Interview with Producer Wayne Shipley

Wayne Shipley

ED- The Eerie Digest is very excited to introduce producer Wayne Shipley to our many readers. Wayne, how did you come involved with filmmaking and what was your biggest influence to do so ?

WS-I’ve been a film buff all my life and remember fondly the countless hours I spent as a kid watching B-Westerns, serials, and the classic Universal horror films. My appreciation eventually broadened to include all manner of films. As a high school teacher, I had the opportunity for a time to teach film appreciation and filmmaking. Watching youngsters suddenly find themselves totally immersed in a filmmaking project further cemented my understanding of how powerful the art of the motion picture is. I also found myself early on drawn to the work of John Ford. In my mind he was a poet, whose compositions were often visually moving and whose characters demanded attention. Since I first saw it on a drive-in movie screen in 1957, Ford’s The Searchers has been my favorite film. Having screened it at least a hundred times—scrutiny enough to reveal all manner of warts and gaffes—The Searchers remains for me simply the best of its ilk.

ED- Your first venture into film was actually acting in the film, ‘The Death of Poe’. Tell us all about this production and your role in it.

WS-Well, actually I had worked background action in several studio films (Species II, Pecker, Liberty Heights, Runaway Bride, Cecil B. Demented) before Poe, but when actor/writer/producer Mark Redfield asked me to crew on The Death of Poe, I jumped at the chance to be involved at a much more creative level. I had seen Mark’s Jekyll and Hyde and was impressed with both the performances and the production values. I did some set work on Poe, provided the location for Poe’s burial, and even played a small role—although I don’t fancy myself an actor. Poe is an attempt to show what could have happened to the great writer during the last days of his life when he stopped in Baltimore perhaps to seek financing for a literary periodical he hoped to publish. Mark had researched the many theories of Poe’s demise and ended up creating a very plausible story line. Even though it was shot on a shoe-string budget, Poe is literate and engaging. And, for those of us who fancy ourselves independent filmmakers, it shows that you really don’t need a pot full of money to make good movies.

ED- How did this project wet your appetite towards your career and what was your defining moment in making your decision to work behind the camera?

WS-Making a feature was sort of a bucket list item for me. Working on Poe allowed me to realize that making a feature was doable. I also got to watch talented cinematographer Jeff Herberger in action. I learned how important having someone who could “capture a look” was to the aesthetic of filmmaking.

ED- The same year saw you not only starring in the film, ‘Terror in the Tropics’, but assisting in the filmmaking as well. What was the theme behind this production, and tell us all the roles you played to make it possible ?

WS-It has been my pleasure to have known Gary and Sue Svehla for a long, long time. When they decided to make their homage to classic horror, I was more than willing to contribute what I could. I guess Sue thought I was big and ugly enough to play a seasoned (old and worn out) detective. It was great fun—and I got to share screen time with the likes of Karloff, Lugosi, and Chaney. I also did some second unit work for Sue, directing a location sequence in which our heroine, dangling over a cliff, is rescued a split second before plunging to the rocks below. No green screen here. We had a cliff—well, a little one—and the camera’s ability to create illusion.

ED- The following year saw you on both sides of the camera again in the film, ‘Terror in the Pharaoh’s Tomb’. Both these last two productions are just our ‘cup of tea’. Please tell our readers about the theme behind this production.

WS-Pharaoh’s Tomb is Sue Svehla’s nod to one of my favorite classic horror icons—the mummy with unfinished business. An evil queen, an adventurous archeologist, newsfolk, an old detective (me again) and his glamorous secretary, fainting women, obsessed men, belly dancers, slaves, whips, swords—even a real donkey or two! Again, great fun. I got a chance to dress the tomb on this one and do more location work. Both Terrors are a testament to the boundless respect Gary and Sue have for those films that beckoned us when we were young and continue to inhabit a very special place in our psyches. I can only hope that they complete the trilogy.

ED- In 2008 you were the Writer, Director, and Producer of the film, ‘One-Eyed Horse’. Tell us all about this project, it’s theme, and the actors that were in it.

