Directing away

Suzie Harrison

Laguna Beach filmmaker Michael Lugenbuehl is wearing more than just

his thinking cap. He was dialed into the creative “I am going to write my

first short film, and it’s going to win best short at an international


film festival” frequency.

Not a bad place to be if you’re outside of Laguna.

That’s where the award found him and his film, “It Happened in a

Bungalow,” last month at the Thunderbird International Film Festival in


Cedar City, Utah.

The film was the first for Lugenbuehl’s SeaCave Productions.

“It’s always been a goal of mine to become a filmmaker. It finally

came time to stop talking about it and to just do it,” Lugenbuehl said.

“It Happened in a Bungalow” is based on the Bungalow restaurant in

Newport Beach.

The writer creates a satire of romance novels by telling the story of

a woman who lives in a book waiting for someone to read it. When two men


begin to read the book at the same time, she must decide which mind to


Lugenbuehl said the basis of the story was written 10 years ago.

“I liked the whole idea, it really came together,” he said.

In 1999 Lugenbuehl went to the Laguna Beach Film Festival and watched

some short films for inspiration.

“They had workshops at the festival, and one turned the lights and

electricity on for me there and then,” Lugenbuehl said.


A digital future of filmmaking class gave him the idea that he could

afford to turn his idea into reality through that medium. It also

introduced him to Tom Tangen, who was part of the panel and head of the

L.A. Actors Coalition. Tangen became an integral friend and constituent,

who helped him develop a cohesive plan to complete his project.

“Tom explained a thing called the SAG experimental project, that gave

access to those actors on deferment,” he said.

The actors include Christy Taylor (“O’ Brother Where Art Thou?”),

Patrick Belton, Sonya Joy Sims, Natalia Schroeder (“The Incubus”), Todd

Royal and Lugenbuehl.

“It Happened in a Bungalow” was filmed primarily at his South Laguna

residence. It took two, three-day weekends to shoot on the homey set.

As a kid, Lugenbuehl started making short films by borrowing his

friend’s 8-milimeter camera. His first film used his treehouse as the

main location.

In his second film, he emulated his hero from childhood Charlie

Chaplin. He had the mustache and cane with his California bleach blond

hair showing from underneath his derby.

Lugenbuehl attributes his affinity for filmmaking in part to the fact

that his family moved often when he was young. He said making films

helped him open up.

He continued his quest in college where he took some film classes and

made a couple films.

“I took film history four different times. Not because I failed. I

loved it so much and each time I would make sure I had a different

teacher, so I could learn a different take on the films.”