The documentary made by Cal State Long Beach's Advanced Media Production Department has been nominated for a 2016 Los Angeles Area Emmy Award. "Sky Blue Sea," a film about Long Beach's storied history in aviation and the Navy, is a contender in the Independent Programming Category at the awards ceremony on Saturday, July 23. We sat down with director Dave Kelly to talk to us about the production of the film and how he hopes it will impact his viewers.


Can you tell us a little bit about "Sky Blue Sea" and how it captures Long Beach's history?

DK: Long Beach has a rich history of exploration and adventure. The film covers two prominent industries that played a critical role in the development of the city – the naval and aviation industries. Before and during World War II, everything that was important to aviation's early days was somehow connected to Long Beach. Earl S. Daugherty was a longtime Long Beach resident, Amelia Earhart became enamored with aviation after her first visit to a Long Beach airshow which prompted her to take flying lessons in the area, and Howard Hughes made headlines in 1947 when he flew the Spruce Goose for the first and only time in the Long Beach Harbor. Long Beach also housed one of the largest aircraft manufacturing companies during World War II, the Douglas Aircraft Company, which eventually was acquired by Boeing.

The city also served as the US Navy's base and shipyard, where the Navy kept their pacific battle fleet, which included many battleships along with various supporting escort ships.

Of course, we can't talk about Long Beach history without talking about oil. The film also covers the discovery of oil in Signal Hill in 1921 and how it catapulted Long Beach to become the wealthiest and fastest growing city of its size in America during the period known as "The Roaring 20s."


What is the meaning behind the title, "Sky Blue Sea"?

DK: The title references the city's geological advantages, with its clear blue skies and its immediate access to the Pacific's deep blue sea.  Long Beach's naturally deep harbor and ideal year-round weather were the leading factors for the Navy to base their battleships here and generally clear, wide open skies allowed pilots to fly their planes without weather-related interruption. Ultimately, Long Beach's prime location on the West Coast and its near-perfect climate played an integral part in the city's evolution.


How did the production of this documentary come about?

DK: The Long Beach Navy Memorial Heritage Association desired to preserve the memory of the Navy's affiliation with Long Beach while also telling the story of the aviation industry's connection to the development of the city.  After proposing the documentary project to the Association, I received a grant to produce "Sky Blue Sea." The grant funded the research, the acquisition of appropriate visual materials and the post-production processes where we put it all together.  The grant also enabled us to locate and record on-camera interviews with knowledgeable experts in local history.


Where did you find historical material that was used for the film?

DK: Cal State Long Beach had visual materials on the Navy base, while Cal State Dominguez Hills provided archival materials on the early aviation aspect of the film, as well as early images of the city of Long Beach and its development. Outside of these two CSU campuses, I also obtained imagery and information from the Port of Long Beach, the Long Beach Airport, the Long Beach Heritage Museum, the Long Beach City TV cable channel, and the Long Beach Public Library, along with several other sources.


Where can people see the film?

DK: It was originally aired on Beach TV, Cal State Long Beach's local TV channel, where it gained an Emmy consideration in the Independent Programming Category. This category is for channels doing independent productions without initially utilizing the affiliation of larger networks. Soon after the original local broadcast, PBS became interested in distributing the documentary and it is now being aired nationwide on PBS affiliates in a number of major cities, such as Chicago, San Francisco, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Albuquerque.


What kind of reaction are you hoping to receive from your viewers?

DK: I want those who view "Sky Blue Sea" to gain an appreciation for Long Beach's dynamic history through the story of naval activity and aviation. I want the viewers to understand the role that this city played in shaping the iconic household names we know of today, and how the city's storied past is made up of various threads that connect into one seamless tapestry that identifies Long Beach today. 


"Sky Blue Sea" is currently available for viewing on the Emmy Awards website.  The 68th LA Area Emmy Awards is on Saturday, July 23.  Connect with the "Sky Blue Sea" Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SkyBlueSeaPBS.  To learn more about CSULB's Advanced Media Production Department, visit http://www.ccpe.csulb.edu/amp/about.aspx.


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Dave Kelly

Director of "Sky Blue Sea" and of the Advanced Media Production Department at CSULB