Hallie Shepherd [Interview]

 

Oh do we have a wonderful interview for you fine folks! Today we  are featuring an person who is not only extremely talented, but is a truly multi-faceted artist. Hallie Shepherd has done some amazing work both behind and in front of the screen. In 2018 alone, she earned credits as editor, producer, writer, and actress in two very incredible films, Last Seen In Idaho and Bayou Caviar. The later was recently released last month and features the brilliant Cuba Gooding Jr. in a role of his lifetime.

We get into these films and so much more with this wonderful interview with such a brilliant artist. So why don’t we just get right into it. So Folks, please enjoy some amazing words from the brilliant Hallie Shepherd!

When did you first decide you wanted to join the world of filmmaking and performance? Was it an early aspiration for you, or did you just find yourself in this world one day?

When I was a little girl, I really wanted to take dance and acting classes and be a gymnast, but I grew up in a small town of one thousand people in western Washington. It didn’t have much by way of activities beyond sports. So sports and academics were pretty much my life growing up. I was always reading novels and writing my own stories. I’d also create little newspapers. I’d interview other kids to be staff writers, and then I’d edit and distribute the papers. And I also loved writing plays and casting other students. I would beg my teachers to let us perform them for the school. In grade school, I really only had one teacher who didn’t support my creative pursuits. That teacher had the mentality that the class needed to do everything together at the same pace. I was spilling out of my skin that year.

When I was in sixth grade, my teacher contacted the county newspaper and told them he had a student who had started a sixth grade newspaper and would they let me write an article? I had no idea he was going to do that, and of course I was thrilled when I found out that they said ‘yes.’ I guess my first article about my class hatching fish eggs must have been a smashing success, because they let me on the staff as a weekly columnist. I did that for three years, stopping when I went into high school and started working on the yearbook.

I’ve always known I wanted to write novels, which only recently I’ve started to work on when I have time. But filmmaking and screenwriting seemed like worlds away. While my young mind could conceptualize the process of writing a book and getting it published, the process of making a movie was so foreign to me. My family had a VHS camcorder, so in grade school and high school, I’d write and direct little movies with my friends. I loved to act, so I was usually the lead role. But it felt to me more like a hobby than a career path.

When I was in high school, Good Will Hunting came out, and I saw it in the theatre with my mom. I just loved that movie – “How do you like them apples?” When Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won the Oscar for that screenplay, I thought to myself, “Hmm… maybe I could write screenplays.” I remember feeling really inspired by that, but I kept that aspiration a secret for several years.

At Western Washington University, I got a B.A. in English, but it wasn’t until my senior year there that I started taking acting classes and performing with the theatre department. That’s the year that I finally just said, “Screw it, I’m really doing this. This is who I am and this is what I want to do!” I haven’t looked back since. Even when things get rough – and trust me, they do – I think to myself, “I didn’t come this far to only come this far.”

You have worked extensively with fellow writer/producer and filmmaker Eric Colley on quite a few projects over the years. I am curious to know what it is that makes you both a solid team of highly creative people? And what is it like to work extensively with your own partner? Are there some sort of professional and personal boundaries that can prove challenging?

Eric is the most amazing teammate. We have a similar work ethic, and we believe in creating a really positive environment on set and working with good, trustworthy people. This is our chosen career path, but it’s also what we’re passionate about, so it’s wonderful to be able to share that with each other. When you work with your partner, there’s also a level of trust and understanding that’s automatic. We challenge each other creatively and when we don’t see eye to eye on something in one of our projects, we debate it passionately. But it always feels productive and supportive. If one of us gets overly busy or stressed out, the other one picks up the slack. We have each other’s back. Making movies is hard, but working with Eric is actually the easy part.

 

I really loved your film released earlier this year, Last Seen in Idaho. I’m a sucker for a well made, female-driven, thrill ride such as this film. I am curious to know what inspired you to tell this tale? 

Thank you! I miss the classic ‘90s thrillers. I was coming of age when Sandra Bullock starred in The Net and Julia Roberts starred in Conspiracy Theory. Those were exciting thrill rides for me, and I looked up to those women. They were strong and resourceful and relatable. I love a good thriller with twists and turns.

As for the specific story premise of Last Seen in Idaho, I don’t recall the exact moment I came up with it. People often ask me how I come up with story ideas, and the answer is that I rarely actively try to think up ideas. There’s no shortage of plots and characters and scenes floating around in my mind. I’m a daydreamer. The problem is there’s not enough time for me to turn all of my ideas into screenplays or books!

