Controversial movie 'Blackfish' has central Washington ties

Controversial movie 'Blackfish' has central Washington ties »Play Video

YAKIMA, Wash. -- A new documentary stirring a national controversy has ties to Central Washington. The film Blackfish looks at killer whales in captivity. A local doctor was a trainer at SeaWorld in Florida and is featured on screen.

For eight years, Doctor Jeffrey Ventre spent his time as a trainer. He had two different stints working with killer whales at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.

"I was like a rookie bucket scrubber," Dr. Ventre said. "Basically, a guy that put on the microphone and did the lines of the show. But, then when I went back the second time I was one of the primary show people."

He tells KIMA being a primary killer whale trainer opened his eyes to a side of the business he didn't want to be a part of. He believes the captivity makes whales violent.

"I realized that it probably wasn't a good idea for the killer whales so I ended up going back to school," Ventre said. 

Eventually, he landed here living in Ellensburg and working in Yakima. He's a doctor at Memorial Hospital's Lakeview Spine Center. The majority of the movie Blackfish was filmed in the San Juan Islands and Ventre has a main role. It's centered around a fellow trainer who died at the hand of a killer whale.

"People can't believe that I'm in a movie and I really can't believe it either," Ventre said. 

Ventre looks back on his experience after doing the movie. He says if he could do it over again, he wouldn't have trained whales.
    
"It does become a little scarier in hindsight, but when you're there you're just trying to climb the ladder and get in the water with these whales because you think you're playing with a big Shamu doll," Ventre said. 

That experience now has him splashed on television sets around the world. Blackfish is being re-aired this weekend on CNN. Listings are posted here.