Hollywood Turnaround

For Jarret LeMaster ’01, 17 years of acting for stage and screen provided the training and inspiration to confidently pursue his dream of creating a feature film. Passionate about the entertainment industry but weary of the tension he regularly experienced between its secular demands and his Christian commitment, LeMaster envisioned a project that would tell a redeeming story and appeal to a broad audience without compromising artistic quality or his ideals.

Embarking on such an ambitious enterprise required him to assemble a team of talented professionals who could help bring his vision to life, so he reached out to four friends and fellow Azusa Pacific alumni. He partnered with Shawn Svoboda ’07 to serve as producer and writer, and the two recruited Christa (Burroughs ’05) Svoboda as location manager, Mackenzie Marsh ’06 as casting director, and Jared Isham (attended 2000–04) as director.

LeMaster modeled courage and perseverance in the face of trying circumstances, empowering the group to be creative and innovative amidst this “filmmaking boot camp.” “I’m not afraid to take risks when I believe in something, and I don’t shy away from challenges along the way,” he said. “We were all sleep deprived, balancing full-time jobs and family responsibilities, and learning as we went. We dealt with artistic differences, financial limitations, and so much stress. Yet, at the end of the day, we were collaborators with a shared vision who rose to the occasion and delivered results. I’m extremely proud of the team and the finished product.”

The filmmakers celebrated the culmination of their two-and-a- half-year journey at a packed local theater premier of Turn Around Jake in June 2014. While at its core a love story, the film, starring LeMaster and featuring his original music, and Jen Lilley from Days of Our Lives, stays true to his original vision and grapples with relevant themes, including job loss and the economic downturn, corporate scandal and greed, and broken relationships and redemption. Recognizing the film’s merit, Pure Flix Entertainment, distributor of Christ-centered movies like God’s Not Dead, purchased the rights, and Turn Around Jake is now available in retail stores nationwide including Walmart and on Amazon and Netflix.

The success of their first feature film emboldened LeMaster and his team to expand their influence by establishing a production company, Turnaround Films. Current projects reflect their driving focus. “Our mission is to bridge the gap between mainstream and faith-based markets, and do it well,” he said. Recognizing the enormity of that challenge, LeMaster decided to prepare himself with every advantage and enroll in APU’s Master of Arts in Leadership program, where he could build upon his innate ability to inspire others and initiate change. “I’m called to represent Christ in Hollywood. He’s equipping me for what lies ahead.”