Film success hasn’t spoiled East Wenatchee native Nate Lewis
If you happen to bump into Nate Lewis around town, you would never guess that the East Wenatchee native has built an impressive career in movies and film. Being seen as just a regular guy around town is just fine with Lewis — that’s precisely who he is: A humble but gifted screenwriter and producer who has remained in touch with his roots and values. He’s the son of JoAnn and Charles Lewis of East Wenatchee.
Lewis is a reflective, thoughtful individual who has been transformed by significant experiences in his career. Growing up on an orchard taught him the value of hard work. After graduating from Eastern Washington University with a film degree in 2000, he moved to Los Angeles to try to break into the business.
He caught a break when he spent a week on the set of a film being produced by Kathy Schulman (Crash, the Illusionist and other films) and she hired him to be an assistant to actor Matt Dillon. That led to an introduction to actor and comedian Steve Zahn, who has become one of Lewis’s closest friends in the industry.
Through that association, Lewis connected with actor Jim Caviezel and was his assistant for a couple of seasons on Person of Interest series, which was set in New York. That gave Lewis an opportunity to work with director and producer Jonathan Nolan and see how the writers for the show were able to collaborate to develop scripts under the extreme pressure of weekly production. Lewis remembers the schedule being brutal — 15-hour shifts with mandatory rest breaks meant that the entire sleep schedule was disrupted week after week. The work ethic he developed in the orchards paid dividends on the cold nights in New York.
Another defining experience in his career was the movie Sahara, a film starring Steve Zahn that was filmed in Morocco. “It changed my life and who I am as a person,” Lewis says. The poverty was extreme and the sanitation was virtually nonexistent. “It was just overwhelming,” Lewis recalled. What he learned was how much he had to be thankful for growing up in the Wenatchee Valley and in the United States. That lesson has stayed with him.
Lewis worked with author Paul Young to develop the initial script for The Shack, a New York Times bestseller about loss and forgiveness that was released this spring. “Forgiveness doesn’t take two people,” Lewis observed. “It’s really about you letting go and freeing yourself — taking your hands off of your own throat.”
Recently, he worked on War for the Planet of the Apes, which will be released in July, and he’ll soon be heading to Vancouver, B.C., to work on a television series called “The Crossing” starring Zahn. Now that he is established in the industry, he’s taking more time to do projects he is passionate about. He has the rights to Castner’s Cutthroats, a book about the unconventional Alaska Scouts in World War II who were recruited to fight the invading Japanese. One of the Alaska Scouts was Al Brattain, a Tonasket native.
To get a feel for the Alaska experience, Lewis spent several months living off the land alone in Alaska last summer — killing a bear and moose with his bow. Lewis grew up hunting and fishing and that has continued to keep him connected to real life. Zahn shares the same passion and Lewis spends time with the actor and his family in a small town outside of Lexington, Kentucky.
Nate Lewis has gone far in his profession but his high school friends say he is the same person they grew up with. The small-town orchard kid from East Wenatchee has stayed grounded in the important things of life. “He’s a man whose heart belongs in the woods,” said long-time friend Billy Turner, a Douglas County firefighter.
“I’m a happier person, living here,” Lewis told me “It’s one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen.”
His story reminds us that the true value of our communities is less about catering to egos and more about relationships that matter.