By Donna Furey | LB Indy
The newest artists from the Laguna art colony are a budding crop of young filmmakers, who will be showcasing their talent in south county and abroad in coming weeks.
“The AC Project,” by brothers Doug and Ryan Wekenman, Ethan Matott and Matt Fons will be shown Sunday, April 26, at the Newport Film Festival. “Shorebreak,” by producer Anthony Liuzzi, documents the evolution of skim boarding from its beginning in Laguna Beach and premieres at the Grove of Anaheim on Thursday, April 30. John Taschner has just completed his fourth film, “Gen RX,” which will open in Cannes in mid May.
Where Land Meets Sea
In “Shorebreak,” Anthony Liuzzi’s initial intent was to focus exclusively on Laguna Beach, but he gained support, through online posts from the global skim community to create a factual history of skim boarding.
Liuizzi, 26, eventually covered five continents with the help of sponsors, such as Victoria Skimboards and pros such as Brad Domke, who offered their couches and the occasional meal.
A graduate of Dominican University of San Rafael, Liuizzi customized his major to earn a degree in communication arts, English and humanities. A six-month internship followed in San Francisco with Open Eye Films, a non-profit specializing in educational non-fiction media. He also made 15 films for the national park service and has worked on two features and 20 shorts.
After interviewing over 150 athletes, including, one of the sport’s early professionals, Tom Trager now with the city’s department of Marine Safety, Liuizzi and his crew have produced a two-hour documentary, which is scheduled for screenings at five upcoming festivals. He says he made the film for the public, not for the skimming community. A skater and a surfer himself, Liuizzi is just now learning to skim. He says he wants other documentary makers to know that you don’t have to be inside a story to tell it.
To the Ends of the Earth
When a Saturday night’s plans went awry, UC Boulder students Ethan Matott and Doug Wekenmen climbed to a hilltop and made a pact to embark on a yearlong trip. “It seemed like the guys who had really taken Jesus seriously experienced life far beyond what we were doing,” said Matott, who like Wekenmen, is now a Colorado pastor.
Counseled to become a doctor and go for the “white picket fence” life, Wekenmen instead solidified his plans with Matott, and recruited his brother Ryan and one of his friends for a 10 country, five continent adventure.
Since all four had lived in Laguna Beach at one point and worked with Youth Director Sam Ellis of Little Church by the Sea, they made Laguna base camp for two years to plan their trip.
Their itinerary was set by those who replied to an email sent to churches around the globe. “We’re four guys with strong backs. Can you use us?”
They left behind everything familiar and set off with two cameras for Haiti, where they ministered to prisoners and helped build a new village for refugees. They went on to the Dominican Republic, Belize, Fiji, India, Uganda, Burundi and Zambia, ministering and adventuring along the way.
The four returned to write and edit the 100 hours of film footage and enlisted freelance director and editor Brandon Lied to help produce what became “The AC Project: To the Ends of the Earth.” It is inspired by the Bible’s Book of Acts and a chapter in the gospel of Matthew, which dictated that the disciples should go to the ends of the earth and share the love of Jesus, said Doug Wekenman, now pastor of Red Rocks Church in Denver.
They plan to screen the film and speak about their trip to churches across the country.
A Passion for the Ocean
John Taschner, 17, describes filmmaking as a hobby, not a passion. Nevertheless, his hobby is generating awards and recognition on a global stage.
His fourth and latest film, “Gen RX,” a seven-minute thriller about the ebola virus, earned a 2014 California Film Award, gained recognition from state Senate President Kevin de Leon and congratulations from the Sierra Leone embassy in Washington, D.C. Taschner is playing “a very key role in the fight against ebola,” embassy attaché Pasco Gerald Temple said.
Taschner wrote, directed and produced the film while attending summer film class at USC while in high school. His father, a lawyer with film industry contacts, submitted “Gen RX” for consideration to Cannes without his knowledge. His 2013 film, “Life’s a Dive,” about his grandfather’s radio and diving work during WWII, also screened at Cannes and won film festival awards.
Despite a talent for filmmaking, Taschner currently focuses on training to become a Laguna Beach lifeguard. He comes from a line of watermen; his grandfather was a Santa Monica guard and his dad was a Newport guard. He also serves as a youth member of a National Marine Sanctuary advisory council in Hawaii, where he attended one year of high school.
Taschner spent summers at his grandfather’s beach house in Laguna, but the junior attends Mater Dei High where he plays water polo. He plans to apply to USC and UCLA and thinks he’ll major in business. Family friend Aaron Garcia, who helped with post-production of “Gen RX,” says, “everybody in Hollywood is trying to figure out what is in the mind of a 17-year-old as the key target audience and John seems to know what that is.”
I love hearing about the accomplishments of such talented people from our community!