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Documentary Covers City of Long Beach’s History

Published: November 3, 2015

“Sky Blue Sea,” a one-hour documentary on Long Beach’s naval and aviation history, will have its premiere screening on Friday, Nov. 13, at CSULB’s Beach Auditorium located in the University Student Union.

Open to the public, there will be a reception with refreshments beginning at 6:30 p.m., with the documentary scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. screening. Depending upon the turnout, a second showing may be held immediately following the first. The screenings are free as is parking in Lot 3 with a dashboard pass.

Produced over an 18-month period by Advanced Media Production (AMP), a division of the College of Continuing and Professional Education at CSULB, director of AMP Dave Kelly served as producer, writer and narrator of the documentary.

“Sky Blue Sea” covers the discovery of oil in 1921 and the decision by President Woodrow Wilson to base the Pacific Battle Fleet in the San Pedro Bay in 1919, which branded Long Beach with a national reputation as an “oil town” and a “navy town” for years to come. The documentary also tracks the gestation and phenomenal growth of aviation in Long Beach, where from 1910 until WWII, the city featured many of the most famous fliers the world would ever know.

“What’s different about this documentary is that we are taking an overall approach to the history of Long Beach and a long view as opposed to focusing on a very specific time period,” said Kelly. “We go back from the first explorers who discovered the San Pedro Bay up through the modern day, so we don’t dwell on any one period but rather create a tapestry that provides a consistent thread from the beginning of Long Beach history to essentially where we are today.”

The documentary examines the naval and aviation history of Long Beach from its earliest days, with an emphasis on how the city’s development was guided by the geological advantages of a long sandy beach and an open, clear blue sky with great weather year round. In producing the film, Kelly accumulated and coordinated hundreds of historical documents in the process of writing the script, while AMP field production technicians Dave Ohl and Craig Walker operated the camera and sound-recording devices and set the lights during the course of recording imagery and interviews.


“There was just so much material to cover, but beyond that, having the ability to connect what may seem like disparate threads was challenging, but we were able to weave those threads into that tapestry,” said Kelly. “Plus, we needed to use an economy of words because there is so much to cover. You need to weave the tapestry, but also do it in a way that doesn’t dwell too long on any one period, but still gives enough information so it all makes sense. I think we accomplished that.”

Project funding was provided by a grant from the Long Beach Navy Memorial Heritage Association. The Long Beach Navy Memorial Heritage Association was awarded a large endowment in 1998 from the Port of Long Beach to mitigate the demolition of the Long Beach Navy Base. The revolving grant fund is used to fund projects that benefit and foster preservation of Long Beach historical sites, buildings, resources and archives.

In 2009, Kelly produced “Long Days Working Hard,” another documentary that focused on Long Beach and how the city was uniquely positioned to take part in the World War II effort.