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July 10, 2024

Cameras, not guns: Worcester native’s HollyWoo Studio looks to add to region’s media scene, provide creative outlet for youth

A hallway with movie posters Photo | Eric Casey HollyWoo Studio seeks to add to the Central Massachusetts' regions media scene. The hallway of the studio is lined with movie posters salvaged from West Boylston Cinemas, which closed in May.

An increase in film and television production in Central Massachusetts has led to frequent media attention over which of Hollywood’s biggest stars is the latest to have graced the region with their presence. 

But in an unsuspecting warehouse on Route 9 in Leicester, a new media production studio hopes to have an impact on the region’s cultural scene.

HollyWoo Studio, which held a ribbon cutting ceremony in June, is the work of Worcester native Angelo Padin. A graduate of North High School, Padin’s time in the military allowed him to travel to the West Coast, where caught his first glimpse of Hollywood. After leaving the U.S. Marine Corps, he spent time between Massachusetts and California, trying to make it as a model and actor. 

Couch surfing and sleeping out of his car for a period of time, it appeared Padin had caught his big break in 2019, when he was cast in “The Battle at Lake Changjin,” a Chinese-produced, Korean War action film. His first big movie role, Padin would be tasked with playing an American soldier while teaching other actors how to behave like members of the U.S. military. 

A dream deferred

“The Battle at Lake Changjin” eventually made $913 million at the global box office, becoming the highest grossing non-English language film in history, according to Variety magazine.  

But sadly for Padin, his opportunity to participate in the film was ruined; He arrived in China just weeks before the situation involving COVID-19 rapidly intensified, leading to the first travel bans and shutdowns related to the pandemic. 

Production was shut down for months. When it resumed in September, producers elected to go with cast members already in China.

“It was like the big break that never happened,” Padin said. “So it put me back here in Worcester.”

A man stands in a room in front of a neon sign and wardrobe mirror.
Photo | Eric Casey
Angelo Padin, founder of Hollywoo Studio

Padin found work as a real estate agent, but the artist inside him was craving for a creative outlet. That’s when a chance encounter with his former basketball coach at North High School, Al Pettway, led to an idea to create a two-part documentary series entitled “We the North,” capturing behind-the-scenes moments as the school’s 2023-2024 boy’s basketball team won a Division 1 state championship. 

“I was like, ‘Alright I don’t need to be in Hollywood to be able to make a film,’” Padin said. “There are stories all around us.”

Hollywood to Hollywoo

Now confident meaningful media could be produced in Central Massachusetts, Padin, who often goes by the moniker Ambitious Angelo, decided to focus his ambitions on opening HollyWoo Studio. 

Located at 69 Main St. in the Cherry Valley neighborhood of Leicester, just over the municipal line from Worcester, the studio space includes multiple podcast studios, space for editing and production work, and a larger studio for film and photography work. The main hallway of the space resembles a movie theater lobby, complete with movie posters that were salvaged from the recently-closed West Boylston cinema

A red brick building
Photo | Eric Casey
HollyWoo Studio is located in the Cherry Valley neighborhood of Leicester.

Operating under the unofficial motto of “Shoot cameras, not guns,” HollyWoo Studio hopes to be an incubator for young media professionals. Padin is working with a number of local high schools to provide studio space and after-school programming for the next generation of filmmakers, photographers, and podcasters. 

“Not everyone is an athlete or a scholar,” said Padin. “I want to give people a community and an outlet to voice some of their visions that they have.”

Bigger ambitions

Beyond the youth-focused programming, he hopes Hollywoo Studio can become a refuge for creatives of all ages and backgrounds, creating more collaboration in the Worcester area’s creative scene.

“There’s enough work for all of us to be able to make a living here in the city and beyond,” he said. “The more things that bring us together allow us to create something that’s powerful and meaningful.”

With final touches still being put on the space, Padin is hopeful the facility will have a grand opening in September, with after-school programming officially beginning around that time.

He believes the new studio will bring more life to the region’s entertainment production scene, which was burgeoning before the combination of Hollywood strikes and the pandemic caused a slowdown. 

“To see Hollywood coming to the Woo is priceless,” he said. “The more creatives that we have in this area, the more stories that can be told from here.”

Eric Casey is a staff writer at Worcester Business Journal, who primarily covers the manufacturing and real estate industries. 

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