The story of Little Red Riding Hood gets updated in a film shot in the Great Lakes Bay Region

What if Little Red Riding Hood’s story didn’t end with her outsmarting the big bad wolf? What if instead she grew up and went on a quest to answer questions about her mysterious past? Local filmmaker Taylor Gradowski is filming that second story in the Great Lakes Bay Region

Gradowski calls “Project ‘Red’ ” a hybrid version of the classic tale. In it, he plans to tell the family-friendly story of Rebecca “Red” Redding, recent college graduate embarking on a new career alongside the love of her life while seeking answers to questions about her past.

Taylor Gradowski cultivated the team for the movie. From left, Megan Prudhomme (make-up/hair), Josh Sobeck (sound), Anthony Trevino (extra in pink), Rebecca Moore (nurse in blue), Gradowski (director/camera operator), and Zach Hamilla (camera).Gradowski, a local filmmaker who owns a motion picture production company Good Harbor Blue, wrote the script and is directing “Project ‘Red,’ ” as it’s tentatively titled.

“It’s a hybrid story,” he says. “It doesn’t tell the classic story, but the idea is that this young woman, Rebecca Redding, has grown up into an adult.”

For several years, Gradowski has had the story idea on the back burner, but a bout with COVID-19 had him looking at the project again.

From left, the movie features the work of Gradowski, Alex Alexandrou, and Melisa Sandlin.“It started out as a horror film 17 years ago,” he says. “I don’t know why because that’s not my genre, but I was a different person back then, too.”

In early 2021, Gradowski came down with COVID-19, spent a long time in the hospital, and then several months recovering. The filmmaker, who previously had multiple projects going at once, was suddenly not doing anything.

“You get to that point in your life where you’re like everything I’ve talked about doing – you’re like ‘The time is now!’ We dove in headfirst and decided to take the story into a whole new direction.”

He was re-wrote the script, changing his original idea for a horror film into something less sinister. In Gradowski’s version, there are animals, but not big bad wolves. Gradowski is reluctant to say much more about the plot before the film is released.

From left, Justine Brooks appears as Rebecca Redding; Josh Sobeck is on sound, Gradowski is director, and Zach Hamila is the camera operator.There’s also much more to the movie than just the story unfolding on film. Gradowski is out to change the reputation of low-budget films and raise the profile of the Great Lakes Bay Region.

He says there is a lot of concern that films like this are not carefully planned and not enough works goes into them. “This is actually a financed film,” he says, and well planned and organized. “It’s something we take very seriously.”

Every step along the way was serious, from recruiting his production team to casting to scouting locations.

Gradowski worked with a team, including consultant Alex Alexandrou. Alexandrou negotiated to secure contracts and get permission to film at iconic locations in the area. He also has a small acting part in the movie, but says his bigger role was helping for “talent, locations, contracts, and liaisons,” for the movie.

The film features animals (Cheyenne and Lakota), but not the Big Bad Wolf. From left are Justine Brooks as Rebecca Redding alongside extras, Kay Bailey, Dora Osterman, and Jim Osterman.Gradowski also brought in fellow producer and actor Joaquin Guerrero whose service dog, Little Chief, starred in a few past films, and has shown up in commercial work. For this film, Guerrero debuted his 17-month-old puppy, Storm.

Some of the locations for “Red” include Bayne’s Apple Barn, Fuzzy’s Restaurant in Saginaw, and a few other places that are being kept under wraps until the film premieres this fall.

Left to Right: Jacob Lounsbury (as Liam) and Justine Brooks (as Rebecca Redding)Alexandrou also helped Gradowski find actors. Gradowski told Alexandrou what he was looking for and Alexandrou suggested people who fit the bill.

“I’m honored and blessed to be part of this,” says Alexandrou. “There’s a lot of wonderful talent both on and off camera working here.”

The actors run the gamut from film veterans to first-time actors. Jake Lounsbury, for example, plays Liam, Red’s fiancé.

“I’m in a supporting lead role,” Lounsbury says. “I went into it thinking ‘This is going to be fun,’ and I didn’t really have any idea how many lines I was getting, but (Gradowski) put together a cast that really has a lot of good chemistry.”

Lounsbury was one of the last roles cast.

“I was kind of nervous,” says Gradowski. “Jacob Lounsbury – I got him literally at zero hour. We were supposed to have a rehearsal meeting a week beforehand and we didn’t have the role filled at all.”

A few video meetings was all it took to decide that Lounsbury was the right fit for the role. Gradowski says he asked him to read the script and after reading it, Lounsbury asked, “Do you have any roles to fill?”  Gradowski said the boyfriend role was still available and the two agreed Lounsbury could do it.

The care that Gradowski took to choose his team paid off.

“The dynamics between the cast, and the crew, and when we get together it’s like a giant family,” says Guerrero. “They’ve developed friendships now, and that’s what you want.”

Putting together a wholesome family film that the whole community has a stake in is also what this is about, says Gradowski.

“It’s definitely a walk of faith – the whole thing is a walk of faith.” Gradowski says. “I can’t speak for everybody on the team, but the majority of them are very spiritual people, which is kind of cool. Some have never acted a day in their life and are just as good as professional actors. It blows our minds how good this is coming together.”

Even before the film is shown, the team feels supported by the community and local businesses.

“We want Mid-Michigan and Greater Michigan to know that we appreciate that we have a hard-working people here. There are also good creative people here,” he says. “Obviously, we’re trying to put together a good film, but we’re trying to break that mold a little bit, to let everybody know that not every film being made is a horror film, a negative film, or a film about a homicide.”

Alexandrou also believes every person can connect to this film in some way.

“Everyone experiences the passing of someone; the passing of someone they love, reconnecting, and discovering their history. They pay more attention during the pandemic and now you’ve got more audiences being able to connect. I believe this story has that connection of – this can happen to every single one of us.”

Filming began a little over a month ago, and there’s still much to do before “Project ‘Red’ ” premieres this fall. To learn more about the film visit the website.