Shane Hagedorn is an actor you may not have heard of yet. That, however, is something that might be (and definitely should) change in the near future.
Hagedorn is an actor from the Michigan area, having appeared in such things as 40 Nights, Chasing the Star and the upcoming Soul Eater. He often works closely with the motion picture company Collective Development Inc., run by DJ Perry.
Collective Development’s latest film Wild Faith, which stars Hagedorn in the lead role, is now playing in select theaters across Michigan. Set in the 1800’s, Wild Faith tells of a Civil War vet’s struggle to leave his old way of life behind while having to protect his family.
Hagedorn took time out of his day to chat with Brandon Schreur of The Celebrity Cafe about his experiences making Wild Faith and what he’s got coming up in the future. Read the full interview below:
Brandon Schreur: Hi Shane, how are you doing?
Shane Hagedorn: I’m good, I’m good. How are you?
BS: I’m excellent. So I saw your new film, Wild Faith, on Sunday night I believe it was and really enjoyed it. I thought it was great and had a lot of interesting things going on in it. So I just wanted to talk to you about your experience in making that film if that’s cool?
SH: Yeah, yeah thank you.
BS: Awesome. To start off can you just tell me about your experiences with making Wild Faith? How you got involved with the project and then how everything went during filming?
SH: Yeah, sure. Wild Faith came to me through DJ Perry and Collective Development Inc. We have worked on a few projects together prior to filming this. We’ve built a really solid relationship — an artistic and business kind of relationship.
I directed Ashes of Eden a few years ago, which was our first collaboration together. I enjoy directing but I was looking for, as an actor, a starring role vehicle. I’d done some supporting roles and co-starring roles over the years.
DJ had the script that I really liked and it was set in Michigan so we could shoot it here (with a producer’s cap on, I’m thinking about the cost and expense). I really liked the story — I thought it had good merit and it was something that I was attracted to. So we started discussing that opportunity, but I wanted to package it well enough to get a green-light on me being the star.
I talked to my friend Jesse Low, who was the director, as we had worked together on a couple projects together. I asked him if he had read the script and Jesse said he had. I said: ‘What do you think about me being in the role?’ and he goes: ‘Yeah, I could see that.’ As soon as I knew I had a director who believed in me, I went to the producer and said how I could help produce it, and with Jesse we could make this a really good film.
BS: Then I was going to ask if you knew the director Jesse Low beforehand, but it sounds like you guys have worked together quite a bit in the past?
SH: Yeah, he was my assistant-director on Ashes of Eden, and then he directed me in Forty Nights — which is the first film of a biblical trilogy that we produced.
BS: Since you obviously had a pretty big hand in the creative process of the whole thing, how did you and Jesse collaborate together to make Wild Faith? How did you approach the film together, basically?
SH: We talked a lot about it. We talked about the scenes. We went about and really critically looked at some of the character’s intentions and what could help them three-dimensional. I’d done a lot of research on the Civil War, as I went to visit Civil War museums and battlefields down in the south. I watched Ken Burns' Civil War drama and did a lot of reading on what it was like back then. I also talked to a lot of today’s veterans that had been through war.
We had worked through that and then there was a couple of story things we hashed out that deviated from an original script that was called Wild Michigan, written by DJ Perry. We kind of came together and came up with a newer and enhanced version with my character Emmett. He was originally supposed to be a Daniel Murphy — a little bit softer guy, but we went with the more stronger and stoic character of Emmett.
BS: Okay, interesting. You’ve touched on it a couple times now, but obviously a lot of things in Wild Faith have to do with being in Michigan: both being where the film is set and you told me a lot of the cast & crew involved are from Michigan. Can you comment on how important this location was when making this movie? How did it help benefit you?
SH: Michigan is a great state, to live in and to work in. There’s a lot of talent here, both in front of the camera and behind the camera, that we know we have tapped into and we wanted to re-present to the filmmaking community. We used to have a tax incentive here, before Hollywood came. There was a ton of movies being made in Michigan, as you probably know.