Ten years ago, Last Seen in Idaho was one of the first scripts that I ever wrote, and as first scripts go, it was terrible. Over the years, I’d revisit the concept and I’d write an entirely new script: new plot, new characters, new everything. It went through several incarnations. The script that we finally made into a movie is nothing like the original script I wrote all those years ago. The only thing that’s the same is that the heroine is named Summer, and she sees a missing person flier with her face on it for a kidnapping that’s in the future. She has to solve and stop her own murder before it happens.

I’m really proud of Last Seen in Idaho and the cast and crew that worked on it. It was a pretty ambitious production on an indie budget, so everyone wore a lot of hats to get it done, which you can see if you watch the “Making Of” on the DVD. The film is out now on DVD from online retailers like Amazon and Best Buy, and it’s also available almost everywhere on Video-On-Demand, like iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play, Vudu, Xbox, PlayStation, and from you local cable or satellite provider.

In making Last Seen in Idaho, you found yourself shooting in my beloved home state of Washington. How do you enjoy filming in the Pacific Northwest? What sets working in this region apart from many of the others that you have shot in?

I love shooting in the Pacific Northwest. Washington is a beautiful state with such variety. We have waterfront, rainforest, good-sized cities, rural areas, mountains, all kinds of stuff. And if you want to venture to the eastside, you can get the desert look. I’d like to go over there and shoot a post-apocalyptical story someday.

For Eric and me and our company Fireshoe, as long as it makes sense for the project, we prefer to shoot in Washington. Logistically, it’s easier for us. We have so many friends and family members and business contacts here that we can pull from for resources. The film community here is pretty small, but because there aren’t a million movies being filmed here, the non-film people aren’t jaded about it. In Los Angeles or New Orleans or areas with bigger film industries, people get annoyed with city streets being shut down or filming that causes some noise in the neighborhood. But here, people are excited to be part of the process. Rather than paying an enormous fee for a location, people open up their doors for you. That’s in part because it’s not commonplace here and in part because we know so many people in the area that we can reach out to our network and say, “Hey, do you know someone with a secluded log cabin? Or, would you lend us your RV? Or, do you want to help us build this set? Or, do you want to be an extra in this party scene?” Doing that also creates a great community around the project, because everyone who contributed in some way is part of the team and in support of the film. 

 

I am very intrigued by the upcoming project in which you will appear in and be a producer of entitled Bayou Caviar. How did you become involved in working on the directorial debut of Cuba Gooding Jr.? And what should your fans be excited for when the film is out there?

Eric Colley and I came on board the project during the early financing stages. With our partners in China, we financed a large portion of the budget. The title of the film has actually changed a few times. The original script was called Burbank Caviar and it was set in Burbank, California. When we were considering different filming locations, New Orleans was on the list. Cuba really liked the look and feel of the city, and I agree that it works well with both the vibrant story elements and the sordid story elements. So then it was renamed Louisiana Caviar, and the pig farm in the script was changed to an alligator farm, which is even more interesting anyway. Alligators are scary! Finally now it’s titled Bayou Caviar.

My acting role is tiny. It’s just a small scene with Cuba, but it was fun to switch from producer to actor for a few hours. And that’s actually what I’m most excited about is the performances in this movie. Cuba is great as a boxer who’s past his prime, and Richard Dreyfuss is a wonderful bad guy. There is a reason that both of those men have won Oscars. Famke Janssen is fantastic as a tough, manipulative character whose moral compass is off-kilter. Actually, most of the characters in this movie have moral compasses that are defective. That might make the film challenging for some audience members. Who do you like? Who do you root for? There are story elements that are uncomfortable, and some themes and topics that are quite timely.

 What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to share with our readers?

Sure! I recently wrote two new scripts, and we’re in development on them right now. One is a fun action-thriller and the other is an eerie psychological thriller. We’re working on the financing and packaging.

Throughout the last six months or so, I wasn’t really acting or auditioning. My focus was almost entirely on my screenwriting and my editing of the “Behind the Scenes” for The Last Seen in Idaho DVD and social media teasers. There are only so many hours in the day! But I’m feeling the acting bug again, so I need to get back out there. It’s my understanding that a psychological thriller that I acted in late last year is just finishing up post-production. It’s called Losing Addison and it stars Sherilyn Fenn from Twin Peaks. I play a pushy District Attorney in it, and I can’t wait to see it.

I have a website where I write a blog and post my short stories that I call “Tiny Stories.” I also give updates about my projects, so people can always check that out to see what the latest is. I’m really active on Instagram too.
www.HallieShepherd.com
www.Instagram.com/hallie.shepherd

 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

This interview. I smile and laugh a lot! Life is weird, so you have to. 

 

Bayou Caviar is available now on VOD wherever you stream movies. Check out the trailer here:

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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