Altoona police Chief Jesse James has the privilege of serving his community every day. Saturday, Aug. 5, James had the opportunity to step back in time and see what it was like to uphold the law in the early 1900s.

   James made his film debut with a cameo appearance as a constable in the historical fiction film “The Lumber Baron,” which was written and produced by Fall Creek resident Karen Hurd and was filmed at various locations around the Chippewa Valley.

“A constable is what I do, so hopefully I don’t disappoint,” James said of his role. “It was a very exciting experience.”

Hurd said he had nothing to worry about because he “did a great job helping solve the crime.” Her husband, who serves as a chaplain for the Altoona Police Department, suggested a real police officer play the part, and she thinks it worked out perfectly.

The film follows the fictional Rimsdale family as the father mysteriously dies and his son, Daniel, has to navigate into the family lumber business. He has to work with his father’s friend, Silas Lynch, who appears to have some sinister motives.

James appears in two scenes of the film but doesn’t speak in either. His first scene involved collecting evidence inside the historic Schlegilmilch House, 517 Farwell St., and the second was making an arrest outside of a former lumber baron home at 210 Oakwood Place.

James was surprised at the amount of detail that went into the filming. For those two scenes alone, he estimated they did around 20 different shots.

He even had to take off his wedding ring after the first couple takes, he said, because the director, Barry Andersson, told him people didn’t wear wedding rings in that time.

“It was intense,” James said.

Seeing the filming done from the inside also gave him a new appreciation for all the hard work that happens behind the scenes of a film. He also was impressed with the amount of actors on set, and how far (Seattle, Los Angeles and Texas) some of them traveled to be there. 

James admitted to being a little nervous because he “didn’t want to do anything foolish,” but overall had a good time. Easily his favorite part, however, came toward the end of the day. 

“One of the last times we did the scene, the director said, ‘OK, cut, that’s a wrap. Jesse, congrats, you made it into the movie,’ ” James said. “So I must have done OK.”

While he doesn’t see an acting career in his future, he is excited to see the film when it is completed. He hopes to share it with his kids and grandchildren. 

Filming for “The Lumber Baron” wrapped up Thursday and Friday with the crew heading out to a working Amish sawmill in New Auburn, Hurd said. 

The film will then head into post-production, though she added they will bring the cast back out to film for a couple days after the first snowfall this winter to get the final outdoor scenes.

“The Lumber Baron” is expected to be released in early 2018, Hurd hopes, to companies like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. 

Contact: 715-833-9214,, @KatherineMacek on Twitter