Q&A with “Man Shot Dead” director Taylor Feltner
Man Shot Dead is an intimate portrait of a family living with the legacy of an unexplained murder. Deftly weaving archival imagery with revealing interviews, the film is at once a search for answers and a timely perspective on the cataclysmic, long-lasting effects of gun violence decades after the fact.
Tell me a little bit about “Man Shot Dead”
Taylor Feltner: Man Shot Dead focuses on my grandfather’s homicide in the 60’s. The film is equal parts investigative but also reflective of the family after that. It’s been 40 years since then and how are they still dealing with it. And how is it still rippling through the family.
What part of Arkansas are you from?
TF: I’m originally from Russelville, I grew up there.
Where was the film made?
TF: My family live in Morrilton, my grandmother and my two aunts still live in Morrilton. We shot a lot there, but we also shot up in Fayetteville, because that is where my mom and dad live.
How did you come to this story? It doesn’t seem like a story that would be freely talked about.
TF: No, exactly, I mean as kids we knew our granddad had died and that he had been shot, and that was it. I think that’s largely because you’re little kids. You’re not going to get into this deep story about it. Then as you get older you start to ask a few more questions, and then I got around to asking my brothers, “well, what do you remember?” I wouldn’t go so far as to say we made up the stories, but we each had our own version of this story and I think that happens when you are holding on to a memory from a child. Maybe it’s comprised of a photo or something like that. So I just started asking them and that’s how the film came about, I wanted to know more. I wanted to know more about him, but I also wanted to know more about how he’d been killed.
The film was funded by a grant through the Arkansas Arts Council, how did that come about?
TF: Well I was looking for funding in the state because I figured this is going to be made in the state, and I’m going to shoot everything here, and I’m from here. The person I spoke to at the Arkansas Film office said to reach out to Bob Pest at the Ozark Foothills Film Fest because a grant was being done in conjunction with Ozark Foothills Film Fest and the Arkansas Arts Council. So I applied and then made it to the next round, to where we came into Batesville to do a pitch process and I got one of the grants. And the film wouldn’t have been made with out it.
When was this granted awarded?
TF: This was back in 2010, and I worked off that grant for the next two years.
And how much was the grant for?
TF: 30,000, which when you are making a small documentary about your family you’re able to stretch that a bit. I am so grateful to Bob and Judy Pest, Ozark Foothills Film Fest and the Arkansas Arts Council. Without it I don’t think this thing would have been finished.
Do you think making a movie within your family was easier or harder than the your normal process?
TF: Definitely harder, with other things when your family’s not involved you have the freedom of just going through the motions, going through the step by step to get it made, and there are always going to be challenges, but you’ve been down that road before. But doing something about your family is something that you will only do once, because its so sensitive you want to make sure you do justice to the story and you tell it right, and you honor your family.
Now tomorrow [Friday] night is the premiere of the film, correct?
TF: World Premiere at 4 o’clock
Is anyone from your family coming down?
TF: Oh yeah, my grandma, my mom, my dad and I have an uncle and an aunt coming, so we are going to have a good turn out. But I hope everyone will come out for the screening, it’s going to be a great time.
Taylor Feltner’s film “Man Shot Dead” will premiere at the Historic Arkansas Museum at 4:00pm and play again on Sunday at 10:30 am.
By Ross Macartney