Two area residents — one from Winlock and the other from Tenino — are releasing a new independent film focused on World War II.
The film, “The Last Rescue,” will be debuted at an exclusive preview screening in Edmonds this weekend. Special guests, investors, cast and World War II veterans will be present to watch the story come to life in front of their eyes on the big screen.
Both Eric Colley and his wife, Hallie Shepherd, have strong ties to the area. Colley graduated from Tenino High School, later attending Centralia College to complete a two-year business degree. From there, he moved on to bigger places, working in Los Angeles on different projects, including films and movies.
From a young age, Colley knew his passion was within the film industry, often spending his childhood years shooting short films.
“I think I always knew this was what I wanted to do, however, it has probably been in the last five to 10 years that we have really focused on feature films,” Colley said.
Both Colley and Shepherd’s business, Fireshow Productions, now almost solely focuses on feature films, with only 10 percent of their business being based in commercial work.
Shepherd had a lot of the same interests as Colley, bringing the duo together.
Growing up in Lewis County, Shepherd attended Winlock High School. Later on, she traveled to Western Washington University and got her bachelor’s degree in English. While attending college, Shepherd was involved in theater, acting and playwriting. During her last year of school, she realized her passion was in the film industry, but at the time the college did not have a film program.
“Personally I was interested in going in that direction,” Shepherd said.
One weekend before she graduated from college, Shepherd attended a networking meeting in Seattle where she met her future husband. Shortly after, Shepherd got her start in commercial work and then the production company was formed.
“I think we both had the same passion to tell an intriguing story,” Colley explained.
The duo brought complementary skills to the table, creating a strong team.
“I’m a writer and Eric is a director,” Shepherd said. “We both produce, so those things went well together.”
The couple had the same goals in sight and with that in mind, the lovers clicked into a career-driven team.
Shepherd brought her fiction and storytelling experience from college into the mix, while Colley’s degree and work in Los Angeles brought business experience.
The film is the second feature film Colley has directed. His first, “GPS The Movie,” won best local film at the Tacoma Film Festival and also brought in best action film and best visual effects at the Action on Film Festival in Pasadena.
The work for their newest film began six months prior to filming when the pre-production work began. Once the film was shot in November of last year, the work was far from over, as the editing process began.
The film puts an interesting twist on WWII, focusing on women in the battlefield.
“What I felt was lacking in a lot of WWII films was the presence of women,” Shepherd said, explaining that often in historical war films women are put into secondary roles. “I knew from the beginning the story I wanted to tell was to include women in a realistic portrayal.”
She explained that two of the characters within the plot line are Army nurses.
The film goes back to the hostile environment in the French countryside during the autumn of 1944. Conflict between the American and Nazi forces was alive and well as Pvt. James Lewis, a soldier unprepared for war, cost his commanding officer Capt. Beckett, a severe injury. Nurse Corps officer Vera Cornish and her subordinate, Nancy Bell, attempt to save Beckett’s life, while their evacuation is organized.
Despite their efforts, the camp is overtaken by Nazi forces and they are taken prisoner. After a battle the Americans are able to take SS Officer Otto Dittrich as a hostage, although they are ill-prepared for a fight, lacking transportation, communication and a decent supply of weapons.
“As events thrust them deeper into the Nazis’ clutches and their path to escape grows increasingly hopeless, Pvt. Lewis, haunted by his prior failures, must discover the buried strength within himself to mount a last-ditch rescue and lead the Americans to reform,” states the synopsis. The film has a strong cast, something Colley credited to Shepherd’s talented script development.
“One of the exciting things about our partnership is the fact that Hallie is a great writer and allowed us to get a really good cast on an independent film,” Colley said. “Every actor is looking for a great script and a great character to play.”
The goal for the duo is to bring something that will entertain and delight their audiences. To them, that’s what makes creating films rewarding. They also plan to benefit financially.
“The one thing I’m always trying to tell people is that the independent film business, when done correctly, can be a profitable business,” Colley said. “There are two goals in making a film. One is to entertain people and the second one is to make money. We hope this does both.”
The film will be distributed by Artist View Entertainment, where it will eventually be available on Netflix and in Redbox Kiosks.
The pair said community support throughout the process was immense.
“From our area there were certainly friends and people who support us,” Shepherd said. “They are really excited about the project.”
Feature Film Features Seasoned Cast of Actors and Actresses
The cast of “The Last Rescue” features familiar faces from recent motion pictures.
Below are some of the notable members of the cast (actors and actresses are listed from left when referencing the photographs above):
• Brett Cullen, known for “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Lost,” “Friday Night Lights”
• Gilles Marini, known for “Sex In The City” movie, “Dancing With The Stars”
• Johann Urb, known for “Resident Evil” franchise
• Cody Kasch, known for “Desperate Housewives”
• Ryan Merriman, known for “Final Destination 3,” “The Ring 2,” “Pretty Little Liars”
• Elizabeth Rice, known for “Mad Men”