Local documentarian looks at climate change, rising sea levels and coastal development in the Age of Superstorm Sandy

When Philadelphia-based filmmaker Ben Kalina set out to make Shored Up, a documentary about climate change and its impact on how we think about development in our coastal communities, one of the biggest challenges he faced was one faced by policy-makers around the globe: How do you make a compelling narrative out of abstract concepts and warnings about the future?

Kalina took on the challenge and was nearing the completion of a film that warned of the impact of climate change and rising sea levels on ill-conceived coastal development, when suddenly those abstract concepts became anything but.

“Three years after I started making this film, Superstorm Sandy hit and provided this incredibly obvious and visceral and very clear education of what is happening,” says Kalina. He knew there was no way he could proceed as planned. “It would just feel immediately dated,” he says. “And obviously there’s a huge opportunity ... all of a sudden, there is something that everyone can understand and a way to place everything in context.”

Kalina had to dip into his own bank account to finance the rest of the project, but within days, he and his crew were back at work, restructuring the film and reshooting large segments of it. “We were in about as soon as you could get back into these places,” he says.

But while Sandy may have necessitated a rewrite of the film’s financing and production schedule, it didn’t require a change of focus. “Sandy really was the storm that the film was always about,” says Kalina, “and when it happened, it was immediately obvious there was no way to finish the film without making Sandy a really central part of the film.”

Shored Up was released in May and was an official selection at the San Francisco Green Film Festival, Film Fest D.C., DOXA (Documentary Media Society film festival) and the Montclair Film Festival, where it debuted.

Shored Up will be shown at International House (3701 Chestnut St.) presented by SCRIBE Video as part of their Producer’s Forum and co-presented by the Sierra Club. Kalina will be in attendance for a post-screening discussion.

For more information, visit shoredupmovie.com.

Story by Jon McGoran