The recent work of an independent filmmaker may one day put Runaway Bay on the map – and not just because she calls the small, charming Wise County town home.
In 13 days, beginning June 26, 32-year-old Rachel Shepherd and a crew of about 20 shot her most recent feature film in and around her hometown.
She describes “About Mom and Dad” as an ensemble drama based on a family and their relationships.
“It’s the most personal film I’ve ever written,” Shepherd said. “It is literally about my mom and dad. It’s a situation that happened in their marriage and happens in a lot of other marriages.”
They’d been married for over 20 years, she said, when they encountered a roadblock – and overcame it.
Without giving away the plot, Shepherd added: “I want people to understand marriage isn’t just bliss. People think it’s a fairytale, and sure, there are parts of it that are. But the truth is, it’s work. You have to put forth the effort. And it’s not always easy. That’s where all the drama comes from.”
But that premise wasn’t the only thing that made the film personal for Shepherd.
With the exception of a scene at DFW International Airport, and a few shots at Faith Community Hospital in Jacksboro, “About Mom and Dad” was all filmed in Wise County.
Sites included private residences in Bridgeport and Runaway Bay, The Club at Runaway Bay and Exceptional Bride in Decatur.
“Yes, everything worked out perfect; everyone was willing to open their homes,” Shepherd said. “But it was genuinely what we were looking for. The Harper family, the family in the movie, is from a small town. This area is authentically Texas. Runaway Bay is a small community that really sticks together, which is a huge theme in the movie.”
That theme played out on both sides of the camera. After Shepherd made an announcement at her church, The Bay, members of the church and community have flocked to offer to help her realize her vision.
“The local community has shown an immense amount of support for the arts and me being a resident,” said Shepherd, who has lived in Runaway Bay for two years. “There have been so many local investors. From Warrior Golf who offered us use of The Club at a discounted rate, to the Runaway Bay EDC which funded the catering through One Stop for all of the crew the entire time we’ve filmed to Darla St. John, who helped me find places to shoot and Marsha Ellison who has opened up her home to the crew and extras who were up until 2 a.m. filming at The Club and were enthusiastic about it – People have been very gracious. It’s been incredible.
“It just goes to show that I’m living in the right place. God put me here for a reason.”
In addition to that small-town spirit, the area just had the right look as well.
“The lake, space, trees, animals,” said Adrian Testolin, the film’s producer. “The script was written for this. It was not difficult at all to find locations.”
Testolin, like most of the crew, is from the Dallas area. The area’s hospitality – like the openness of its scenery – was a much-embraced change, even if some aspects took some warming up to.
“Yeah, we were a little hesitant about eating food from a gas station,” Testolin said. “But what we quickly learned is that One Stop is actually an incredible restaurant with a gas station attached to it. A hidden paradise – that’s exactly what this area, and all it has to offer, is.”
And although it was a bit disconcerting in the beginning, the crew hopes the benefits of the area’s seclusion translate onto the screen.
“Over here, everyone is away from their everyday lives and the distractions involved,” Shepherd said. “As a result, they can completely immerse themselves in the film – cast, crew, everyone. And I truly think it’s a palpable thing you can take from the screen.”
With 13 days of filming that wrapped up Thursday, Shepherd says the project is about 25 percent done.
“Now we’ll take a week off to sleep,” she laughed. “Thirteen days for a 110-page script is crazy. That would usually take about 25 days and more cameras. But we managed. Now we’ll color the film, cut the film, put it together, add in the music with the sound.”
She hopes to screen at least a rough cut to the community by the first of the new year.
“I really want to give back to a community that has given so much to me,” she said. “I could not have done this without all those who patted me on the back.”
Those who encouraged her stay true to the theme, which is apparent in both the film and life in Runaway Bay.
“I supported her not to be an investor, but because I love her,” Ellison said. “And hey, when she becomes famous, we’ll be famous, too.”