SH: That went away, but the filmmakers were still here! We wanted to continue living, working and utilizing the resources here in Michigan with our investors, partners, sponsors, cast and crew. Michigan was an excellent choice for this picture. As I said, the resources alone — being able to get some of these historic villages and historic train. In other states people have tapped and re-tapped resources, but there’s not a lot of movies being made here. People were really excited at the prospect of a movie being made right here in their hometowns.
BS: Definitely, and I definitely think local filmmaking is a super important thing so I love that’s where your heart was at in all of this.
BS: Another thing I found impressive about Wild Faith was how the film was shot for such a low-budget but it still looked and felt like a period piece. How did you guys go about pulling this off? Were there challenges that came from that?
SH: Yeah, shooting a period piece has many challenges. Of course, the costumes and locations, all these different things. To do it at a budget level like we did, it takes a lot of grit. When people say no, you still press on. You knock on a closed door again sometimes, and you keep going until you meet your goals.
I think our producing team — Melissa Anschutz, Tony Hornus, DJ Perry and Dean Teaster — has a lot of producer-actors, and I believe there’s a strength in being a producer-actor. One, we want the story to survive and we want the film to get made, so we dig in deep and we just keep marching on until we get what we need to make it happen.
BS: So then when you’re filming with this low budget, how did you go about filming the scenes with some of the bigger aspects? Like, how did you film the stuff with the tiger and the stuff with the train — which I’m assuming was a real train, right?
SH: Oh yeah, that’s up near Coldwater, Michigan. It’s a real, operating train. We were able to work with them on a mutual deal — they got the opportunity to be in a film. It wasn’t a free-bee, by no means, but it was a real good experience. We searched high and low for this train, and thankfully one was in our home state. The family that owns and operates the railroad that still to this day runs were great people to work with.
The tiger people — it’s not CGI. It is a real tiger, but it’s green screen and inserted into the film.
BS: Okay, that makes sense. Yeah when I was watching it I kept thinking of Jaws, where it’s the effect where you don’t necessarily show the creature in every scene but you do have a lot of things leading up to it with the sound effects and all that. It was a super effective way to do it.
SH: Yeah, and that was one of the main things for the film that we discussed for a long time. It was a serious discussion, we went: ‘This thing has to have an element of fear.’ You can only suspend that fear for so long by not showing it, so finally, as an audience member, you’re like: ‘Look. I got to see this thing.’ Not to judge it for themselves, because your idea of fear is different than mine. But if we show it to you and it’s off, you’ll be like: ‘Aw man.’ You’re taken out of it. But if you see it and it looks real, you’ve checked it on your brain and you’re continuing with the story. You’re not looking for the next flaw.
BS: And that seemed to definitely pay off, with Wild Faith.
SH: Thank you!
BS: Sure. So, you’re a working actor who’s obviously juggling a lot of different gigs at the same time, but you were also heavily involved with Wild Faith as the producer and working with Jesse Low. What about this story and this character drew you into it so much? Did you do anything crazy to try and get into character?
SH: Like I mentioned earlier, I did my research and I did my homework. Then I wanted to get into shape. You know, I was lifting a lot at that time to get a good bulk and look like a strong woodsman. I actually hunt, I do chop wood — that’s me chopping wood. It’s great exercise.
As a frontiersman I can identify with a little bit, just living the life I do now. I think that even if electricity got zapped and we didn’t have computers, I’d survive. [laughs] I’d know how to survive.
I appreciate what people went through at that time — it was hard living and it was a hard life. Some point say it was a simple life, maybe. But I think they worked a lot harder, just with the connivence of things we have now.
BS: Oh yeah, totally. There’s also a good amount of social relevance in Wild Faith, as it deals with things like race and religion. How did you guys go about approaching this aspects? I know that certain spiritual films tend to be really preachy and everything, but Wild Faith walks a really good line of being able to be socially relevant while not being preachy or anything like that. How’d you do that?
SH: A lot of credit to that goes to DJ and Jesse. The script that DJ Perry wrote — he has a really good knack for balance in those things and using those touchy subjects that I don’t think would be handled as well in other people’s hands.
With Jesse directing, I think that giving people parables of sorts and still saying — let’s say in those times, I bet church attendance was more than it is today. I also think people prayed more then they do today, because there was a lot of want and need. Hopefully your kids would be okay and the fields would not go bear — there was so much at stake.
