SEQUIM — After some proactive high schoolers lobbied online and Hollywood producers listened, Sequim will host a special screening of “The Boys in the Boat” this December.
Anticipation has grown nationwide in the last week for the George Clooney-helmed movie as its poster and trailer were revealed. The film is based on author Daniel James Brown’s book chronicling the University of Washington rowing team’s journey to represent the United States at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, often called “Hitler’s Olympics.”
Sequim icon Joe Rantz is a central figure to the book and now movie, played by Callum Turner.
Sequim’s special event screening tentatively takes place at 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8 in the Sequim High School auditorium, 601 N. Sequim Ave., prior to the film going to theaters Christmas Day.
Event information is still being formalized, said Sequim Sunrise Rotarian Pat McCauley, and the special screening will be invite only with a wait list.
More information will become available soon at joerantzrotaryyouthfund.org.
Sequim schools Superintendent Regan Nickels calls it a “once -in-a-lifetime event.”
“I’m most proud that it was student initiated,” she said.
“It shows the student body how they can make a difference in the community and how to make a great idea happen.”
Earlier this year, Sequim High School Interact Club members posted a video online appealing to producers to bring a showing of the movie to Sequim to serve as a fundraiser for Sequim Sunrise Rotary’s Joe Rantz Rotary Youth Fund.
Rotarians seek $750,000 to help establish a home for local homeless youths as data from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) from earlier this year stated that more than 160 students, or about 6 percent of the student population, are homeless in Sequim.
Students and Rotarians connected with Clooney’s Smokehouse Pictures production partner Grant Heslov online, and they and school officials have been working on premiere logistics for two months, McCauley said.
Many details are still being worked out, McCauley said, but she’s excited.
“I think Sequim will look great and this will start a love affair for Joe Rantz and Sequim,” she said.
A screening is tentatively set for Dec. 7 at the University of Washington boathouse in Seattle, McCauley said, and depending on if the SAG-AFTRA strike is resolved, celebrities will be at Sequim’s premiere.
A Port Townsend business will donate a digital projector and sound for the screening, she said, and organizers continue to assess parking, safety and other issues.
Nickels said school board members gave her the OK on Monday to ask permission from OSPI to seek a half-day early release for students and staff to accommodate the screening and better ensure safety and security on and around the high school campus. She announced it was approved on Friday and Sequim campus schools will release at 11 a.m. and Greywolf Elementary at 11:15 a.m.
As the event nears, Nickels said district staff will send out more communications about the event.
“We’re so proud of our Interact Club and Leadership students,” she said. “We’re happy to support this.”
Four Sequim graduates who helped make the video for Clooney — Danika Chen, Ruby Coulson, Ayden Humphries, and Brianna Jack — plan to be at the premiere, McCauley said.
“Their passion is amazing,” she said.
A look at Rantz
“The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Brown was published on June 4, 2013.
He was a neighbor of Rantz and their discussions led to him authoring the eventual national best bestseller.
Sunrise Rotary Club members conceived of the Joe Rantz Rotary Youth Fund in 2018, noting Sequim was not honoring Rantz in his hometown.
Judy Willman, Rantz’s daughter, was at the club’s 2018 auction as the guest speaker, and shared stories about some of her father’s experiences.
According to a Sequim Gazette 2006 interview with Rantz, he said he lost his mother at age 3, and struggles with his stepmother led to various living situations.
They moved to Sequim in 1925 when his father Harry purchased the Sequim Tire shop and Rantz lived above the shop with his family. However, they left him at age 15 by himself and Rantz said the neighboring McDonald family offered him meals while he did what he could to make ends meet, according to his interview.
As a senior in high school, he moved to Seattle with his brother Fred where he by chance met University of Washington crew coach Al Ulbrickson at Roosevelt High School. Rantz went on to join UW’s eight-man freshman crew who was promoted to varsity in 1935.
The book details the team’s rise through the collegiate ranks and eventual destination to the 1936 Olympics. Rantz became a chemical engineer at Boeing and died in September 2007 at age 93.
More details will be determined on Sequim’s screening in the coming weeks, organizers said. Look for event updates online and for ways to donate at joerantzrotaryyouthfund.org/.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.