Shipman was the screenwriter, director, star, and stunt woman in her movies. They featured strong women more likely to save men from danger than the other way around. Her pioneering included what by today’s standards would be a PG-rated nude scene of her showering beneath a waterfall. The movie was hyped with the slogan, “Is the nude, rude?” Shipman Point in Priest Lake State Park is named for this early film pioneer.
Tom Trusky, who “rediscovered” Shipman in his scholarly research, wrote the following about Nell in 2008 :“In the summer of 1922, Nell Shipman Productions moved from Spokane, Washington to its final residence, Priest Lake, in the Panhandle of North Idaho. There, the company would complete the shooting of what historians and silent film fans term Shipman’s magnum opus, The Grub-Stake (1922), and four noteworthy two-reel films in a series titled The Little Dramas of the Big Places (1924). Although Shipman and her crew could not have known it, this was sundown for the democratic, “Indie,” one-girl-do-it-all days of cinema. Dawn of the next day, the studio system and male movie moguls would define for decades what Hollywood meant, prior to the advent of television, Gloria Steinem, Sundance, satellite feeds, and online downloads.”
Trusky located all of the “lost” Shipman films, published her autobiography The Silent Screen and My Talking Heart, and established Boise State University as a major archival site for her work.
Many of her films are available online. Revival of interest in Shipman resulted in an award-winning 2015 documentary called Girl From God’s Country,” by Boise filmmaker Karen Day.