WS-Fact is I love Westerns. I also love Shakepeare, having taught his work for thirty years to high schools students, some of whom actually came to share my enthusiasm for the Bard. One-Eyed Horse is my attempt to pay homage to the two: Shakespeare and the Western. Set in 1887 Missouri, OEH is a Shakespearean tragedy involving a tragic hero (Mark Redfield) whose tragic flaw is that he is unable to let go of the past. He is otherwise intelligent, a loving father, and a successful business man; yet he is defined by his hatred for the man who, years before, stole his identity on the battlefield. Like many Westerns, it’s a revenge piece; but I wanted it to be character driven and not just another shoot‘em up. Mark Redfield is brilliant as Gatewood. He creates a man who can both love and hate with equal intensity. Respected Philadelphia actor Mike Hagan deftly plays the object of Gatewood’s hatred, the equally conflicted William Curry, who in time of war does what he must to preserve his men and his humanity. Their daughters—Shakespeare often shows us the complex relationship between fathers and daughters—are played by beautiful and talented Jennifer Rouse and Kelly Potchak. Richard Cutting and Jason Brown round out the list of principal players with stellar portrayals of abiding evil and youthful innocence. In featured roles are local actors Ellana Barksdale, William Blewett, Bob Brown, Leanna Chamish, Brian Dragonuk, Jonathan Ruckman, Brian St. August, Greg Coale, Bob Creager, Robert Jackson, Dave Huddleson, George Stover, Marian Owens, Sidney Blackmer, Matthew Bowerman, Dave Cooperman, P.J. Foster, Scott Olson, John Safko, Micci Sampery, LaDon Hall, Mike Hall, Lee Doll, Michael Leicht, Grady Kirchberg, John Gray, and Jordan Coulson. Each of these fine performers brought credibility to their respective roles and made my job so much easier because of their professionalism.

ED- Please explain how you accomplished the many demands that you had to produce this project, and how you coped with the many hats you had to wear to do so.

WS-Believe me, the only way a production the size of One-eyed Horse gets made is through the coordinated efforts of a dedicated production team. Ours was second to none: Ruth Holmes, our production manager, kept us all on track; Pat Shipley fed us, taught inexperienced actors to ride horses, and designed and built costumes; Bill Blewett not only acted but also was the go-to idea guy and sounding board; Bob Brown played a featured role and was our wrangler; Jeff Herberger served as DP and editor. Long-time friends Gary Wheeler and John Strawbridge came through with cinematography during multi-camera shoots and demanding second-unit work. As armorer, Wayne Fletcher made sure we took no chances with the many firearms that appear. The list could go on for pages. Suffice it to say that OEH was truly a collaborative effort.

ED- Your latest venue was as an actor in the film, ‘Roulette’. As this project is in post-production, can you give us a behind-the-screen peek at it ?

WS-Can’t wait to see it myself. Erik Christopher Myers invited me to appear in a crowed bar scene, and, having heard the all of the great buzz for Roulette, I was eager to be a part of what I’m sure will be great indie filmmaking. Just as an aside, I’m bowled over by the number of indie films being produced in the Baltimore/DC area. It’s a veritable hotbed of creativity. In the last few months, I’ve worked not only with Erik, but also Rich Cutting, Lee Doll, Tom Townsend, and Jonathan Ruckman—each having exciting projects in production.

ED- When will this film be able to be seen by the public ?

WS-I’m certain that it will be available shortly.

ED- What other projects are you looking for in the near future ?

WS-Our production team is talking about shooting a trilogy using techniques practiced by poverty row studios in the ‘30s and ‘40s and early television series. If the project gets off the ground, the three films will be shot simultaneously using multiple cameras to allow adequate coverage without endless set ups and takes. Tight budgets and an even tighter shooting schedules will be the order of the day.

ED- Wayne, we want to thank you for your time and letting our readers know all about your work. It has been a pleasure , and we wish you the best of luck in all that you do. We look forward to reviewing all your upcoming projects and hearing from you again soon.

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