Valley of the Shadow – With Producer/Director/Cinematographer Anna Marshall

As a lover of history and period fiction, I tend to be rather critical of period movies when it comes to costumes, set, and customs. So often, even big budget movies get it wrong. Valley of the Shadow, however, has done an excellent job with those little details that make for a convincing period story. The fact that it was created by a young cast and crew makes it even more impressive. 

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When did you first develop an interest in filmmaking? 

I have been fascinated by filmmaking ever since I was very young.  My siblings and I often entertained ourselves by “making movies”. Throughout our childhood, we made many short videos, always dreaming about what it would be like to work on-set and act for a real movie. As we got a bit older, we started hearing about independent Christian films; some of which were made by families. That sparked the idea that perhaps, just perhaps… we would be able to make a feature film too!
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How did you learn how to make movies?
I learned as much as I could by reading about camera work, lighting, etc. We learned a lot through experimenting and much trial and error.  It turned out to be a much bigger project than any of us had expected! Our youth, lack of experience, and limited budget were a great challenge. Valley of the Shadow was quite a learning process for us.
We knew that it would take a lot of hard work and expense. While we were seeking God’s will about making a movie, Mom had a dream.  In her dream our family was riding in our van. As we came to an intersection, we turned onto a road and found ourselves driving in the midst of a 5K race. Brotus (a character from Pendragon) was running in the race. He smiled and waved to us. As our van drove through the finish line Mom realized that it was the race in the movie Courageous. The crew, equipment, and cameras were there!  Because of the dream and scriptures that were standing out to us, we believed that God was leading us to make the movie.  It was His help along the way that kept us going despite the challenges.
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Where did you get the idea for Valley of the Shadow?
We love history, and the Civil War era has always been especially intriguing to us. Ever since Abigail was twelve, she had a great fascination with the Civil War. She devoured many articles, memoirs of soldiers and civilians, and novels. Abigail, with her vivid imagination, is always writing stories. In January of 2012,  she began writing the story of Valley of the Shadow at the age of sixteen.
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How did you research to get it historically accurate?
Reading, reading, reading! We researched extensively on Civil War kitchens, furniture, and life in general at that time. The internet and the library were invaluable to us! We drafted our own patterns after studying pictures of authentic Civil War clothing. Abigail, Bridget, and I spent months sewing all of the dresses, civilian clothes, uniforms, and many accessories. We tried to make them look as accurate as possible.
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What was the greatest challenge with filming a period feature?
The greatest challenge was all of the modern things around us. The camera angles were often limited. We had to do a lot of masking in post-production to get rid of cars, light switches, telephone wires, etc. In addition to the visual challenges, we were also competing with modern sounds of airplanes, traffic, and mowers.
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What’s been the response to Valley of the Shadow?
So far, we have had a very positive response from the people who have viewed our film. Many have told us that it made them laugh and cry.  They got into the story. They thought the characters were believable though the cast was young. (The oldest actor was 22.) We were overjoyed that it made it into the Christian Worldview Film Festival even though we had not yet finished polishing it.  And we are very excited about it being accepted into the upcoming Glory Reelz Film Festival!
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What is your vision for the movie?
We’d like to see the film reach many families.  Hopefully the film’s message of forgiveness will impact many lives.
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What are your future plans? More movies? 
Abigail is writing a script for a WWII film that we may, LORD willing, film in a few years. But first, we hope to sell enough DVDs to pay off Valley of the Shadow!

2 responses to “Valley of the Shadow – With Producer/Director/Cinematographer Anna Marshall

  1. It is so rewarding to follow independent films from conception to the screen. Thank you Faith Flix for sharing these informative interviews. When you are able, please include a question or two about distribution and how these films may be shared by Churches and community organizations who are seeking out Christian films for their community outreach programs.

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