December 20, 2014

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Short film shot in Lorain has HBO hopes

Amanda Davila, of Lorain, has her make up done by Jessica Flowers, of Cincinnati, before rehersing a scene in “Save Us” at El Centro in Lorain on Saturday afternoon. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

Amanda Davila, of Lorain, has her make up done by Jessica Flowers, of Cincinnati, before rehersing a scene in “Save Us” at El Centro in Lorain on Saturday afternoon. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

LORAIN — Kenny Santiago Marrero busily bounced around El Centro on Saturday afternoon, handling costume issues and feeding his fellow actors at the set of a movie project.

One would never guess the high-energy actor had been on set since 6 a.m., filming at locations throughout Lorain and Amherst during the day.

Despite the busy day, Marrero is eager to see the fruits of his labor when “Save Us,” a short film being produced by Born to dp Films, hopes to air on HBO in September.

The film is directed by De’Niel Phipps, a 2008 Ohio Valley Emmy Award Winner, and written by Chris Miles, a former New Orleans sports anchor and reporter.

“In one line, the idea behind the film is a man’s right to abortion,” Miles explained.

“Save Us” explores the controversial process of abortion and whether the decision is a woman’s and whether the man should have a right to choose. The 18-minute film also attempts to break down socio-economic misconceptions about who has abortions and who decides to make the decision, according to Born to dp Film’s website.

Miles said the film takes no stance on the issue. However, he felt it was an important one to be examined.

“It’s not pro-life. It’s not pro-choice, but it’s something to get everyone thinking,” he said.

El Centro served as the scene of the abortion clinic, and several other locations in Lorain were used during the filming process.

Bringing Born to dp Films to the area was the work of the Lorain County Film Commission, which Marrero helped to get started with fellow Lorain native Ed Morales.

Marrero had worked with Phipps on another short film, and the two maintained a relationship. So when Phipps was looking for a location to work on his next project, Marrero touted Lorain.

Marrero, who was born in New York, spent most of his life in Lorain and took acting classes at Lorain County Community College before leaving to go to film school in San Francisco. But the pull of the city brought Marrero back.

“It has a piece of my heart,” he said.

Still, Lorain isn’t without its challenges for young actors. Big-budget film crews often pass by the city, in favor of cities like Cleveland — if they come to the area at all.

So Marrero and Morales work with small production companies to bring projects to the area. Marrero said he doesn’t charge the companies for use of the area; he just wants them to give local residents the opportunity to utilize their talents.

“I’d rather them come to the community and invest in the community… give (actors) opportunities that they would have to leave the state to get,” he said. “I believe this town has a lot to offer, because we’re so diverse.”

Heidi Lewandowski, who stars in “Save Us,” said she’s worked with Marrero on Cleveland-area films and jumped at the opportunity to play Denise, a woman who is struggling with a decision after a pregnancy.

Lewandowski moved to Tremont, although she has lived in Los Angeles. She said organizations like the Lorain County Film Commission are important.

“I think it’s awesome. It’s great for the community and the city,” she said. “It’s a whole different market, but they do come — film work… the film industry in Ohio has grown rapidly.”

Although the film’s story is set in New York, Miles said Lorain has worked for what the production company is trying to achieve.

“He ran some of (the structural places) by me, because I used to live in New York, and I said, ‘Wow, this could work.’”

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.