Take two: NHS filmmaker
returns for second feature film
by Guy Thompson
About a dozen extras, dressed in 1980s-style clothing and the women with wavy hair from the time, sit in a semi-circle in the Howe Military Academy gymnasium. In the corner, a large light assembly is set up. Moved. Adjusted. The camera focus is discussed and checked.
They are part of a feature film that was shot in and around northern Indiana over three weeks, starting back on May 20. “The Shade Shepherd” is a story of a soon-to-be-father who shepherds his troubled, older brother toward the Canadian border to escape police custody. “That’s the gist of it, but it is more complicated than that,” said Jordon Hodges, who co-wrote and is starring in the movie. “It’s a story about family, redemption and rebirth.”
According to Hodges, it’s called “The Shade Shepherd” as much takes place under the shade of leaves or a roof…plus philosophical meanings. “A lot of my initial inspiration for the story was from the book of Job in the Bible. This is not a faith film, but it has heavy faith themes. To me Rated-R stands for Real Life – the light doesn’t exist without the dark,” he explained.
Hodges, a 2005 graduate of Northridge High School, knows the area and filmed his first feature, “Sand Castles,” in the Goshen area over four years ago. “I write what I know. The story had a natural essence and we had such great support filming ‘Sand Castles,’ I was hoping to catch the lightning in the bottle of the community again, and it has delivered in spades. Everyone has been so kind and open to allow us to capture a piece of their existence,” Hodges said.
Last year, while writing the story with director Chris Faulisi, Hodges said they had this area in mind to shoot the film, and only needed to find the right specific locations. “There is such a great landscape,” he stated. “The towns have a charm and the wilderness seems untouched. The people feel like family.”
Most of the film takes place outdoors as the brothers work to stay hidden as they travel, camping out along the way as each character discovers more about his brother. “The area has such a variety and it’s been pretty crazy to find it all in one area,” Hodges stated.
Area businesses and locations, such as Howe Military Academy, have stood in for offices, a police station, and more. “We couldn’t be more excited,” Hodges said. “The thing about these businesses isn’t just that the locations work perfectly for the story, but it’s the story behind the location. When you’re making a movie, you’re playing pretend, but the true benefit is getting to know all these families and their legacies.”
In Shipshewana, the Blue Gate and Riegsecker family “has really made it possible for us to shoot here. We are working with them in various capacities and they are the hero of the production team on this,” Hodges noted. “The Riegsecker family went above and beyond to make this happen. They instantly saw the bigger picture of what we’re trying to do and had the resources to make it obtainable for us to film this picture.”
That has been the case with everyone they have approached, he added. “In the smallest and the biggest ways.” In one case, they needed to find a new location to access a riverbank. Other sites were unusable due to the high water the area has experienced recently. A local crew member suggested a neighbor’s place and, 30 minutes later, the production team was setting up equipment, ready to film thanks to the willingness of the property owner to help them out. “With many of our team members from out of town, they haven’t seen anything like that, and it’s simply inspiring,” Hodges said.
In all, the production will see a crew of around 30 throughout the shoot, along with around 20 cast members. Some come from Los Angeles, while others are from New Orleans, North Carolina, Detroit, Chicago, and more. They have also hired on several local crew members.
Hodges said that, because of the experience they’ve had, they would shoot a film here again. “It’s been more than we thought it would. When you decide to take this crazy adventure that’s much bigger than yourself or one person, you have the greatest expectations,” he commented. “That dream has been exceeded. We’re looking forward to showing off this beautiful area on the big screen around the world.”