Self-taught videographer Michael Spencer Taylor is making his way into becoming a successful Orange County filmmaker, but his first solo documentary really hit close to home.
Still uncompleted, the film centers on the place where Taylor used to reside, El Morro Trailer Park at the north entrance of Laguna Beach.
El Morro was the oldest trailer park in Orange County until its residents were evicted in 2006, when the state of California wanted its land back to open what is now Moro Campground.
“I have about 60 interviews and 100 hours of footage about people who lived there, some of whom were seventh generation families,” Taylor explained recently while reflecting on his filmmaking career. “It wasn't all just rich people. There were lots of fixed-income and elderly people. All of them spoke about the last days of El Morro, a seaside community that unfortunately had to end.”
Taylor was also there with his camera to chronicle the campground's recent opening, which he's positioning as the ending to his documentary, five years in the making.
But it was almost 12 years ago when Taylor started capturing moments in time and figured out he could make a living with his camera, while working as a team manager at a snowboard company called PBS Bindings.
“They needed someone to film, so I grabbed my video camera, filmed a couple of guys on the team, and got some really good shots,” Taylor recalled. “I started to edit them, and I just fell in love with capturing moments from creative and artistic angles. I learned my craft working with early masters of the extreme sports genre.”
Moving around Orange County while growing up helped him find inspiration and creativity, as he constantly joggled his time between his job and his son Dakoda, who he raised on his own since he was 8 months old. Taylor continued to film snowboarding as part of his job at PBS Bindings. In the late 1990s he coproduced Disgusted TV, and Progression Video Magazine with the help of his teammates and the shoe company Osiris, and in 2006, he produced a surfing movie called Nobody's Heros.
The 2005 Bluebird Canyon landslide in Laguna Beach inspired Taylor to produce another documentary.
“For the first 2 years I went out 4 to 5 times a day and filmed live footage and time lapses, and the last 2 years I filmed time lapses of the first 3 houses being rebuilt,” he explains.
Since 2008, the biggest obstacle in his career has been competing against the big corporations, which continue to give away films as a form of marketing, and make it almost impossible for others to make a profit out of movies. He thinks that the day when independent filmmakers can make a living is pretty much gone, unless they work for a big corporation. But this has not stopped him.
Most of his projects are broadcasted on YouTube and Facebook, but he hopes to launch his own website on Laguna Beach by 2012 and find an art gallery that accepts him as a video artist. Taylor will also launch a Moments In Time Films Facebook page in August, and he is thinking about becoming part of the Sawdust Art Festival next year.