Chilly fall and winter nights call for staying inside to stream movies and munch on popcorn. This year, Amazon Prime members can stream “Red’s Shadow,” a feature-length, family-friendly movie made in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
In 2022, Bay City-based filmmaker Taylor Gradowski pulled together a team to create a film telling the story of a grown-up Little Red Riding Hood. The film imagines what happens to Little Red Riding Hood after she outsmarts the big bad wolf. The family-friendly movie follows Rebecca “Red” Redding, a recent college graduate, as she embarks on a new career while seeking answers to questions about her mysterious past.
Gradowski, who founded the video production company Good Harbor Blue
in 2008, is a veteran of creating commercials, wedding videos, and a web series sitcom. He’s worked behind and in front of the camera for years. “Red’s Shadow” is his first feature-length film.
Watch the movie and you’ll recognize local sights. Gradowski doesn’t like to name all the locations, preferring people discover them when they watch the movie for the first time. He does offer that he filmed in iconic locations including Bayne’s Apple Valley Farm in Freeland and Fuzzy’s Restaurant in Saginaw.
Red (Justine Brooks) and Liam (Jacob Lounsbury) dance the night away onscreen at the Temple Theater in Saginaw. (Photo courtesy of Good Harbor Blue)Earlier this month, the film was added to the Amazon Prime offerings. Gradowski also has a limited number of DVD and CD’s for sale through the “Red’s Shadow” website.
Getting the movie onto a streaming service took months and required secrecy, Gradowski says. “We couldn’t say a word. We could only tell people that we were planning to go streaming.”
Now that it’s on the streaming service, Gradowski is advertising all over the country to reach the approximately 66 million Amazon Prime subscribers.
“We’re very fortunate to get on there,” he adds.
Long before its Amazon debut, the movie premiered on Fri., Nov. 11 at the State Theatre in Saginaw. It later showed at The Bay Theatre in Suttons Bay and Vassar Theatre in Vassar. Since then, Gradowski estimates a few thousand people have seen the film. He hasn’t yet heard from Amazon about the number of views.
Gradowski says he tried to get the film released throughout the state, but theater owners were hesitant to work with an independent filmmaker. One goal Gradowski has for this movie is changing how people view independent filmmakers.
“We want to promote, assist, and shed a light on people who are out there and independent,” he says.
Red, played by actor Justine Brooks, meets with Dr. Ezekiel Brown, played by Sammy Coleman, in a pivotal scene in 'Red's Shadow.' (Photo courtesy of Good Harbor Blue)
He points to the positive experiences his supporters felt. For example, Mooney’s Ice Cream can trace the sale of 30 to 40 gallons of ice cream to its partnership with the movie. Gradowski says he was sure to include a thank you to Mooney’s on the DVD, so the business could see future sales from the movie.
In addition, Gradowski says he paid every member of the staff. The only people who didn’t draw a paycheck where those who financed it. That makes it hard to state an exact budget for Red’s Shadow. Gradowski calls it a “microbudget” film. “Small budget means $3 to $5 million. Microbudget means it was made on hopes, dreams, and some cash.”
He estimates the film’s budget came in at about $50,000. The money isn’t what’s important, though.
Producer Joaquin Guerrero, actor Jacob Lounsbury, actor Justine Brooks, actor Josie J, actor Rebecca Moore, and Director/Producer Taylor A. Gradowski at the Temple Theater premiere. (Photo courtesy of Good Harbor Blue)
“We wanted to focus on the people,” Gradowski says. “I think there’s been such a stigma around independent filmmakers where they’re just in it for themselves. We found throughout process that we would rather give back and highlight people.”
The people behind the movie helped each other too.
“What was neat about what we did is we had people in our group who had worked on Hollywood movies,” Gradowski says. Those seasoned folks helped the newer actors hone their techniques, making a better experience for everyone.
Taylor A. Gradowski directs the old movie scene with actors Alex Alexandrou and Melisa Sandlin. (Photo courtesy of Good Harbor Blue)
Moments from behind-the-scenes, such as actors learning from each other, are among Gradowski’s fondest memories of the process.
“There were so many people and miracles and amazing moments,” Gradowski says.
The moments didn’t end when filming stopped. After the film was shown, Gradowski says people told him it inspired them to realize their own creative dreams, such as writing a book.
“People come up after (viewing the film) and said ‘I’m really glad you did this because this pushed me to do this,’ “ Gradowski says. “We’re giving people the idea that no matter where you live, you have the opportunity to move the world.”
Gradowski isn’t done moving the world. He’s making plans now for his next film, which has the code name “Project Greentree.” Gradowski won’t reveal many details as the story is still evolving. He describes it as a “faith-based fantasy dramady.”
“We’re still crafting the script and pulling pieces together,” he says.
Young Red, played by Josie J., and her onscreen mother, played by Megan Prudhomme, discuss young Red's journey in the opening of 'Red's Shadow.' (Photo courtesy of Good Harbor Blue)
Some details about the new project are posted on the Good Harbor Blue website
Even as he embarks on the next project, Gradowski says he hasn’t forgotten the people who supported him for “Red’s Shadow.”
He says: Thank you to all of our team, community, family, and friends for supporting our first feature movie ‘Red’s Shadow.’ Special thank you to my production partners, Joaquin Guerrero, Tom and Vickie Cox, for your continued support, friendship, and encouragement.”
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