As film screenwriter and director Ben Medina set out to bring his dream of making a movie to life, he knew he’d return to where his own story began.
“It was very important to me to put my birthplace in the film as a way to express artistic creation,” he said.
”In the back of my mind, I was always planning to put Coupeville in the movie,” he added.
Medina’s feature film debut, “ECCO,” will be released Friday, Aug. 9. The director shot his spy thriller in a number of Western Washington locations, including the Jenne Farm in Coupeville. The filmmaker had been living and working in Los Angeles, but he’d discovered the historic Central Whidbey farmstead a few years ago and kept it in his mind as a future filming location, Medina said.
He only lived on Whidbey Island until he was 5 years old. After several moves, he and his family landed in Port Townsend when he was around 11 years old. However, his best friend lived in Mount Vernon, so he spent many hours driving through the island and historic town to meet up, Medina said. When it came time to write and direct his own project, he already knew exactly how he’d shoot the Whidbey scenes, he said.
Medina’s early passion for photography and acting collided into what felt like a “calling” toward filmmaking, he said. He’d been in high school plays and went to college for acting school. When he was 22, he shot a short film about a boxer, and it completely shifted his career trajectory.
“It just flipped a switch for me,” Medina said of the short film.
He describes his first feature, which will soon be released nationwide, as a “slow-burn” thriller. It portrays a former assassin who has left his old life and fallen in love; he and his wife are expecting a child. The main character, Michael, attempts to save his new life after his former employer’s return.
Medina said the action scenes are intense but aren’t necessarily central to the film.
“At the end of the day, it really is a love story,” he said.
Seeing his dream come to fruition didn’t come without its challenges. Medina is an experienced commercial director, but there was still a learning curve on keeping the 12-to-14-hour shooting days running smoothly and on-schedule, he said. And he learned the importance of knowing what can and can’t be controlled.
He’s still learning that lesson as he anxiously awaits the film’s release, he said.
“You have to emotionally prepare yourself for letting go,” Medina said. “… You’ve been holding onto the reins of something for so long and so tightly, and you have to let it go.”
• “ECCO” premieres at 7 p.m.,Aug. 9, at the Rose Theater, Port Townsend and later in theaters nationwide.