gabriel medina
Filmmaker Gabriel Medina hopes to bring Hollywood filmmaking to the Pajaro Valley. Photo: Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

Filmmaker and Watsonville High School alumnus Gabriel Medina already has several independent Hollywood-level movies on his resume, with various roles including writer, producer and director. 

He recently earned his MFA from University of Southern California’s famed Peter Stark Producing Program, and has now returned to his hometown to make a film he hopes will put the city on the map as a destination for other filmmakers.

Medina is now putting out the call for Watsonville residents: the production needs actors, crew and other positions for “They Know Not What They Do,” a horror-thriller film that has been green-lit by the independent production company Rustic Films. 

He will produce the film, while Oscar Ramos will direct. Both hope that it will make it as far as the Sundance Film Festival.

Medina foresees a future where filmmakers travel to Watsonville to ply their craft, and where businesses and the community at large will benefit from the industry’s presence.

Hollywood—arguably the nation’s nerve center for mainstream cinema—is nevertheless a place where that industry has worn out its welcome, Medina says. Residents are increasingly fed up with having on-scene sets in their neighborhoods, and producers pay as much as $800 per location for a permit.

But the regality of that Southern California cinematic cornerstone can still be found in smaller burgs such as Watsonville, where aspiring filmmakers need only draw from the people and resources of their hometowns, Medina says.

“I think we need to tap into that excitement,” he says. “L.A. is just kind of worn out. So I really want to signal to the people who are in the independent film route, ‘look, we made this feature film here. Come make a film with us.’”

And the creative underpinnings are already here: the Latino Youth Film Institute has brought filmmaking to many schools and the Watsonville Film Festival has garnered national attention.

Additionally, the arts scene is thriving, with the Pajaro Valley Arts Council now headquartered in the Porter Building on Main Street.

But while schools, colleges and universities offer film programs, Medina says, they do not give real-world, boots-on-the-ground experience of how to organize the myriad aspects of making a movie. That’s where he comes in.

“What I want to test out with this particular project is if Watsonville has the ability to sustain feature filmmaking,” he said. “I want to bring more productions up here, but I want to have a solid crew. I think we have the talent, and I think we have the interest and I think people are going to say, ‘well, there is a film being made here. That’s something I want to tap into and be a part of.’”

After he graduated in 2010, Medina already had several semesters of filmmaking experience from the school’s Film and Video Academy.

He then attended UC Los Angeles—one of the world’s best film schools—where he studied Latino filmmaking.  

Medina returned to Watsonville to work at Digital NEST, where he taught the craft to new generations of aspiring filmmakers, and eventually developed the organization’s Digital Arts and Technology program.

Medina’s resume includes more than a dozen films, including “Don’t Look Back,” a horror-thriller film with religious overtones, “Eternidad,” a short horror film and “Painter of Dreams,” a documentary about artist Guillermo Aranda.

He has interned at production companies such as Atomic Monster, Vertigo Entertainment and Amazon Studios. 

He now runs his own production company, Calavera Media.

“I’m back, and I’m bringing a feature film project, and I would love more than anything to signal to Hollywood that our community is behind this project, and that we can get these things made here,” he said. “Honestly, I want to be back home and championing my community.”

For information, and to inquire about being a part of “They Know Not What They Do,” visit or email [email protected].

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


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