Laguna Student Launches Film Career

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By Amy Orr | LB Indy

Student filmmaker Michael Tanaka’s friend, Sam Lopez, jumps off some Laguna cliffs in this still from Tanaka’s film “24 Hours,” which will premiere April 18 at the Newport Beach Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Michael Tanaka

Michael Tanaka loves everything about Laguna Beach.

“I was born in Laguna. It’s an amazing place with so much to do” Tanaka said.

Tanaka’s short film “24 Hours” showcases his feelings about the town and its residents. The five-minute piece, which features Laguna locals chasing adventure from sunrise to sunset, was selected for inclusion in the Newport Beach Film Festival.

“It was the first festival I have ever submitted to and I got it,” Tanaka said.

The young filmmaker came up with the concept in November. Instead of using actors, Tanaka decided to use his friends to show the beauty of life at the beach.

“With 2018 coming to an end, my friends and I decided to race time and do as much stuff as we can do in one day,” Tanaka said. “This is that day.”

The teens’ coastal activities include rock climbing, surfing, paddle-boarding, and cliff jumping.

“We started at 5 a.m. with skateboards on the fire roads,” Tanaka said. “It was a great way to begin the day.”

Sixteen-year-old cast member John Hrynkiewicz said that early morning skateboarding between Alta Laguna and Moulton Meadows was his favorite activity. Eighteen-year-old Travis Booth agreed.

 Odin Flores, Austin Plank and Landon Macknight at 10th Street. Photo courtesy of Michael Tanaka

“It’s such an iconic landscape in Laguna,” Booth said.

As the day progressed, Tanaka traveled to well-known sites, like Brooks Street, and lesser-known spots, like a hidden cliff between Moss Cove and Victoria.

“Not too many people know about this place, but my friends and I go there a lot,” Tanaka said. “You have to swim or rock climb to get there, but the water is always perfect for jumping.”

The film’s trailer  features several dramatic jumps and a slow motion back flip at this location.

“I love being in front of [Michael’s] camera, because he always gets great shots and he always encourages me to do things out of my comfort zone,” Hrynkiewicz said.

John Hryn on the fire roads in town. Photo courtesy of Michael Tanaka

The visuals of “24 Hours” are overlaid with some narration, voiced by Tanaka. The background song is “Meridian” by Odesza. Tanaka, who recently obtained the rights to the music, described that process as one of the most challenging parts of his undertaking.

“The business aspect was difficult because I’m not well known and I don’t have a budget,” Tanaka said. “I wrote to the company, but it took a while to work everything out.”

Tanaka has been making movies since the age of 10, when his camera was a Sony camcorder. Now, his equipment is much more sophisticated. He shoots most of his footage on a GoPro HERO7 or a Sony A6500 and edits on After Effects and Final Cut Pro. Currently, a freshman at Orange Coast College, Tanaka plans to transfer to UCLA and follow a career in the film industry. Even though he spent three weeks making the edits to this film, he said he prefers filming and editing to writing and directing.

Makayla Gidley on the fire roads in town. Photo courtesy of Michael Tanaka

“I’m very happy with the way it came out,” Tanaka said. “I’ve had to keep most of the footage a secret, so I’m very excited for it to finally be shown. I’m looking forward to having people come to the Festival and tell me their thoughts about the movie.”

The Newport Beach Film Festival takes place from April 25 to May 2. “24 Hours” will premiere at the Lido Theater at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 28. For tickets, go to

Burke Williams, John Hryn and Travis Booth on the fire roads in town. Photo courtesy of Michael Tanaka





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  1. I attended Orange Coast College and studied Math, Chemistry, Electronics, Machine Shop, Welding, Mechanical Drawing the last semester before AutoCad. and the GE units to transfer to CSU Fullerton over 130 units in total. Great learning environment glad your being productive and frugal.


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