by writer/director Ben Medina
In a world of action thriller spectacle and violence for the sake of its own indulgence, can we explore the soul of a man who has lived in the shadows with the guilt of being a craftsman of death and corporate espionage? What if the only driving force left in his life of brutality was love? Who would love him, knowing he has locked away his secrets in the strong room of his mind, praying they evaporate with time? Who could help him heal the storied scars on his hands and body? How could he ever build a family with his blistered and fractured foundation built on blood money? What kind of father might he be, given the opportunity? Who would want to follow in his footsteps and be his child?
These questions are inside the beating heart of the slow-burn, spy thriller ECCO. Although a well-traveled genre, there was freedom in laboring over an original script crafted from characters with a devout sense of humanity and tarnished beauty. Each of their lives shrouded in mystery became a beacon to craft dialogue with double and triple meaning, offering an invitation for the audience to go as deep as possible with their attention. As pages came together, a driving question emerged: How can a spy film share DNA with the fallen monarchs of Shakespeare’s Henriad tetralogy? Where large scale action was ground in relationships corrupted by betrayal, broken bonds of love and the blood oath to protect one’s family in the face of execution. All within a couple hours time.
Much like a lost prince, Michael lives in the distant shadows and severed ties of a clandestine corporation. Soon, the darkness of an aged monarch returns to collect his last living assassin and wash away their shared past. With Michael’s new family at risk, he must go ‘once more unto the breach’ and pursue the mysteries of his origin and bring his final, staggering secret to light.
With these themes in mind, I became obsessed with the visual language of control. How could each location represent freedom or imprisonment? How could each composition represent Michael’s journey towards his own awareness of truth? Control kept invading my mind. There is profound necessity for control in the world of an assassin’s life and craft. The patience of opportunity. The steadfast readiness to strike. Each shot in the film was an opportunity to bring a controlled feeling of focus to Michael’s perspective. It was a deliberate choice to break away from action set pieces and explore with the ravenous desire to hold onto control, when every element of ECCO’s story is tearing it away from Michael’s scarred hands.
It was an incredible experience to bring this film to life with our cast: Lathrop Walker, Tabitha Bastien, Helena Grace Donald and Michael Winters. Each brought their own unique style of character development and commitment to this layered narrative. Our working relationships were driven by what the characters do not say. Keeping their desires in the shadows much like the genre demands. Each actor embraced the notion of holding secrets close, allowing the camera to find their eyes and let the audience decide what was the truth.
ECCO is a poetic journey of love and loss, as one man’s search for redemption is carved out from a world of darkness. Within this genre, I offer the audience an invitation to a different style of film. An opportunity to fall in love, to feel the weight of guilt and to connect with all the pieces of Michael’s splintered existence.