Is it harder to dodge the weapons of death aimed by an obsessive archer or to wrap up a bare-bones TV movie on time and under budget? Shepphird (Beware the Shill, 2016, etc.) presents enough evidence on both sides to let you make the call.
Tapped by executive producer Sam Carver to replace director Chris Sanderson in a Little House on the Prairie knockoff for aging TV actress Tami Romans, Eddie Lyons knows he’ll say yes even before reading the script because it’s better to be working than not. Or maybe it isn’t, as he finds when he arrives for the two-week shoot at Crescent Movie Ranch, a spot so authentic that there’s no cellphone reception. Apart from Tami, whose three personal assistants soak up disproportionate amounts of the budget and real estate, the rest of the talent, from character actor Tom Birch to closeted gay cinematographer Giovanni to animal wranglers Jimmy and Lucky, are bottom feeders better known for their cut-rate reliability and efficiency than their star power. The shoot reunites Eddie with Sheila, an assistant cinematographer he slept with once in a drunken fling and who’s now clearly embarrassed that they’ve been thrown together again. Tami demands costly rewrites that Eddie knows will never get approved; Tom demands to wear an inappropriate cowboy hat that will make his face harder to light. Just when you’ve settled in for an agreeable comedy of low-budget filmmaking, Jimmy’s corpse turns up in a stagecoach with an arrow protruding from his eye. Nor is this just one more problem among many in the production, for virtually every person involved in the shoot will soon become a target in a shoot of quite a different sort.
Instead of attempting to link the drastically different halves of this tale, Shepphird seems to revel in the contrast between them. Like-minded readers will get two stories for the price of one; others may be more wary.