“We didn’t want to sell when we were desperate,” said Denton native David Jetre about his debut film, Shroud. The supernatural Western wrapped in 2009, when the country was in the depths of a major recession. With his film financed by himself and close friends, he could afford to wait until he could distribute the movie on his own terms. Last month, he made it available for purchase online, with iTunes and Blu-Ray releases coming up in the next few weeks. “Reselling portals like Amazon, iTunes, and the Google Play Store make this an ideal time,” he said.
Jetre (his last name pronounced jee-ter), who says he’s “over 40,” came to filmmaking from a background as creative director of the design firm Sandmerrick, Inc. The firm was originally established in 2000 under the name Studio 930 Intermedia, with Jetre hanging out his own shingle after working for various North Texas agencies designing everything from websites to business cards. In 2010, he changed his firm’s name. “We found there were too many clients mistaking us for a photography studio,” he said, adding that photography is only a small part of his business, along with shooting TV commercials and laying out magazines.
Making a film was a natural decision for someone who had spent his life in creative businesses, especially with his background in TV commercials. “It was a one-to-one transition,” he said. “I had already worked with lots of video and audio crews. It was just about telling a story over two hours instead of 30 seconds.”
He wrote the script for Shroud over “15 lattes” at a Barnes & Noble in Lewisville in late 2007. Wanting something to be shot immediately, he reasoned, “I live in Texas, let’s do a Western,” coming up with the story of a Dutch woman in the 1860s who tracks her disappeared husband’s whereabouts to a ghost town in Arizona.
Serving as writer-director, producer, production designer, editor, and fight choreographer, Jetre shot much of the film’s exterior footage in “Willieville,” the Western town built outside of Austin for the 1986 Willie Nelson film Red Headed Stranger. However, he couldn’t use any of the interiors there, since many of the buildings have been turned into museums devoted to Nelson. Instead, he shot the indoor scenes in various Victorian mansions in Fort Worth and Weatherford. “We scouted about 15 homes,” he said. “The owners were all very welcoming.”
The biggest hiccup came when his lead actress Nicole Leigh (billed in the credits as Nicole Leigh Jones) revealed she was four months pregnant, midway through the shoot. “We had her outdoors in November wearing a metal suit of armor, which was like a refrigerator, and she was being thrown around” in a climactic fight scene, he recalled.
Jetre shut down production for six months, which wasn’t a problem with his investors. In fact, the delay allowed him to rework some action scenes and recast a major role with a better actor. “It all worked out in the end,” he said.
He acknowledges continuity problems in the story, caused by the loss of some scenes to technical problems, but he’s proud of his work on the film’s visual side. Indeed, despite its opaque dialogue and some amateurish acting from the supporting ranks, the movie is a handsome period piece that looks far more expensive than its $150,000 budget. Still, he’s not eager to repeat the experience. “On my next movie, I’m going to have an art department,” he said. “I don’t want to wear so many hats.”
He clearly loves the creative decisions that go into the filmmaking process. “Pre-production is where a movie is made or broken,” he said. “Accidents will happen, but having everything planned out just helps so much.”