Filmmaker brings crusade to film fest
August 28, 2005
What began as a quirky adventure to find people in America who had the same name, turned into a journey of self-realization and soul searching. The experience made filmmaker Angela Shelton into an activist for women who have been victims of rape, domestic violence and molestation.
“I thought this would be a cute little film about meeting people with your same name,” Shelton said. She visited Incline Village for the Tahoe Reno International Film Festival. “I would shoot it during the summer and then start on my comedy.”
Shelton financed the film by seeking donations from friends and family.
“I threw a party and charged people $50,” Shelton said. “Those who couldn’t come got an envelope and asked if they could fill it with $10,000.”
As the shooting of the film progressed and the true meaning of what was unfolding became evident, Shelton started getting backing from a few notable personalities.
“Marcus Allen (a former NFL running back) contributed a lot and told me to ‘walk by faith and not sight.’ I didn’t know what it meant at the time,” Shelton said. “And Rosie O’Donnell paid my mortgage while I was on the road filming. They were all so helpful.”
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In “Searching for Angela Shelton,” Shelton journeys across the United States to meet other Angela Sheltons and through them survey women in America.
What she wasn’t prepared for was to learn that like herself, 24 out of the 40 Angela Sheltons she spoke to had been raped, beaten or molested. (The number has since increased to 28, as four more of those interviewed have come forward).
The first Angela Shelton the filmmaker met rents out space to a foster care company. The interview rekindled the filmmaker’s memories of being in a foster home as a child.
“We were taken to a foster home and my parents were never prosecuted for what they did to us,” Shelton said. “And meeting these women let me see I wasn’t alone.”
Then there is the Angela Shelton who tracks sexual predators and just happens to live in the same town as the filmmaker’s father, who she says molested her and her stepsiblings for years.
“I never intended to confront my father, but it became inevitable,” Shelton said. “Ironically enough, it happened on Fathers Day.”
Shelton, who wrote the screenplay for the feature “Tumbleweeds,” an autobiographical film about Shelton’s relationship with her mother, never guessed her film would have such an impact.
“I had this plan to do this simple little film and life said to me, ‘I’m glad you have a plan, but this is what you’re going to do,'” Shelton said. “I found out it was more, much more than just a film, when I received 50,000 e-mails when it first came out.”
Shelton is hoping to get the word out about this issue through this film and is offering copies of it to rape crisis centers and women’s centers at half price, allow the agencies to sell the DVDs at full price.
“I want them (the agencies) to have a way to raise awareness and funds,” Shelton said. “I lost my publicist and agent because this wasn’t the Hollywood way. I could have sold it to a studio, who wanted to make it into a film starring Julia Roberts, but they would have been the ones making the money, not the people who need it.”
Amy Roth was so inspired by the film, she wanted to do something to help.
“I really couldn’t contribute enough money, so I decided to raise money by riding a bike over the Rocky Mountains,” Roth said. “I rode 280 miles and raised more than $2,000, which went towards making more DVD copies of the film.”
“I would like this film to be available to everyone, because there’s very few of us out there who have not had this sort of thing effect their lives in one way or another,” Shelton said. “This started out as my film, but it’s become God’s film and I only came to realize that after meeting some very spiritual women.”
While Shelton realizes the cause will always be a part of her life, she is looking at future projects.
“I’m finishing a book about the making of the movie and I have a comedy I’m dying to do that would be perfect for Jim Carey,” Shelton said. “And I’m getting a cut of the film ready for The Lifetime Channel, for showing next March.”
Shelton is also creating a foundation and a Web site designed to help others who find themselves in the predicament she was in as a child.
For more information on Shelton’s foundation or to find out how to buy copies of the film for fund-raisers and women and crisis centers, go to http://www.searchingforangelashelton.com.