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Inaugural Coast Film Festival to make waves in Laguna Beach, starting Thursday

A photograph of Mammoth Mountain lit up for the filming of the “Fire on the Mountain” film. It will have its west coast premiere during the Coast Film Festival, which begins Thursday, Nov. 7.
Mammoth Mountain was lit up during the filming of “Fire on the Mountain,” a documentary that will have its West Coast premiere during the upcoming Coast Film Festival in Laguna Beach.
(Courtesy of Coast Film Festival)

Laguna Beach is no stranger to the arts, but next week it will add something new to its repertoire: a film festival.

Starting Thursday, the Coast Film Festival will make port for a three-day cinematic celebration of the outdoors.

The festival will showcase more than 20 films. Organizers describe the lineup as “kind of a mash-up of all types of film,” but mostly ones that focus on adventure and exploration.

“The mission of CFF is to create a showcase for creatives who are telling compelling stories through inspirational film, photography or art,” said Ben Warner, a Laguna Beach resident and one of the festival’s founders. “It is also designed to broaden the conversation around preservation of our natural environment and to motivate audiences to get outside more while also protecting these resources for a more sustainable future for generations to come.”

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One planned screening is the West Coast premiere of “Fire On the Mountain” — a documentary organizers characterize as “the first time ever action sports and the Grateful Dead ... merged together in a film of eclectic style.”

The film will be shown Friday during the Teton Gravity Research snowboarding showcase, and an encore showing is scheduled Saturday night.

The festival also will include an art exhibit — “From the Mountains to the Sea and the Space in Between"— with almost 40 pieces, primarily from artists on the West Coast, as well as live music on Friday and Saturday.

Organizers — including Warner, who has worked as an executive and consultant in the outdoor recreation industry — said they first began to develop a business plan about two years ago, but didn’t formalize their partnership for the film festival until last year.

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Warner said he and his compatriots — Enich Harris, a sports brand marketer and producer of the documentary “Andy Irons: Kissed by God,” and Ben Classen, a lifestyle brand marketer — saw an opportunity to unite different components of the industry.

“I would go work in Colorado and Utah, I’d talk to [outdoor brands], but then I’d come back to Laguna Beach and hang out with brands like
Quiksilver and Billabong,” Warner said. “We’re all marketing the same message about getting outdoors, but we don’t ... celebrate the outdoor experience [together].”

A screen from Teton Gravity Research’s “Winterland,” which will show Friday night at the Coast Film Festival.
Teton Gravity Research’s “Winterland,” seen in this screenshot, will be shown at the Coast Film Festival Friday night.
(Courtesy of Coast Film Festival)

Along with raising awareness about conservation, Warner said it was important to bring together people who care about the environment.

Film festivals, he added, can unite a community through the visual arts — and Laguna Beach seemed like the perfect setting.

“While [Laguna Beach] has a heritage of art, a lot of that stems from a connection to the outdoors,” he said. “Plein air [painting] is a good example of that.

“We,” he continued, referring to himself and Harris, “have kids in the school system and the conversations at home are often about climate change, sports and recreation.”

Warner said organizers deliberately chose a quieter time of year to hold the festival so they could work with local hotels and restaurants to bring business in during the off-season.

About 1% of the festival’s total gross sales will be donated to the nonprofits Surfrider Foundation and Protect Our Winters.

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“We ultimately want people to come and have an awesome experience — to walk away, feeling inspired by the content we’ve curated and the experience we’ve made for them,” Warner said.

Added Harris, “We hope they’re inspired to get involved and be involved in conserving these resources around us, but also to get outside and be active.”

“A walk on the beach, stand-up paddle-boarding, going on a hike or snowboarding ... Take it up and get outside and enjoy everything we have in California just at our fingertips,” he continued.

IF YOU GO

What: Coast Film Festival

When: Thursday through Saturday; showtimes vary

Where: Screenings will be held throughout Laguna Beach. Venues include Seven 7 Seven, Forum Theater and Hobie Surf Shop.

Cost: $15 to $250, depending on showings and packages. For ticketing details, visit filmfreeway.com/CoastFilmFestival-1/tickets.

Information: coastfilmfestival.com

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