Film aims to highlight PCH danger

File photo: Ellen Shane, mother of Emily Shane, points to the site of her daughter’s death while Emily’s father, Michel, holds a picture of their daughter during a press conference on Pacific Coast Highway at Heathercliff Road. Family attorney Terry Goldberg stands with them. Devon Meyers / TMT

Nearly four years later, Michel Shane still rues the day when his 13-year-old daughter, Emily, was fatally struck by a suicidal motorist as she walked along Pacific Coast Highway in April 2010. But amidst the grief, Shane and his family are on a crusade to prevent future tragedies. 

Shane is in the midst of a campaign to raise $35,000 to make a documentary about the PCH, one of the most dangerous roadways in the country. 

“We’re going to talk to everyone— family members, law enforcement, local and state government, everyone. I don’t think that there is one solution. I think there are probably many, smaller solutions. But first we need to come up with a general plan,” Shane said. 

Titled “PCH: Probably. Cause. Harm,” the documentary aims to highlight family and friends of those who have died on PCH, but also those with the expertise to make the road safer. The film would consult engineers, traffic experts and law enforcement officials—including L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca and Joseph A. Farrow, the commissioner of the California Highway Patrol—to offer solutions. 

One problem, remains, though: funding. The effort was launched through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter, and time is running short. As of Monday, the campaign had raised just under $13,000 toward the $35,000 goal, with a deadline of 7:40 p.m. this Wednesday, Aug. 21, to meet the fundraising goal. 

“We went through Kickstarter because I was trying to find a way to raise money to do the documentary in a way where the risk would be minimized for those involved,” said Shane, a film producer of movies like “Catch me If You Can” and “I, Robot.” “We’ve had people donate equipment, donate their time. Everyone involved is really rolling up their sleeves and helping out.” 

If the deadline isn’t met, the film won’t happen, Shane said. 

“We need to have the money raised by Aug. [21] or return the money to all the investors and we have nothing.” 

Shane notes that during a four-month period in 2010, the same year Emily was killed, eight people were killed along a five-mile stretch of PCH. 

“I’ve had my tragedy,” he said, “I’m really doing this so other people don’t have to walk in my shoes. We want to put faces with all the Emilys.” 

By shining a spotlight on those who have died, Shane hopes to reignite a dialogue about ways to improve safety on the highway. 

“People read about the incidents on the PCH (in the newspaper) and they say, ‘That’s terrible, something needs to be done about that.’ Then they flip to the next page,” said Shane. “Well, I haven’t been able to flip the page. I’m still there. I want people to get angry. That will instigate change.” 

Short-filmmaker Paola Cutri is slated to direct the documentary and renowned pianist Marcelo Cesena will provide the music. 

“[The PCH] is a very precarious situation, almost chaotic,” Cutri said. “There’s very little difference between the human element and the cars. It’s frantic.” 

Cutri hopes the film will make a difference. 

“There is room for improvement without altering the organic nature of the PCH,” he said. “Michel is determined to make this film regardless. He has a real passion about it.” 

The film is of a piece with the Shanes’ previous work. Shortly after their daughter’s death, Shane and his wife, Ellen, established the Emily Shane Foundation. The foundation offers mentoring twice a week for middle-school students who struggle with studying. The mentors act essentially as life coaches and cheerleaders, helping 22 kids last year, with the only cost to the child being that they perform a good deed in return. 

Now, Shane’s focus is on the documentary. He hopes to have the film made and ready in six months. 

“If we can educate people through the movie, then we’ve won half the battle. My hope is that it brings awareness to the problem. My long-term goal is that we are able to put together a solution.” 

For more information about the Emily Shane Foundation or to make a donation, visit or pch-probably-cause-harm.