- Film Genre: Drama, Biography
- The film covers 63 years, and great attention was given to accuracy and detail. Unusual Films made extensive inquiry into costume, speech, and mannerisms of each of the periods shown.
- The film had about 800 cast members and 76 crew members, 45 horses, 7 mules, 6 chickens, 4 dogs, 3 cows, 2 cats and 1 turtle that participated during 32 months of production.
- Unusual Films traveled 188,000 miles, built 14 sets, refurbished 26 location sites, and shot 25 miles of film.
Sheffey—A True Story
For much of the 1800s, Robert Sayers Sheffey, an itinerant preacher, ministered to the mountain folk of the Virginias, Carolinas, and parts of Tennessee and Kentucky. Convinced that men needed to be shown the love of God, Sheffey rode the mountains and hollows to spread the light of the Gospel.
The screenplay for Sheffey was written by Tim Rogers, who also served as chief editor of the film. Although some names were changed, all events and characters are historical. These characters emerge as vital personalities, universal in the struggles they face within the framework of the film.
The screenplay was loosely based on the book, The Saint of the Wilderness by Jess Carr. This book became a regional best-seller immediately after publication in 1974, and in 1975, Unusual Films secured the rights to the book. Many of the actual events in the screenplay were gleaned from Jess Carr’s book.
Casting the Roles
Unusual Films Director Katherine Stenholm felt that she needed someone whose heart and life displayed the same qualities as the original Robert Sheffey to successfully portray the old circuit rider. She found such a man in the late Harold Kilpatrick, who was at the time pastor of a church near Atlanta. By circulating photos of Kilpatrick at age twenty, she discovered Kilpatrick’s young counterpart, Dwight Anderson. Their resemblance to each other and to the original Robert Sheffey is remarkable, and their screen performances blend together in a sensitive, historical re-creation of a much-loved preacher.
On-location scenes were filmed at such historic sites as Shakertown, Vance’s Birthplace, Pioneer Farmstead, John Oliver’s cabin at Cades Cove, the Cradle of Forestry, Walnut Grove Plantation, and Epworth Campground at Greenwood, SC. Thousands of feet of film were shot throughout Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
In addition to the on-location filming, fourteen sets were built on the sound stage of Unusual Films.
The musical score for Sheffey was composed and conducted by the former Dean of the School of Fine Arts and Communication, the late Dr. Dwight Gustafson. The music was performed by the members of the Bob Jones University Symphony Orchestra. All of the music recording and sound mixing was done in the sound facilities of Unusual Films.