Small crimes start as gateway drugs

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“Forgery” is described as being the crime thriller film Director Calvin Shepherd always wanted to make. Poster by Ethan Funk-Breay.

Funky Shepherd Productions, a company specializing in films, comic books and podcasts, hosted the premiere of their third full-length film on Friday.

Written and directed by UNC senior Calvin Shepherd, “Forgery” stars fellow UNC seniors Ethan Funk-Breay and Dalton Lanich in a 90 minute, R-rated crime thriller. The film’s script was finished in February and pre-production started almost immediately. The final version of the film was released weeks ago. “The Mirror” staff caught up with the stars to learn more about the film.

What is the general synopsis of the movie “Forgery?”

CS: “Andrew [Funk-Breay] is a nerdy student who doesn’t have much control over things that he does because he is bullied quite often, and when his roommate football player finds out that he can forge signatures really well, he starts utilizing him for that. It’s not until he meets Luke, played by Dalton Lanich, that he is able to gain a little bit of control and is able to start basically a crime business of selling these signatures, and things go awry when they are almost caught.”

What was the inspiration for the film?

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CS: “We made ‘CANs,’ which came out last October, and it was a full-length film. It was a comedy with three different parts, and I wrote and directed that one, too, but something didn’t re- ally feel right. I wrote a lot of stuff, and normally my stuff’s kind of violent, but for the sake of easy filmmaking I wrote a comedy. So something didn’t really feel right, and with this one we just kind of let loose on what I really like to do and the movies that really inspire me, like ‘Good Fellas’ and ‘The Departed.’ We got into a Scorsese idea and went from there.”

EF: “It’s not only technically how much we’ve grown as filmmakers — because ultimately we want to make something cool for other people to enjoy — but ‘CANs’ was the movie that we could make, and ‘Forgery’ is the movie we wanted to make.”

What drew you to the idea of making a crime thriller?

CS: “When I went to my last college [Ottawa University in Kansas] I was on my college wrestling team, and that was where that kind of whole thing came from. There’s no wrestling team actually in the movie, but [it’s] how the teams interact with each other. There were people at my last school that were doing things like that, signing signatures, which is where the idea sparked, like ‘What if they got in trouble?’ They never got caught at my school, so I was like ‘What if they got in trouble for it?’ so I kind of went off of that and then built around it.”

Tell us about Funky Shepherd Productions.

EF: “[Shepherd] transferred two years ago from Ottawa and the three of us had Film 210 with Burke Hilsabeck, one of the film professors, and that’s the class where we all kind of met. Calvin and I showed up early every single day. But I’m that guy who doodles in every classroom he’s in and so he [Shepherd] saw me drawing and he’s like, “Hey, are you good at art?’ and I was like, “Yeah.’ But we basically started talking about making a comic book together and then from that seed it led to us wanting to make comic books together. Funky Shepherd really came out of a desire to want to make something, we’re all fans of comic books, fans of film.”

What is the underlying message or theme of the film?

CS: “The theme is small crimes leading into bigger crimes and building off of that. I would say it’s more personal than an actual message to people, I’d say it’s more personal to my experience as a college athlete, which wasn’t the best experience.”

You received the final cut of the film on August 24, and the film premiered on Friday. How do you all feel about this?

DL: “It’s a tremendous relief.”

CS: “If I really think about it I can remember telling them what to do, but all of us are just to the point where it’s like — because we have the stress of making it, the stress of putting it together, and now the stress about ready to show it — just kind of pulling in different directions on our brain, that maybe in a month we’ll look at it and be like, ‘Oh yeah, I remember all this.’”

EF: “While actually making the movie, you’re all focused on that, you’re just focused on communicating what needs to be communicated, and then you’re tired because it’s 5 a.m. and you want to go to sleep. Then you actually watch the thing. The first time I watched it I kind of forgot that it was me, that sounds a little weird, but I think what that means is basically that watching it for the first time, I was enjoying the story for the first time, because up until then, its been trying to manipulate everything to look like that.”

Are there any any stories from the “Forgery” set?

DL: “One of my favorite parts is, it’s one of the more intense scenes and there’s a quick smack has has to happen. It was Gavin and Gareth’s characters, and we were running through it, running through it, and every time she just kind of air-smacks him as we’re just running through the lines. Once we did the first take — he kept telling her ‘Go for it, actually hit me,’ and then she just smacks him.”

CS: “Ethan hit Alex in the face with a gun on the very first pull out of the gun. There’s one take of the movie, obviously you won’t see this in the movie, but Gareth’s pointing a gun at Dalton, and I realized that it wasn’t the shot I wanted in the middle of the action. So I didn’t call ‘cut’ — in the middle of the really intense scene, I just walk up and look in the camera and I’m like, ‘Cut!’”

How was the experience overall of making this film?

EF: “Overall it was very challenging, and we knew it would because we’ve never done anything like this before, but we were very eager and very persistent about getting what we wanted out of it, and that required a lot of painful hard work.”

CS: “Stressful. There were stressful but optimistic times, and then there were just weirdly terrible down times, too. I think for me, it was a very different experience than anybody else’s and that’s a common thing for a writer/director.”

How did it feel to be actors in a film like this?

DL: “In my mind, I had an idea of how Ethan was going to read his lines and how I would respond to that, and then we’d yell ‘action’ and Ethan’s saying it in a completely different way, it’s like, ‘Ok, well now we’re going like this now.’”

EF: ‘A lot of acting is just responding to whatever is happening, and as long as you kind of understand the basis of your character — Andrew, he’s very shy, he’s not really that confident, he’s more of a follower, he doesn’t really make a whole lot of his own decisions. Once you understand where your character is coming from, it becomes that much more easier to act as that character.”

Do you three have any concluding thoughts?

EF: “Keep an eye out for us in the future. This is a very big moment for us, and we’re very excited that we’ve come to this point so far, but this is not the finish line. We’ve got so many projects planned for way in the future now.”

CS: “The next project will be starting this summer, maybe spring. It’s called ‘Country Mustard,’ it’s a western, modern-day western that I wrote, and our big plan is to go for that one.”

Funky Shepherd Productions can be reached on Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and Twitter at @funkyshep.

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