Andrew Shapter film explores myths and truths about cold case in Smithville
Texas filmmaker Andrew Shapter’s new film, The Teller and The Truth, will have its world premiere at the Austin Film Festival on Sunday, Nov. 1, with cast and crew on the red carpet at 8:05 p.m., screening at 8:45 p.m., at Stateside at the Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Avenue. Based on the haunting true story of a beautiful bank teller who disappeared in 1974 in Smithville, Texas, this one-of-a-kind work is an unusual blend of documentary, narrative, and silent film.
Francis Wetherbee is 24 years old and the subject of small-town gossip when she disappears from her hometown two weeks after her fiancé’s bank is robbed. Her car is found submerged in the river, but yields no clues. After a vigorous but futile search, the authorities give up, and Francis recedes into legend until the case is revisited 40 years later when key figures come forward with theories and clues surrounding her disappearance. The film then morphs from documentary style to narrative as the odyssey of Francis’ life unfolds for the audience and the truth is revealed.
Shapter was inspired to make the film after discovering new information about the 1970s bank robbery while scouting locations in Smithville.
“When I first saw Francis’ picture, I had to know more and never looked back,” Shapter says. “As we dug into the Texas story, it evolved into being a global search for clues and answers.” Shapter and his actors and crew ended up filming in France and India, and taking risks including filming a crucial scene on a real, moving freight train.
This is Shapter’s first full-length narrative feature. He had a 20-year career as a fashion photographer in major international markets before transitioning to film. His two previous projects are Before the Music Dies and Happiness Is.
“The premiere is bittersweet,” says Shapter, who patiently guided production for six years, largely due to filming in multiple countries on a tight budget, and while receiving cancer treatment off and on for two years.
The Teller and the Truth introduces lead actors Leilani Galvan and Russell Gustave Ochoa. The soundtrack is by veteran Austin composer Carl Theil, known for his work on Robert Rodriguez films, and features all original local music by Erin Ivey and Tosca Strings. Nevie Owens is the editor of the film.
Tickets for the premiere will be available at the door for $12. All attendees are invited to an after party with The Teller and The Truth cast and crew, at Vulcan Gas Company, 418 East 6th St. Unseen clips and photos from the film will be shown, snacks and drinks will be served, and a DJ will entertain.
The Austin Film Festival is the premier film festival recognizing writers’ contributions to film, television, and new media and takes place Oct. 29 through Nov. 5.