La Jolla filmmaker embarks on documentary project

La Jolla High School graduate and filmmaker Gage Hingeley has always had a passion for the ocean. Having made surf films in school, his projects always some connection to the sea. Now Hingeley has found a new way to channel his passion, and help people with a rare form of cancer at the same time.

“I started filmmaking when I was 13 and surfed in La Jolla and it was all fun,” Hingeley said. “But I wanted to use my skills to share personal stories that have a takeaway, and see if I can inspire people to go out and to help.”

So 19-year-old Hingeley is making a documentary about an organization called Ocean of Hope, which raises money for the Sarcoma Alliance, an organization that provides grants to cancer patients so they can travel to get a second medical opinion. He has also launched a GoFundMe page, hoping to raise $10,000 — with $3,000 going toward his expenses to make the film and the remainder to the Sarcoma Alliance. A one-minute trailer for the documentary is on his crowd-funding page:

Ocean of Hope team captain Aimee Spector explained the organization participates in ocean sport events throughout the year, but its big event is a 32-mile prone paddleboard race from Catalina Island to Manhattan Beach near Los Angeles, which takes place each August. “The funds we raise through racing, online fundraising, events, and through partnerships with races and sponsors, go directly to the Sarcoma Alliance,” she said.

After meeting two Ocean of Hope racers (and cancer survivors), Hingeley wanted to participate in the paddleboard race, but decided to document it instead. “I filmed the 2015 race in August. I went out to Catalina and I was in one of the team members’ boats and filmed him and then interviewed people when the race was done,” he said. “But I also just interviewed a grant recipient because I wanted to get the other side. My goal now is to interview as many recipients as possible and gather as much footage as I can.”

Through his interviews, he learned the difficulties in getting a diagnosis for sarcoma — a rare and very aggressive type of cancer. “When I was first introduced to Ocean of Hope, I didn’t know what sarcoma was, and that’s part of the problem. No one knows what it is. I learned how hard it was for these patients to figure out what they had. One person I spoke with said she saw doctors for three months but couldn’t get a diagnosis. With a Sarcoma Alliance grant, she was able to fly to Boston and talk with more experts,” Hingeley said.

Kellie Flynn, a Sarcoma Alliance director, said sarcoma only makes up about one percent of adult cancer cases, and is incredibly difficult to diagnose. There are 70 sub-types of sarcoma that make up that one percent.

“Sarcoma affects soft tissue, smooth muscle and cartilage, so it doesn’t show up in blood tests or through other forms of testing. It’s usually not until it interferes with something else you know it’s a problem. Even then, it is often misdiagnosed,” she said. Speaking from experience, Flynn is a 15-year sarcoma survivor who only sought medical advice when the cancer began to diminish her leg mobility.

The cancer is also “fast growing and high grade” she said, so the Sarcoma Alliance encourages getting a second opinion, and quickly. In the event the patient cannot afford to travel to a sarcoma expert, the Alliance will give them a grant to pay for their expenses.

But they can’t do it without Ocean of Hope. “The reason we could write those checks is the paddlers who enter that race,” Flynn said.

In addition to raising awareness about sarcoma in general, Hingeley’s project is intended to raise awareness about Ocean of Hope and its fundraising events.

“I am focused on projects that will inspire, help and bring awareness to great things people are doing like being on team Ocean of Hope,” he said. “I am just really passionate currently on using my creativity, skills, love for the ocean and film, and ideas to compose beautiful films to help others.”