Justin Kelly, left, and Benjamin Stockham play brothers in pursuit of a lost family fortune on a remote island in the independent film “Lost & Found,” written, produced and directed by South Whidbey High School graduate Joseph Itaya. Before its widespead release, the movie will be shown at The Clyde in Langley on Dec. 27. Photo provided by Lost & Found

Whidbey-inspired film about to hit big screen

An independent film inspired by the beauty and mystique of Whidbey Island will start showing in theaters across the country next month but not without a kickoff event in Langley first.

A special showing of “Lost &Found,” produced, written and directed by South Whidbey’s own Joseph Itaya, is 2 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 27 at The Clyde Theatre.

Itaya, a 1996 South Whidbey High School graduate who now produces films and commercials in Southern California, thought he’d try to incorporate the special viewing while coming home to the island to visit family for the holidays.

“It’s a major homecoming of sorts and really a celebration for home,” said Itaya, who will attend the Langley showing and speak about the film. “We have investors on the island. We’re really proud and excited to show the film.”

Itaya wrote the screenplay for “Lost &Found” based in part on his childhood experiences on Whidbey and submitted it as his master’s thesis when he was in film school at the University of Southern California.

He attempted to make the feature film on Whidbey in 2013 but ended up shooting it in Ontario in the summer of 2014 due to a significant filmmakers grant available there.

The family film stars young actors Justin Kelly and Benjamin Stockham who play brothers who spend a summer with their estranged uncle in a rustic cabin on a remote, mysterious island.

In the story, the boys uncover a secret about their grandfather that leads to a hunt for a lost fortune but the secret is getting out, creating unwanted competition from undesirables.

The island is a fictitious island in the San Juans called Walton Island but, in spirit and in Itaya’s mind, it is Whidbey, which the filmmaker calls the “soul of the movie.”

To make the movie feel like it’s set on the island of his childhood wonderment, all of the aerial footage is of Whidbey itself, including scenes that show Admiralty Head Lighthouse in Fort Casey State Park and Deception Pass.

Don’t scratch your head too much about a lighthouse scene shown in the movie’s trailer. That was shot on an island in Lake Superior.

“We’re trying to sell it as Whidbey Island,” Itaya said of the movie. “All of the license plates of every single car say Washington.

“It’s a piece of the Northwest that’s preserved forever and a story about love and family and redemption.”

The movie is Itaya’s first feature film and has already separated itself from the vast majority of independent films by landing Sony as its domestic distributor.

It got Sony’s attention after it drew heavy praise at the Bentonville (Ark.) Film Festival in May when it was named the festival’s “Best Family Film.”

The cast also includes well-known Hollywood actors Jason Patric and Cary Elwes and emerging Ontario actress Celeste Desjardins.

The movie, which is rated PG, will be playing in limited theaters around the country the week of Jan. 6, including at the Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood, Itaya said.

The following week, the movie will hit Video on Demand, cable and be available on DVD.

The venerable Clyde Theater, built in 1937, can only seat about 255 people. There has been discussion about future dates there for Itaya’s film, said Brook Willeford, the theater’s co-manager who acted with Itaya and others on The Clyde’s stage during a performance for the Whidbey Children’s Theater when both were kids.

“We are really looking forward to the chance to get to show it,” said Willeford, whose parents own the theater. “I love seeing people I knew or acted with. Seeing them come back to The Clyde to show off something they’ve made is just amazing.

“It’s just special to see Whidbey folks doing well in Hollywood.”

Tickets for “Lost &Found” at The Clyde are $7 or $5 for those under 17 or 65 and over.

Doors will open at 1:30 p.m.

The filmmaker’s portion of the event will happen immediately after the show.

n To contact The Clyde, call 360-221-5525 or send an email to info@theclyde.net, or go to www.theclyde.net