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Producer Started In Basement On Streeter Now Grabs Attention Of Tribeca Film Festival

Posted 8/16/2017


HESSTON RECORD STAFFTHE Love Story, Rhodes Current work, has captured the attention of the Tribeca Film Festival.  
RHODES was instrumental in the filming of "Bender".THE Love Story, Rhodes Current work, has captured the attention of the Tribeca Film Festival. RHODES was instrumental in the filming of "Bender".


Shawn Rhodes launched his career into film making from the basement of his home on Hoover Road just outside of Hesston 23-years ago. Today, Rhodes, a 1988 Hesston High graduate and 1990 Hesston College graduate, has had a hand in the creation of “Bender” - the story of America’s first serial killer family. 

Bender was recently released on Netflix and on Google Play.  The film documents the story of the Benders on the Osage Trail in Kansas - setting up a small bed and breakfast general store for westward pioneers. However, for many travelers, the journey west ended at the Bender cabin, murdered by the family.

“That’s what was going on on the Osage Trail in 1874. It was literally the hottest news story in America for about five years,” said Rhodes.

Long-forgotten by the march of history, Rhodes said he was glad to be part of bringing Kansas history back to life and capturing the imaginations of a national audience.

“I was hired as the digital imaging technician - take the footage, check color, continuity, triple-redundant backup and get back with them.

“It ended up being a whole ton of stuff. I did everything from putting sunblock on pigs to securing the Ambassador Hotel and making sure people weren’t dying in the Flint Hills,” he said.

Filming on location for Bender, Rhodes said there was no power, no running water, “we’re in the boonies, how do we make this happen?”

With a budget of only $250,000, the film was produced on a shoestring.

“There are so many little things you have to think about because you’re shooting at night. You have cameras, batteries, boom mics. You’re going through a terrabite every two hours with a 4K camera.   Most films with a big budget have semi-trailers with everything they could possibly think they might need,” he said.

Rhodes’ long history in production made him an ideal candidate for the film.  His start in radio, and move to television production meant he had kept up with the changes in technology and knew the rhythm of production.

“I’ve produced and edited somewhere around 300-400 TV shows. The technology is almost identical. It’s a different outlet. It’s not cut, paste, play for eight minutes, commercial for four minutes, eight minutes, four minutes. It’s fun to branch out. It was a natural progression,” he said.

Even before beginning a movie career, Rhodes has had success as a creator and producer, beginning with Heavy Pork on Fox.

“The second year of Heavy Pork on Fox, we were nominated for two Billboard Music Awards. We didn’t even go. But we won one! We were nominated for a total of six. After doing that for so long, that led me back into doing more film stuff,” he said.

Today, Rhodes said his newest creation “The Love Story” has generated buzz at festivals ranging from the Tallgrass Film Festival all the way up to Tribeca. 

“It’s taken 17 years to get around to telling this story about the creator of funk,” he said.

The Love Story, Rhodes said, is not another rom-com, but a candid documentary about Rudy Love, “it’s the world’s first Funkumentary.” 

“If it wasn’t for Rudy Love, music as we know it today wouldn’t exist,” said Rhodes.

Digging into the story and putting it into less than two hours of film has been a major challenge, as Hollywood’s biggest movers and shakers were all affected by Love’s work in the music industry.

“You start pealing back the layers and find out that one of Rudy’s songs went platinum six times with other artists and never really got a cent out of it,” said Rhodes.

From teaching Marvin Gay some of his hits to having the owner of his record label murdered in a mob hit, Rhodes said, “Right here in Wichita, we have the craziest story about Rock and Roll anyone has ever heard,” he said.

Rhodes said while The Love Story is not complete, it takes time to sift through 70 years of music history and unearth the man behind the likes of Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Martina McBride, George Clinton and Fleetwood Mack. 

Rhodes said from the time he was a teenager, making waves in Hollywood, “is exactly what I thought I would be doing. I didn’t know it was going to take me this long.”

However, he said it took a lot of dedication, creativity and hard work.

“I didn’t accidentally end up here. I did radio and when that was being taken over, I move to Europe for a while, and when all the digital stuff was coming up I edited videos from VHS and, in my house on Streeter, I started transferring Super8 onto VHS. Then I started shooting weddings. I got a scanner and scanned people’s photos making montages.

“Then I started making commercials; then Heavy Pork. I needed a change of scenery and that led me back into film. And, I’m teaching at Butler College,” he said.

Throughout all of it, Rhodes never lost touch with his community.

“I’ve never wanted to leave the area in the first place. I was able to do all of this and not leave.  The myth is that you have to be in Hollywood to be able to do any of this and you don’t. You can do it all right here,” He said.