Growing up with Rose Theatre forms a filmmaker

Posted 7/31/19

On the very first weekend after his family moved to Port Townsend, Ben Medina’s father took him to see a movie at the Rose Theatre. Next week, he will settle into one of its plush seats and watch a movie he himself directed.

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Growing up with Rose Theatre forms a filmmaker


On the very first weekend after his family moved to Port Townsend, Ben Medina’s father took him to see a movie at the Rose Theatre. Next week, he will settle into one of its plush seats and watch a movie he himself directed.

Little Port Townsend’s little Rose, one could argue, was the birthplace of his career as a Hollywood director.

Though he was only 11 years old the first time the lights went down and the film lit up the screen at the Rose, Medina was hooked.

“After that, I would go see a film at the Rose at least once a month, maybe even more,” he said.

Twenty-five years later, Medina will be returning to the place that sparked his filmmaking career.

His first feature film, “ECCO” premiers at the Rose Theatre at 7 p.m. on August 9.

Scheduled for wide release in theaters nationwide through Citadel Film Group, “ECCO” could have had premiered in Los Angeles or New York, but Medina, now 36, chose to go back to his roots.

“This experience wouldn’t be real for me if it wasn’t at the Rose,” he said. “There was never a doubt, after years of dreaming about having the privilege of showing a film at the Rose.”

Medina graduated from Port Townsend High School in 2001, where he had spent his time developing skills in writing, acting and photography. He worked with the photographer Paul Boyer, acted in plays at school and began making short films.

“I remember convincing one teacher to let me out of taking a test by making a short film instead,” he said. At the same time, he was on the high school’s mock trial team and wasn’t sure whether or not he should study acting or law.

When he went to the University of Washington, he did both. But it wasn’t until he made his first short film, shooting a boxing movie called “In The Corner,” on short ends of Kodak film that were donated to film students, that Medina realized he wanted to be a filmmaker.

“I was like, ‘This is it,’” he said. “It was like a vault door had opened.”

The film industry is not an easy one to get into. Medina went to work developing his directing skills, working with ad agencies to direct commercials here in the U.S. and in New Zealand.

But what he really wanted to do was create a feature film.

“I was knocking on the door to a room I didn’t have a key to,” he said. “Finally I realized if something is going to get done, then I have to be the one to make it happen.”

Medina met with Rocky Friedman, owner of the Rose Theatre in Port Townsend, who he views as a mentor, and discussed the idea of writing, directing and producing a movie.

“I do remember gently saying, ‘That’s a lot to take on,’” Friedman said. “But there was no convincing him otherwise. He had a plan.”

Medina got to work, writing the script with his actor friend Lathrop Walker, who stars as the main character, for a slow-burn spy thriller.

Though the trailer for “ECCO” might present the film as an action movie, it is so much more than that, Medina said.

The film follows the story of an ex-assassin, who thought he had escaped his former life of danger, to live happily working as a fisherman and living with his wife in their cozy tugboat. But soon, his peaceful life comes crashing down around him and he is forced to confront his past.

A lot of the filming for the movie was done in the Seattle area, and Medina’s roots in Port Townsend come through with scenes set in boat yards and fishing terminals, the shady corners between tall ships on the yard serving as perfect setting for a thriller.

Locals will instantly recognize the influence Port Townsend had on the film.

“Every source of my storytelling comes from my heart and soul,” Medina said. “Port Townsend has a sacred place in my heart forever.”

Meanwhile, his training with the photographer Paul Boyer, who lived and worked in Port Townsend for years, also influenced Medina’s filmmaking.

“At any time I wanted the audience to be able to stop this movie, print out a frame and put it on the wall,” Medina said.

Working closely with his cinematographer, Medina built the visual language of the film so that it would be different from other action movies.

“Every action sequence is necessary to telling the story,” he said. “It’s extremely realistic and elegantly shot.”

Three years after he began work on his movie, it is set to premiere at the Rose on August 9. Then, it hits theaters nationwide.

“Getting a movie made is a monumental piece of work,” said Friedman. “To do all three of those things and to get it out in the world is truly impressive.”

Influenced by writer/directors Christopher Nolan, Stanley Kubrick and Michael Mann, Medina hopes to continue on the path of writing and directing his own films. He has two more in the works at the moment.

“We’re sprinting to the end of this process now, but when I think about the fact that it will be shown at the Rose it just takes my breath away,” he said. “It stops me in my tracks and takes the speed of everything to stillness.”

Tickets for “ECCO” are available at the Rose Theatre box office or at their website.


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