Ben Medina's new film, 'ECCO," is a spy thriller that was shot in and around Seattle. He plans to shoot two more films in Seattle, and will start production on his second this fall.
Ben Medina's new film, 'ECCO," is a spy thriller that was shot in and around Seattle. He plans to shoot two more films in Seattle, and will start production on his second this fall.
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Movie director Ben Medina’s career has taken him around the world. Following the release of his latest thriller shot in and around Seattle, the Queen Anne resident now has plans to shoot two more films here in the Pacific Northwest.

“I think what I’ve found, having worked all around the world, is the crews in Seattle are some of the best,” Medina said.

He studied theater acting and international law at the University of Washington, where he acted in plays and some short films.

While working on a film he said ended up never being released, Medina was encouraged by the cinematographer to get into directing.

He wrote and directed a short film about a prizefighter that was based on a Spanish poem by Federico García Lorca. He had a $3,000 budget, and completed most of the filming on campus.

“It’s really dark and gritty and artistic, and nobody will ever see it,” Medina said.

Even so, he said he found his calling.

“Something just switched on that hadn’t been turned on yet,” he said.

Medina got his start as a commercial director, just like David Fincher and Ridley Scott, he said, using that same short film to land a job with an ad agency. He made commercials in Seattle, Portland and New York.

He moved to Queen Anne in 2010, and owns a home a few block from Queen Anne Avenue North, though he ended up moving around a lot in the last nine years, starting with Los Angeles in 2011.

“My wife, then my girlfriend, refused to live in Los Angeles,” Medina said. “Los Angeles has this certain energy; you either like it or you don’t.”

Medina went on to spend three years directing commercials and branded content at an ad agency he co-owned in New Zealand. He sold his stake in the company in 2016 and came back to Seattle to start making films.

With maybe the exception of Union Station, it will take a seasoned Seattleite to identify all of the locations where Medina shot his film “ECCO,” which will be released nationwide on Friday, Aug. 9.

“We shot everything in the Pacific Northwest,” Medina said. “My goal was to make everything seem ambiguous and look like it was shot somewhere else.”

Medina calls his film “a slow-burn spy thriller.” It tells the story of Michael, a former covert assassin trying to live a normal life with his new family when his old employer threatens everything he loves. As Michael strikes back at the organization that made him a trained killer, he also comes closer to learning the truth about his origins.

He worked on the story with his friend and UW School of Drama alum Lathrop Walker, who also plays Michael in “ECCO.” Medina said he wrote the screenplay with a focus on a character that had depth, weighed down by the guilt from his old profession, which is different than most films in today’s spy genre.

“The movies move really fast,” he said, “and you never get to know them, to look beyond the veil.”

A lot of audience members will be left guessing until the end of “ECCO.” Medina said the film scored well on a second watch during a screen test. He wants people to still be thinking about the movie when it’s over, or to go back and look for subtle details.

“I definitely wanted to make a smart film,” Medina said.

While the movie was filmed in the Pacific Northwest, Medina said he found ways to shoot “ECCO” that didn’t make that apparent. He doesn’t want to overshadow his stories with locations.

“Suddenly, the story becomes about Seattle or the location, instead of the story,” he said.

Locations to look for include Fishermen’s Terminal, Boeing Field, the shipyard in Tacoma and the Georgetown Steam Plant. There’s also a scene in his hometown of Coupeville, Washington.

“I definitely wanted to put my birthplace in the film,” Medina said.

The filmmaker said choosing shooting locations is always a challenge, but the City of Seattle Film Office was easy to work with, as was the Seattle Police Department, which provided security on set.

“I love this city,” Medina said. “It’s changing a lot, but it’s a great place to shoot.”

Medina also worked with Koerner Camera and Pacific Grip and Lighting, and then edited “ECCO” at a post facility in Ballard.

Medina owns his own film company, and is backed by a small investment group in Seattle.

“We’re on schedule to shoot two more movies in the next two years, and part of my responsibility as a director is to stay on budget,” he said.

And Seattle is great for projects of his size, which usually only require 4-6 weeks to shoot.

He’ll begin filming his next movie, a dark detective thriller, in Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia in November.

“And everyone from “ECCO” is coming back,” Medina said. “Everyone from the crew is coming back.”

Walker, who has been friends with Medina for 16 years now, is bulking up for the role, and will soon be moving to Magnolia.

“He’s a wonderful man,” Medina said. “He’s my best friend, and we really have a lot of fun on set.”

Learn more about Medina’s latest film at ecco-movie.com.