‘Safehouse 1618’ nets 35+ festival awards

Shepherd’s latest film ‘gets under your skin’

MEEKER I “The point of being a director is finding people who are skilled at their job, whether it be acting or cinematography or sound or music or whatever, and let them kind of do their own thing, because if you don’t, it kind of rings false” said Calvin T. Shepherd, discussing the success of his critically acclaimed feature film “Safehouse 1618.”

Shepherd, who grew up in Meeker, created his first film in high school. “Mrs. Kelley’s class was the first time that I made films, and I really, really think that was huge,” he noted, reflecting on the unique role of Film Director and its associated responsibilities. “When you have 10 people behind you, 10 people in front of you, that part very much feels at home,” he said, adding “ it’s natural, it’s second nature.” 

Shepherd’s latest film has resonated with a diverse audience, as demonstrated by more than 35 film festival awards from both national and international festivals, including Official Selection, Best Narrative Feature, Best Leading Actress and Best Directing awards.

“The whole movie is just supposed to tap into that paranoia we had,” Shepherd noted, referring to the chaos and turmoil of 2020 that inspired the film’s screenwriting. “The boredom, the quarantine, each character has a mode that I felt like I went through when I was laid off and just stuck inside and had nothing else going on,” he said.

Shepherd believes that connection with real-world events and experiences has played a major role in the film’s success. “Hopefully that’s why people are like, I don’t know why this is getting under my skin, but it is,” he said.

The movie is difficult for any film buff to categorize by genre, and that’s how Shepherd likes it. “It’s like a crime film, but also a thriller, but it also has slasher elements in it.” he said, noting that he likes “throwing genres in a blender and seeing what comes out,” similar to the way he described managing a crew: “controlling the chaos into the final product.” 

Shepherd attributes his style to a variety of sources, including an ability to learn from mistakes and striving to improve with every film. He also spoke about his own artistic influences inspired by his parents “My dad was very much about watching movies with me” he said, reminiscing about Meeker Video–an iconic Main Street business that played a role in, is film obsession. “We used to go to Angie’s movie store all the time, that was my favorite spot. I miss that place honestly,” he said. 

From a writing standpoint, Shepherd’s mom also played a huge role. “My mom was an English major like me, so she was very much about helping me do critical analysis on narratives and things and figuring out what it was really about, why certain things happened,” he said. 

Shepherd also reiterated the impact that MHS teacher Kathleen Kelley and former HT editor Bobby Gutierrez had on him early on. 

All these years later, Shepherd has released three feature films and graduated from UNC with an Undergraduate degree in English and Minors in Creative Writing and Film Studies. In the time since he’s also expanded his perspective of work from which he draws inspiration. “The most important thing that you can do, I think, is just watch as many movies as you can, and just be as influenced by the form in general” he said, describing his current obsession with a niche of Italian horror films, called “Giallo” films, as well as a longstanding interest in film history.

Shepherd explained how a movement of young, convention-breaking filmmakers in the ‘70s  continues to inspire his work “I just love how rebellious they were in their filmmaking, how they broke rules as far as Hollywood was concerned, and that’s something I like to do a lot.”

Thanks to advancements in technology since the ‘70s, Shepherd and his contemporaries have an opportunity to blaze their own trails in the film industry, an ideal he will continue to strive for, always learning along the way. “It’s a mix of learning from your mistakes, meeting new people, bringing on new names that are very skilled in what they do.”

Safehouse 1618 is streaming for the month of March at watch.flickfair.com/programs/safe-house-1618-ef3ab1. 

You can watch “The Making of Safe House 1618 by Garrett Brady” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RLrsdQ3pWw

By LUCAS TURNER | lucas@ht1885.com