CONTEXT

There’s something beautiful about carrying your life on your back. About standing on a train platform, the weight of your pack on your shoulders, at once a reminder of everything you’ve already seen and everything you’ve yet to explore.

Where am I today? Where will I be tomorrow? Does it even matter at all? Having traveled together across several continents, we’ve faced these questions quite literally: packs at the ready, no knowledge of local languages, only a rough idea of where the train tracks lead. In an abstract way, these experiences have fueled “The Sheol Express”, distilling our world travels and struggles with religious faith into classic questions: What can we know for sure? How can we discern “truth” – assuming it even exists – and what does integrity compel us to do if we find it?

We’re excited to share with you a very personal story that has grown over two years. We hope it will speak to you as much as it has spoken to us.

- Mike & Ryan, June 2010

*Update February 2012: It has been almost three years since the fate of “The Sheol Express” hung in the balance of production on that soundstage in New York’s Greenwich Village. Since then, work has whisked us around the globe and back, opening our eyes to new stories and imparting new visions, but “Sheol” remains a watershed in both our personal and professional lives; a testament to the film’s magic and transporting power. Now as ever, we thank our team – as well as our audiences – for the parts they’ve played in making “Sheol” a success. May we build upon all we’ve learned and carry the fire it’s kindled far into the future.

SUMMARY

Tired of traveling the underworld, Owen Turner boards The Sheol Express, a fantastical train that ferries souls to their final resting place at the End of the Line.

En route, Owen meets Rachael, a visionary who proclaims the existence of Araboth, an alleged paradise near the second-to-last stop before the End of the Line. Contesting her claim is the charismatic peddler Diggory Venn, who is as critical of Rachael’s radicalism as he is appreciative of life’s luxuries. Scoffing at Rachael’s outlandish beliefs, Diggory encourages Owen to kick back, forget Araboth, and enjoy the ride to the End of the Line.

As The Sheol Express plows through the night, Owen wavers between the guarantee of a final resting place and the possibility of a better life: if he leaves the train before the End of the Line and Araboth is no more than Rachael’s wishful fantasy, Owen risks wandering the world alone. But if Araboth is more than a delusion, he stands to reclaim a hope he abandoned long ago.

Theatrical in style and ambitious in scope, “The Sheol Express” is a 27 minute fantasy film that grapples with doubt, faith, and the possibility of hope.

PROCESS

In the summer of 2008, two students at New York University – Michael Koehler and Ryan Patch – began writing the script that would become “The Sheol Express”, drawing inspiration from their world travels and struggles with religious faith.

The production team began to form in late 2008, attracting top talent from the Tisch School of the Arts as well as professionals from around New York City. In the spring of 2009, having chosen four lead actors from a pool of more than 1200 submissions, Mike and Ryan began rehearsals. Meanwhile, construction plans were drafted, costumes fitted, and the world of the story began to take shape in the basement of an East Village theatre. The production designers researched, designed, and constructed – among other sets – a thirty-foot train corridor entirely from scratch. Shotlists were written and rewritten as the film’s distinctive visual style matured.

On the first day of production, the sets were loaded onto the soundstage, and two days later the camera began rolling. Months of rehearsals paid off as everyone gave their all to every shot. When production wrapped at the end of April, the team had achieved its vision, and the baton was handed off to the “Sheol” post-production team. Since its completion in April 2011, “Sheol” has gone on to screen around the country.