Sent for reasons unknown to her, a shy teenage girl struggles to survive the horrors of an abusive religious reform school." For reasons unknown to her, fifteen year old Rhiannon Murphy is thrown into a van and sent to Chalcedon, an abusive Christian reform school. Under the cruel tutelage of her teachers, Rhiannon must find the courage to survive. Her perilous struggle will force her to confront her values, her identity, and her trauma. The script of False Shepherd is written by Dawson Roebig.
Dawson first discovered his passion for the arts while acting in a stage production of "The Three Musketeers". Encouraged by friends and family, he wrote and directed his first play, "Turbulence", an outlandish one act comedy. After studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC, he returned home to Florida to work in film, theatre, and radio. Most recently, Dawson wrote and co-produced the award-winning short film, "Jericho Road".
In addition to writing and acting, Dawson serves as Executive Producer for Antrim Road Productions. Founded in 2019, Antrim Road Productions supports new, innovative approaches to storytelling. Its team embraces an unorthodox vision of storytelling grounded upon inclusiveness, diversity, open collaboration, and aesthetic freedom.
What draws you to writing scripts?
I have a passion for writing. As a kid, I loved to come up with plays and short stories. For me, writing is a window through which I can reveal my deepest thoughts and convictions. I also love cinema. There’s something special about an audience bonding together over a movie. The story brings them together. The film unites the audience and causes them to reflect. As a screenwriter, it’s rewarding to be a part of the community that creates these experiences.
How and when did you start studying screenwriting?
I started writing screenplays after my studies at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. My training as an actor helped me as a writer. In many ways, they both involve the same skill set. As an actor, you always need to be actively listening and observing behavior. At the same time, you need to look inward. You also have to strike a certain balance between authenticity and characterization. When you all these combine with your own unique expression, the work can come to life. As Martin Scorsese says, “The most personal is the most creative”
What makes writing scripts stand out to you in the language of cinema?
I’m drawn to stories about power and perception. Screenplays challenge me to explore those complex ideas in a way that’s accessible.. Through conflict and compelling imagery, cinema taps into the collective unconscious. The simplest picture, the smallest facial expression, even the slightest gesture can communicate something profound.
Do you ever plan to direct and produce one of your scripts?
In 2019, I produced my screenplay, “Jericho Road” with Antrim Road Productions. It was an honor to film this project alongside an amazing cast and crew. My experience on “Jericho Road” taught me that filmmaking is a creative tapestry. Every single person contributes their unique vision to help bring a story to life. After the pandemic ends, I plan to produce more of my screenplays with this same talented team of artists.
Tell us more about your script and the inspiration behind the writing of your script.
“False Shepherd” began when I came across the insidious world of the “troubled teen industry”. I found myself outraged by startling first-hand accounts of torture, child abuse, and indoctrination in these camps. It was the testimony of these courageous survivors that inspired me to write this screenplay.
What were some of the challenges of writing your script and the research that went into it?
My research into the troubled teen industry took an emotional toll on me. As I traveled deeper into my research, I realized that there’s no limit to the cruelty that people are capable of. Every time I struggled, I thought of the children abused in these facilities. I reflected upon the survivors and the adults they had become. I admired the heroic activism of organizations such as “Breaking Code Silence” and “The White House Boys”. Those inspirations kept me writing.
What is your cinematic goal in life and what would you like to achieve as a writer?
My cinematic goal is to grow as an artist. With every new project, I strive to keep developing my craft. By becoming a better storyteller, I hope to make films that push boundaries and challenge audiences to examine uncomfortable truths.
What kind of impact would your work have in the world and why do you think these themes are important in your script?
I want to shine a spotlight on trauma and institutional abuse. My hope is that this screenplay not sparks a conversation on the troubled teen industry, but all forms of child abuse. This is a social justice issue that we can no longer simply ignore. At its essence, “False Shepherd” explores how darkness transforms us. Trauma confronts us with painful questions. It’s only when we answer those questions, that we can finally begin to heal. If this project can make even one survivor feel less alone, then this screenplay will be a success for me.