends and family, he noted.

“You can get a lot because you want to make an entertaining film,” MacGillivray said of involving the public in the process. “You don’t want to be confusing. Sometimes, you rush through a sequence too fast, and it’s confusing to the audience. You have to set it up better. …

Special guests take their seat for the opening night film "Wild Life."

Special guests take their seat for the opening night film “Wild Life” on opening night of the Coast Film Festival at Hobies Surf Shop in Laguna Beach.

(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“You will either try to strengthen the scene in a different way or delete it, and you can build on your strengths then and reduce your weaknesses.

“Trilogy: New Wave,” for which Harris served as producer, will be shown for the first time on Thursday night. The surfing documentary follows the travels of three elite surfers — Griffin Colapinto, Ethan Ewing and Seth Moniz — in their search to ride waves without worrying about rankings.

Harris worked on the original “Trilogy,” which came out in 2007, with renowned surfing filmmaker Taylor Steele. That version highlighted the wave-riding escapades of Taj Burrow, Andy Irons and Joel Parkinson. Harris called working on the sequel a “passion project,” and he also noted that Colapinto provides a local protagonist as a San Clemente resident.

“It’s a very progressive new surf film,” Harris said. “That formula, with the way [of] streaming today, doesn’t exist. You don’t anticipate films anymore. The way of filming and the way things happen these days, you film it and you see it 30 minutes or an hour later.

“It’s really good to have a surf film again that we’ve held back and done over two or three years, build up that anticipation to see a film on the big screen.”

Single-day admission, four-day festival passes and tickets for the Coast Summit are being sold at

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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