Woodstock moviegoers will have the opportunity to see their hometown showcased on the big screen at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, when local filmmaker Jeffrey Cook and Film Stripped Productions premiere “Upstaged – The Series.” The series – a workplace comedy shot entirely on location in McHenry County – will be shown at Classic Cinemas Woodstock Theatre, 209 Main St.

The story about the staff of a small community theater was created, written and directed by Cook, Crystal Lake, and co-created by lead actor and director of photography Joel Bennett, also of McHenry County. The production features local actors and was filmed in familiar locales, including the Woodstock Opera House.

Cook describes it as a throwback comedy that’s very character-driven. He equates “Upstaged” to some of the favorite shows of his youth such as “Taxi,” “Scrubs” and “Friends.” 

“Everyone disagrees but characters care for each other … at the core is love and family,” he said.
The short series consists of three episodes, two of which have previously been released on YouTube. The third will be premiered at the event.

He said the response on YouTube has been favorable considering he is a first-time series director. Cook’s pleased that “Upstaged” has had more than 1,200 views of the first episode. 

“We’ve been pretty low-key in terms of promotion,” Cook said.

The first three episodes represent the completion of the first story arc and serve as the introduction to the series.

Cook and crew have completed six episodes, and he’s written 11 so far, just two short of a full season of 13. Film Stripped Productions will hold auditions May 23 for the next round of filming; follow its Facebook page or visit upstaged.yapsody.com for details.

“Our ultimate goal,” said Cook, “is that a subscription-based streaming service picks up the series.”

The cast and crew of “Upstaged” have volunteered their time to see Cook’s dream become a reality. If the goal of getting picked up by a streaming service is achieved, Cook said, “our plan then is to compensate all who have been involved.”

“We’ve learned on the fly to produce a TV show,” said Cook who comes from a theater background. “We’re producing work we’re proud to have our name on. We hope people will see this is more than a project. [The series] showcases Woodstock and the Opera House,” he said. 

Seating will be general admission and limited. Tickets can be purchased at upstaged.yapsody.com. The duration is about 90 minutes. While not officially rated, Cook considers it closest to PG, with mild language and adult themes.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Cook, who has been working on the project with his wife, Karen, and his production partner, Bennett. “It’s a passion project for us.”

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