Film and TV

Music, Storytelling Shore Up The Living Coast Film

Ride the wave with Montopolis and narrator Amber Lackey while watching The Living Coast this weekend.
Ride the wave with Montopolis and narrator Amber Lackey while watching The Living Coast this weekend. Photo by Felicia Graham
Texas’ coastline is a contradiction. Along it are refineries mixed with recreational areas mixed with nature's beauty. Tankers full of oil and goods move along the ocean 200 yards from a public beach. The coast is also a crucial place environmentally speaking for migratory birds traveling the Americas. The proximity of these disparate activities intersecting is interesting visually and philosophically.

That's what inspired Justin Sherburn along with help from cinematographer Anlo Sepulveda and drone pilot Reagan Jobe to create the film The Living Coast about this storied area, but it's more than just a film screening. The Living Coast performance combines original music from Montopolis (composed of members of the Austin Symphony Orchestra and rock musicians) and live narration by performer Amber Lackey to augment the cinematic images of the Texas Gulf Coast. Houstonians can catch The Living Coast when it plays at 8 p.m. on September 18 at The MATCH, 3400 Main.

As Montopolis' Artistic Director and pianist, Sherburn describes the plot as "a physical journey from the southern tip of Texas, along the Texas coast, to the Louisiana/Texas boarder. It’s a journey through time from the Hurricane of 1900 to the present day showing the celebrations and the devastations that have happened on the Texas Coast."

With the confluence of film, narration and music, the experience can easily be described as unique, and the focus of the event will alternate between the three areas throughout the evening.

"You shift your attention around the space. It makes for a really interesting experience for people to enjoy," he said.
click to enlarge
Texas' coastal wildlife gets a closeup in "The Living Coast."
Photo by Anlo Sepulveda
In a film that so closely follows the nature of the coast, it is only natural for there to be an element of conservation involved. Not surprisingly, proceeds from the performance will be donated to the Matagorda Bay Foundation and the Citizen's Environmental Coalition.

"There's definitely an element of awareness of environmental issues that will affect our state moving forward for years and decades to come. What we try not to do is hit people over the head with an environmental message but instead show the reality of what is happening on the Texas Coast or any of the natural ecosystems we cover in our shows. Then, we partner with scientific institutions so guests don’t get a romanticized idea of the climate but real information. We want to show the beauty of nature and the threats in the future," Sherburn said.

But he promises the film itself isn't too heavy with the presentation. If anything, it's a love letter to the region.

Sherburn said, "Joy and celebration are what's at the core of this project. Seeing all these places along the coast and the people who inhabit them, it’s an inspirational experience for people, especially people who have a connection or grew up on the coast. People have an emotional response to it. They see their lives in it. Mostly, it’s a celebration and joy of the natural beauty of Texas on the coast."

Montopolis is not new to the game of creating a sensory experience starting with producing both the film and score from scratch and adding elements that appeal to crowds. The group was already playing live music to scores from older movies when they had the bright idea to do the same thing using a new film about central Texas as the visual medium.

"It was a nature film that resonated with the entire group: the filmmaker, the musicians, and the audience. It was relevant and very much about our own community. So we shifted to doing shows about Texas. People love the natural glory of Texas. So far, we've performed shows featuring Enchanted Rock and Big Bend National Park, and that eventually led us to the coast. In the process we developed a unique art form," Sherburn said.

Lasting approximately 80 minutes, audiences won't want to miss this film/music/narration mashup that gives all the visuals of a weekend trip with out requiring you to leave the comfort of Houston.
The Living Coast plays at 8 p.m. Saturday at The MATCH, 1800 Main. For tickets, visit or call 713-521-4533. $20.
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Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture.
Contact: Sam Byrd