Decatur Co. native continues to work in films

Photo providedDecatur County native Dale Edwin Ernstes plays the role of a small town sheriff in “The Shade Shepherd.”

The movie “The Shade Shepherd” recently premiered at the Newport Beach Film Festival near Hollywood and will be shown again Wednesday.

At least 56,000 people are expected to attend the festival, which runs through Thursday.

The film is described as a thriller/drama and is set in the 1980s.

Decatur County native Dale Edwin Ernstes has a part in “The Shade Shepherd.”

“I am an old-time cowboy lawman, from another era. I’m wearing an old marshal’s badge, and work out of a small town police station,” Ernstes recently said. “In the movie, I wear a prop holster and six-gun. [I’m a] a cowboy type lawman!”

The screenplay was co-written by Jordon Hodges, a Goshen, Indiana, native who now lives in the Los Angeles area. Hodges also stars in the film with actor Randy Spence. Chris Faulisi, the director and co-writer, is also from the Los Angeles area. The film also stars Caroline Newton and Brett Baker.

Those closely connected with the film have years of experience in film making.

“A good deal of the movie was filmed in Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan,” Ernstes said. “The cast and crew were from all over the country.”

In the film, a psychiatrist leads his junkie older brother towards the Canadian border to escape a murder charge.

“It was probably the best experience ever in terms of being on set, dealing with a lot of creative and talented people, and being involved in the process,” Ernstes said regarding his work in the film.

“The Shade Shepherd” is expected to go from the Newport Beach Film Festival to other film festivals, eventually having a premiere in Indiana.

“I’m not sure yet where the film can be seen locally right now,” Ernstes said.

Ernstes has been involved with more than 55 film projects, some big and some small, many involving movies and TV series in Chicago. He turned up in a recent episode of Chicago Med, and is now working on a film that’s a spoof of Star Trek.

He has played many very different roles over the years including a federal agent, a priest, a lawyer, an admiral, a judge, a detective (several times), a wizard, a principal, a reporter, a 1920’s gangster enforcer, a Chicago Street worker, a Union soldier, a ghost, a crime scene investigator, a 1940’s orchestra member, a troll, a jail trustee, a policeman, an announcer, a radio personality, and even a short order cook. He continues to work as a TV reporter in South Bend.

Ernstes is the son of Howard and Mary Ernstes and has eight siblings, five brothers and three sisters.

He graduated from Greensburg High School in 1968 and went to Ball State. He then served in the U.S. Army in the Signal Corps from 1972 to 1975 including a one-year tour in Germany. He then went to an electronics school in Denver before he got his Master’s Degree in TV and Radio from San Diego State University. During his graduate year he interned at KFMB in San Diego.

Ernstes has spent his career as a television reporter, first at WTHI-TV in Terre Haute for more than two years. He then joined WSBT 22 News as a reporter in 1981. He originally covered the news of the South Bend area, but now covers the news around all of Elkhart County, Indiana. He has covered the news in the country and has been to Europe for WSBT 22 News.

Decatur County resident Pat Smith is a columnist and regular contributor to the Daily News. She may be contacted via this publication at

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