Staff Report

Central Coast residents have a personal connection to many major motion pictures that have filmed in the area, such as the Gainey Ranch as a set for “Of Mice and Men” and “Sea Biscuit,” or Johnny Depp standing at the top of the Black Pearl on the Guadalupe Dunes.

Now a new nonprofit organization, the Central Coast Film Society, has been formed to celebrate and promote film, media arts, entertainment and more.

“There is such a rich history of film and media in our area and that is why we created the Central Coast Film Society, as well as to foster the abundance of talent that comes from it,” said Daniel Lahr, the society’s executive director.

“One thing the board of directors made clear was that this organization will do everything it can to help foster our future filmmakers and will look to help mentor local film students by having special screenings and interviews with industry professionals. Our students and emerging artists deserve every chance possible to actually do what they love to dream about,” Lahr said.

Lahr grew up on a ranch in Los Alamos and has been making independent films since he was 15 years old. His films played at multiple festivals around the country, winning awards and accolades along the way.

He received his bachelor of fine arts degree in motion pictures and television at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. After working in Hollywood for a few years, he began working in the hospitality and tourism industry and managed world-famous attractions throughout the state.

Lahr then returned to the Central Coast with his family and began to turn his dream of a local film festival into a reality.

The goal of the CCFS is to provide local filmmakers and films a venue to call home, foster future media artists, and create opportunities to get involved in the industry by hosting lectures, screenings and eventually a film festival.

“It is such a humbling moment for me to be surrounded by people who not only share my vision but are prepared to take the journey together to make it become a reality,” Lahr said. “Everyone on the (festival’s) board has a great perspective to the community and the film industry, which is vital as we brave the waters together.”

The board members are Alexandria Baldacchino, Shaun Boyd, Sarah Risley, Raiza Giorgi and Chris Manigault.

Baldacchino brings the foundation nearly 10 years of financial management experience with particular strengths in banking, profit and loss reporting, and developing policies and procedures. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business from Cal State Northridge.

Manigault, originally from Hollywood, lived in the Santa Ynez Valley from 1996 to 2001. He attended San Diego State University and then Chapman’s University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, where he earned a master of fine arts degree in film and television producing.

He continues to work as a producer and manager of a variety of film and television projects. His goal is start his own production company, producing faith- and family-friendly films.

Risley is a lifelong enthusiast of film, film production, and the film industry. Since moving to the Central Coast in 2007, she founded the Diablo Canyon Chapter of U.S. Women in Nuclear, whose members participate in community outreach, education, and the advancement of women in STEM fields. She holds a master’s degree in business administration from the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly.

Boyd, who is from the Santa Ynez Valley, got a degree in economics from Cal Poly but ended up working for the Sundance and Telluride film festivals. Now back in the valley, he owns a custom woodworking shop called Shaun Boyd Made This.

Giorgi is the owner and publisher of the Santa Ynez Valley Star and Santa Barbara Family and Life Magazine. Another longtime Santa Ynez Valley resident, she received her bachelor of science degree in journalism from Cal Poly and has been involved in theater, dance and media since she was a child.

Membership in the Central Coast Film Society gives access to regular information about upcoming events and screenings along with discounted tickets. Those events and dates are still to be determined.

For more information, log onto You can find the society on Facebook and Instagram @centralcoastfilmsociety and Twitter @centralcoastfs.