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  • Judy Abel

Malibu filmmaker exposes the dangers of PCH

A new movie by Malibu resident Michel Shane will be of interest to anyone who drives Pacific Coast Highway.

“21 Miles in Malibu” premiered on Feb. 16 at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. The film exposes the dangers that many may not realize are happening on our own “Main Street” that is PCH, the primary thoroughfare in Malibu. We hear about accidents constantly on the highway, but the ugly truth is that since 2015 there have been more than 700 traffic injuries on PCH with more than 20 fatalities. Of course, this high number does not reflect the many wrecks in the last eight years, including a fiery head-on collision near Point Mugu last November that killed a family of five.

Shane knows tragedy first hand: In 2010, his 13-year-old daughter Emily was walking home on the shoulder of PCH when a crazed, out-of-control driver purposely slammed into her. That driver is currently serving a prison term for her death. The filmmaker’s grief turned into action when Shane said he became “more aware of all the accidents and problems on PCH.” As a filmmaker, he decided to create change and bring awareness to those problems with his documentary.

Shane teamed with director Nic Davis, and the filmmakers open the movie showcasing “the beauty of Malibu,” what most people see when they think of our coastal city. The movie then quickly turns “into what’s really going on behind the curtain and how little has been done to make it safer for people here and for people traveling through,” Shane said. “I’m hoping that it’ll get people angry and then if they’re angry they’ll either vote with their anger or create a movement to create change.”

Shane noted the many studies conducted on the dangers of PCH. The most recent from six years ago recommended 56 changes to the highway that he said could be “made easily,” but that “none of them have been implemented, not one.” The filmmakers made repeated attempts to talk to Caltrans, but the agency refused to participate in the film.

“21 Miles in Malibu” however is not just an indictment against the agency that facilitates PCH, it is meant to bring awareness to those who drive PCH frequently or to the thousands of visitors just passing through.

“A lot of people aren’t aware of the dangers,” Shane, a 27-year resident of Malibu, said. “I think that the big problem is the fact that we have a highway that runs through the length of the city and we don’t treat it like a highway.”

The film focuses on a couple of tragedies on PCH: the death of Emily Shane and a female cyclist who either hit a divot in the pavement or maneuvered around a parked car when she was clipped by a bus.

“With Emily there was no way of that not happening,” Shane said. “This guy pointed his car at her and killed her, murdered her. That’s not avoidable. If there’s a deranged person or someone upset, there’s nothing you can do. You’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, but there is so much that can be done. There are tragedies waiting to happen, and if people don’t realize that, the new people who come along with the old (residents). It’ll continue and it’ll just get worse.”

One safety measure that interests Shane is a concept that would create “architecturally pleasing footbridges at important parts in Malibu” that people could use to cross the highway.

“The bridges could even be sponsored so it doesn’t cost the city or Caltrans anything,” Shane said. “There’s parking, biking, walking, running across the road, and all that leads to disaster. I don’t judge anyone with this film. What I want to do is (present) a kind of time machine going back to the ’60s where grassroots movements change the world. The hippies and the kids of that era changed the world and it’s going to be up to them to make this place safer.”

The Shane family started the Emily Shane Foundation to pass good deeds forward and to empower underserved students.

“What I really didn’t want was to have Emily remembered as ‘that poor girl who got killed on PCH.’” Shane said. “I didn’t want that to define Emily’s 13 years on this earth.”

“21 Miles in Malibu” will be on the film festival circuit, but eventually Shane hopes to stage a free screening at Bluffs Park so the Malibu community can view it as a way of thanks for supporting him and the movie.

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