Maeera (Mae) Mougin, a North Sea resident and fashion photographer, knows how tough it is to be a lifeguard having done so when she was 16, but when her son trained to be one with John Ryan Sr. and his family in East Hampton 10 years ago, Mougin said she knew right away there was a story that needed to be told.
The documentary, currently titled, "Waterproof Lifguards For Life," is about what it takes to become a lifeguard, though Mougin never imagined when she set out filming nearly two years ago that it would capture one of the most difficult situations with which the East Hampton lifeguards have ever dealt; a serious injury suffered by one of one of their own.
The filmmakers are still trying to navigate how to handle what happened to lifeguard , who broke her neck while taking a swim as she ended a day on the job last month, which included, according to Chief Lifeguard John Ryan Jr., a rescue. He said she pulled a swimmer out of a rip current about 20 minutes earlier.
The incidents weren't part of the 185 hours already caught on camera, but Quigley, a second year ocean lifeguard, and her mother Deputy Supervisor Theresa Quigley, have both been a big part of production.
"She was one of the guards we followed from the pool to the , and she was, I would say, a quiet girl in that she's shown in her own way. She was always there," Mougin said.
They are handling the situation delicately, she said, but plan to include the accident in the film, including a that will be held for Quigley on Saturday, as she faces many months of rehabilitation.
Filmming began after Mougin met with John Ryan Sr. and Jr. to discuss the possibility of creating a reality show in March 2011 — they said 'no.'
She then presented the idea of following kids who were becoming bayguards and then ocean guards with hopes of making a documentary to tell a story and educate — that they agreed to.
Since then, Mougin has partnered with Hampton Bays film director Catherine Tambini ("Farmingville") and produced over 185 hours of footage with the sponsorship of , a non-profit public access television facility for the Town of East Hampton. They've filmed everything from a young man in lifeguard training coming down with hypothermia during a certification test, to others in training struggling to get victims out, as well as capturing every day rescues.
"We were always on a search for a rescue. The water was pretty calm last summer, so we didn't get a dramatic, what everybody expects to see for a lifeguard rescue. We got a few landlines, but nothing like what happened this year," said Mougin, referring to the rope used in rescues.
She is searching for the family of a man in his mid to upper 70s who came out of the water at Atlantic Beach this past summer in cardiac arrest. The lifeguards helped bring him back to life.
"To see the dedication and the selflessness of the men and women of the Hampton Lifeguard Association in action is something to behold," Tambini said.
Still, in order to make this film become a reality, Mougin is trying to raise funds to finish filming and cover the costs for post-production. This past May she hosted an admission-free fundraiser at to spread the word about the project and connect with potential investors.
Mougin said she is looking for investors, or "angels" as she calls them — somebody who would want to come on as executive producer and help get the film wrapped up.
John Ryan Sr. said that he hopes that the documentary will showcase the support of the community and all the lifeguards have accomplished this year, as well as being a tool to educate.
"The film will celebrate what we've done," he said.
A portion of all proceeds from the documentary will support the Hampton Lifeguard Association and their local programs. If you would like to lend support, you can make checks payable to LTV and mail to Waterproof c/o Local TV, Inc. P.O. Box 799 Wainscott, New York 11975.