I think it fit a lot easier because that was a lot more normal. We watch a film where people are going to church and they’re praying, and it feels normal for that time. We do it now and we go: ‘Ehh, I don’t identify with anybody that does that now.’ But then, there’s a certain normalcy about it.
I think that audience members really associate with that, and then the characters — every actor in there was so real and relatable, that people just went along with the story. As long as we didn’t make it to harsh and preachy, we just opened up discussions and dialogue, people filled in the blanks for themselves.
Bs: And I really like the idea of it being a parable, like you said. It definitely was an older time and that’s something we maybe don’t think about. Off of that, was your goal here to make a religious film? Or at least a different kind of religious film?
SH: I think there’s a stamp people like to put on a religious or a faith film, because it fits in a category. There’s a target audience for that. We were more interested in telling a story of real people, asking real questions, going into real situations and just so happen to have a spiritual or Christian perspective.
My character Emmett is telling God: ‘I can’t do this on my own! I can’t save them, but you can. And I need your help.’ How many people in the history of man have said: ‘I can’t do this on my own, and if you’re out there I need you’? Then, sometimes those prayers are answered and all they do is go: ‘Okay.’
Here, it’s more like: ‘You can’t tell me there’s no God, because I know there’s a God and he’s done this for me.’ You know what I mean? I think that in keeping along those lines, and holding on to that — not letting the ship go too far left or too far right. I think we executed it really well.
BS: And I think the film walks the line really well. Wild Faith is currently showing in two theaters in Michigan right now. Do you have any plans to expand the movie after that — either in other theaters or a streaming service?
SH: We are looking at branching out theatrically and opening it up to more theaters. Our DVD and streaming release will be hopefully some time later this year. I think this is a film that is an event you would want to see in the theater because of the production quality, because of the sound design and the music. The things you might miss even on your 50 inch screen at home. It deserves to be in the theaters. We’re looking for ways to really expand that and we’re looking for partners to help us do it.
BS: Was then there anything else that you wanted to add or maybe any upcoming projects that you wanted to promote?
SH: Yeah, our Biblical trilogy — 40 Nights, Chasing the Star and next year’s The Christ Slayer — are all films, again, that some might say are religious films but really they’re parables. They’re films about people going through things in those days with those questions, and whatever the spiritual relevance was at that time. In Chasing the Star it was the three wisemen. 40 Nights is Jesus in the desert. I think we have a very unique perspective on what could be called a religious or faith film.
Just as a sideline, two of those films just got entered into the largest Christian international film festival, which is in Orlando. Chasing the Star and Wild Faith. They are both nominated — Wild Faith for Best Picture, Best Director in Jesse Low, Best Actress in Lauren LaStrada and then I got a Best Actor nomination for that.
BS: Oh wow, that’s great! Were those all filmed in Michigan too?
SH: Those three were filmed in Arizona.
BS: Gotcha. We’ll have to talk about maybe once they are released and everything, or the new one is at least.
SH: Yeah, yeah and if you wanted to check those out, 40 Nights and Chasing the Star are on Amazon Prime right now. We’ll release The Christ Slayer next year, but all the trailers are online.
BS: Do you have social media accounts where people can follow you on?
SH: I have a Facebook page: Shane Hagedorn. My website is Shanehagedorn.com. I have an Instagram as well. I’m usually always on there; hanging out, answering questions, being goofy and promoting my films. I like to have fun and I like to keep my audiences in the know, giving them a little peak at what happens behind the scenes.
BS: Awesome. Well that was all I had for you Shane, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk with me today. I really enjoyed talking and really liked your film Wild Faith, and I hope all of that goes well in the future.
SH: Hey, I appreciate that, and thank you for taking time. It’s hard to get the word out there. I’ve read some of your articles and think you provide a great opportunity for filmmakers like me and you do it really well. I’m glad I reached out and that you answered the call.
BS: Sure, and thank you so much. Maybe this can help bring some more awareness to the film too, because it definitely deserves it.
SH: Thank you, thank you, I appreciate that man. You have a great week.
BS: For sure, you too. Have a good one.