Over the last several years, Lodians have seen a handful of film stars in Lodi either researching for roles or scouting for locations to film potential projects.
Most notably, Will Smith was in the area a few years ago, researching his role of Dr. Omalu Bennett for the film “Concussion.”
And in 2015, James Hong, an actor who has appeared in a number of films with actors such as Ryan Reynolds, Kurt Russell and Harrison Ford, visited the city to find investors for a horror film he was planning to produce.
Both actors had short stays in Lodi.
But an up and coming film production company is planning to make its stay permanent, and is inviting Central Valley filmmakers and patrons of the arts to an event aimed at creating a desire to make Lodi an entertainment hub.
Noble Story Co. will host a “meet and greet” at Oak Farm Vineyards, 23627 N. DeVries Road, on Aug. 10 at 5:30 p.m.
The company was formed in March of 2020 in Michigan, but has Lodi roots.
Co-founder and CEO Andrew Teravskis grew up in Lodi, the company’s chief director of photography Hugh Litfin was born and raised here, and their small office and studio is located off the Armstrong Road exit along Highway 99.
In the two years since its founding, the company already has some six projects in the works, two of which might be coming to television and theater screens soon.
“One of the things important to Noble Story Co., is that I feel like we reflect the values that are shared by a lot of people in the Lodi community,” Teravskis said. “One of our guiding principles with our stories is that they celebrate what is good, true and beautiful.”
And the two projects on the verge of coming to fruition do just that, he said.
“The Heart Mender” is a WWII drama based on Andy Andrews’ best-selling true story novel of Nazi U-boats patrolling the Gulf of Mexico, and “Endurance” tells the true story of Cedric King, a retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant, double amputee and marathon runner.
Like its name implies, Teravskis said Noble Story Co. wants to tell noble stories in a noble way.
“A lot of our stories strike at a deeply human, spiritual level of themes, like ‘The Heart Mender,’” he said. “That book is really a story of forgiveness and how these two enemy forces — an American and a Nazi — learn the power of forgiveness, and I cant think of a better situation than our current situation right now where people need to hear about the power of forgiveness.”
Litfin said “The Heart Mender” will most likely be Noble Story Co.’s first project “out of the gate.” It will be a limited series, and five of six episodes have been written, he said.
Once the final episode is complete, then the company will begin looking for directors and actors and start shopping it around.
However, “Endurance” has a good chance of being picked up by a major studio, as the company began shopping that project last week.
The story will tell of Master Sgt. King, who stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan and lost both his legs. Upon his return to the U.S., King was in the process of having his legs replaced with prosthetics and happened to see the news reports of the Boston Marathon bombing.
That event motivated him to run the marathon in 2014.
“What people don’t realize is just how much work goes into developing a story or script into a sellable or marketable commodity,” Litfin said. “From there you need to package it, and from there you need to (do a lot of other things) and you get to a point where you’re signing a contract that says this studio will actually fund the production of it.”
Noble Story Co. began out of the pair and company co-founder Adam Gregory wanting to expand their filming capabilities.
Teravskis had been filming “high-end” corporate campaign materials for a number of years, when Teravskis said they had hit the proverbial ceiling and didn’t think they could get any higher. They began to ask where they could go next.
The pair brought Litfin in, who shoots corporate campaign materials for Teravskis’ father, and they went to work on the limited series “The Wanderer.”
“We decided to pursue what we’re really passionate about,” he said. “We thought, lets tell stories that matter. And we started a company and right away did limited series. We learned a lot through that. There were good things and bad things. We said lets learn from both and develop iteration 2.0, and that became Noble Story Co.”
The series “The Wanderer” was shot in 2019, and many scenes were filmed throughout the Central Valley, including Lodi.
The show tells the story of a traveling salesman who sells jewelry to women across the country in 1958, but his good looks and unknown past get in the way of his career. While Noble Story Co. has one of its offices in Lodi, it doesn’t always mean its projects will be shot in the area.
“The Heart Mender” is set in a small town on the coast of Alabama, and “Endurance” is set in Boston.
In an industry where many production companies flock to Vancouver or New Orleans as stand-ins for other cities, Teravskis and Litfin said they want to film in places where their projects are set.
“For ‘The Wanderer,’ we shot exclusively in Lodi,” Litfin said. “We shot in two or three locations in Lodi. We shot in Escalon, Modesto, Oakdale for five weeks. So depending on where the project is best going to be served, that would determine the location.”
What the pair also hope will help the company’s first two projects get a greenlight is a recent signing with management company Zero Gravity.
While Zero Gravity primarily represents actors, writers and directors in the industry, it is also a full-service production company behind feature films and television series such as “Copshop” with Gerard Butler, “The Marksman” with Liam Neeson, and “Ozark” with Jason Bateman.
“We believe that family and faith are important,” Teravskis said. “All of these things that reflect the community we live in. I think there’s a lot of people in the U.S. that still fell this way, and have the need for wholesome content.”