By Benjamin S. Rossi
12:45 PM EST, November 30, 2012
A good story is more about the journey than the destination.
For documentary filmmaker and editor Scott Sheppard, he knew he had the perfect story to tell when his mother and two of his aunts decided to return to the place they grew up — India.
For the three American sisters — Sylvia Seamands, Sheila Lovell and Sandy Sheppard — it was a return home 50 years after saying goodbye, and during their visit, they rediscovered their childhood.
Their parents were J.T. and Ruth Seamands, American missionaries in South India for nearly 20 years.
They moved back to the United States in 1960; Sylvia Seamands and Sheila Lovell currently live in Jessamine County.
Scott Sheppard, who is based in Los Angeles, said a lot of his family lives in Wilmore, Nicholasville and the Bluegrass area.
He grew up hearing fascinating stories of India, so when the trip became real, he knew he had to film it.
The four sisters had been talking about going back for decades, but it was not until December 2010 that three of them decided to return to Bangalore, where they lived briefly and where their grandfather Tata Seamands is buried. They also visited Kodaikanal, a remote area 6,700 feet up in the Palani Hills where they attended boarding school; and their hometown of Belgaum.
“I’ve never forgotten how beautiful it was,” Sheila Lovell said. “But it was stunning to see again, and Scott captured that.”
For two weeks, Scott Sheppard followed his mother and aunts in tight quarters on trains, through marketplaces and vast, seemingly endless, valleys.
What Scott Sheppard said he ended up with was a “truly amazing story about family, faith and going home.”
He recorded more than 50 hours of footage from their trip and has spent the last two years putting their story together in the editing room, perfecting it to a roughly 90-minute documentary called “Planes, Trains & Autorickshaws.”
There are religious themes in the film but it does not intend to push a religious or political agenda, Scott Sheppard said.
“I don’t want it to be labeled,” he said. “I think it can be enjoyed by anyone — Christian or a secular audiences.”
He works as an editor, but this was a passion project into which he put all his spare time in preparation for film festivals such as the Sundance and Slamdance.
“It got to the point where we didn’t even notice him or that the camera was there,” Sheila Lovell said. “He was with us on the whole trip and was able to get very candid and emotional moments.”
Scott has had to do it all himself — from shooting to editing to financing. Because of that, the budget has remained small for a feature documentary. He has almost completed the film out of his own pocket, but there are some costs to help present that movie, and anyone can help.
He also partially shot in and around Wilmore, including Asbury and Wesley Village, and the film even features an interview with the president of Asbury Theological Seminary, Timothy Tennent.
However, the project could use some help getting to the festivals.
The website that features the movie trailer and the opportunity to donate is www.indiegogo.com/PlanesTrainsAutorickshaws. It is similar to a Kickstarter campaign, but when the fundraising is over, whether or not the goal is reached, the money still goes to benefit the production.
Details such as perfecting the color correction are a top priority.
“I’ve seen it; the film is beautiful,” Sheila Lovell said. “But he needs help; Scott wants to make it perfect.”
He also wants to work on the sound because “the soundtrack needs to be as dynamic and clear as possible.”
As for the music, there is the cost of an original scoring and licensing of existing music. Additional fees include the film-festival submissions. Festival submissions average $50 to $100 per festival, Scott Sheppard said.
He estimates that $8,000 will barely cover these costs, but he is determined to make it work.
In addition to submitting to film festivals, he said he’ll be seeking distribution for the film so that a wide audience can see it through TV, home video and Netflix.
In the meantime, the clock is ticking on finishing the film by mid-December in case it’s accepted by Sundance or Slamdance.