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New short film showcases local talent

“Protect And Serve” offers first-time acting opportunities to locals.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — We continue to hear about more film projects happening in Michigan, and this week is no different. Thursday night is the premiere of “Protect and Serve,” an action-packed short film that was shot in different parts of the state, utilizing local talent.

Christopher Jones wrote, directed, and stars in the film, which is based on the true story of a Texas police officer who uses station equipment to spy on his wife. Jones said he shot a version of this same film 10 years ago but always wanted to do more with it.

“Lydia, my girlfriend, I told her about the story,” he said. “I showed her the original version and told her I would love to recreate this. I go to visit Michigan for the first time ever. I had never really been outside of El Paso, and I just fell in love with the place. And I thought, ‘why not take this story and just change the world completely?’”

That’s exactly what he did. He tweaked the script and recast the characters, this time using Michigan talent including his girlfriend, Lydia Woodruff.

Credit: Christopher Jones

“People ask me all the time, ‘How are you directing it but also in it at the same time?’ And that's where my girlfriend comes into play,” Jones said. “She had shown an interest in learning the camera behind the scenes, so I've basically been teaching her, and that's how I'm able to be in front of the camera and behind at the same time. So she's been a huge help, a huge blessing.”

“We kind of both combined forces to bring it to life,” Woodruff said. “We started shooting in September, and from September to December it's just been nonstop. It's a lot. Sometimes the shoots drag out until 2:00 in the morning. Sometimes unexpected things happen, and you just have to go with the flow.”

Credit: Christopher Jones

Woodruff, who is a Michigan native, also helped with location scouting and casting. This was a big change for the Northport resident whose most recent film experience was on the set of “Carrie and Jess Save The Universe,” in which she plays one of the title characters.

“This was very different,” Woodruff said. “That was at Compass College, so it was a very professional set. We had people in charge of everything here and there. There were so many people just on deck. With this production, it's my partner and I, so we’re kind of the ones making everything happen. It's really awesome to get some experience behind the camera as well, this time around. I really love the behind the scenes stuff, because I also get to learn so much about myself and improving my acting as well. I get to see all these amazing actors come together, and for this production, it was a lot of people who had never even acted before. They are just living the lives of these characters so naturally. It was really inspiring to see that."

Credit: Christopher Jones

One of the actors in the film is Greenville resident Shin Hoo Yong, who learned about the project from Woodruff.

“This is a first, which is so funny,” Yong said. “I have no acting experience, nothing. Lydia was just like ‘your whole demeanor says Lucas. You'll be a complete natural at it. Come on and give it a shot.”

He went on to say it was a wonderful experience, mostly because he was able to be himself in front of the camera.

“You step onto the set, and they just kind of let it organically happen,” Yong said. “They give you some idea of what you should do, but you get to have fun. And that's what I think is going to make this movie really cool. You're going to see people being themselves, and they also get to be someone else for a day.”

Jasmine Piper of Kalamazoo is also in the film, but unlike Yong, she does come from an acting background.

“I graduated from Western in 2020,” Piper said. “I primarily do theater, but this last year, 2021, was really great for film for me. Everybody decided they were going to do films last year, and it was just a really wonderful year for filming and art in general.”

She too spoke highly of Chris’ filmmaking style, which she said made her job as an actor easy.

Credit: Christopher Jones

“He did a really great job with directing everybody and telling everyone what to do and where to go, and I never felt misguided or misdirected. It was a very easy-going process,” Piper said. “He's a very creative person who works very fast, which I appreciate, and he knew what he wanted. So it was really easy to create that for him.”

Jones said he’s very pleased with the way this film turned out, but he’s open to expanding on the story.

“Everything that I create, I always leave story lines open so we can create something bigger or longer,” he said. “These days with all the streaming services, it also has the option of becoming its own series.”

The premiere is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at The Bay Theatre in Suttons Bay.

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