CFDb Interviews Ashley Raymer-Brown – Actress/Director
= > What led you to become an actress?
I had always liked the idea of acting, ever since being cast in the pivotal role of second flower on the left in an elementary school play. I then became enchanted with acting watching classic movies as a teenager: Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn; these were my master class instructors in technique.
I never really saw acting as a possible reality for me until age 19, when I saw a local community theatre production and literally fell in love. I looked at the lead actress and said to myself, “THIS–this is what I want to do.” Not necessarily be the lead, that seemed pretty intimidating at the time, but just be on the stage.
I’m very happy to report that within 18 months of that initial declaration, I was on stage. My first part was very small (only four lines) but soon after that, a director took a HUGE chance on me and gave me a larger, comedic part that I adored.
I went on to try my hand at musical comedy after that in the show “Radio Gals,” and a year later, I was the supporting lead in “Carousel” to the actress whom I had so admired. That remains one of my favorite memories of my theatrical career.
I went on to perform in several more shows, both comedy and drama, and eventually graduated to writing shows and then directing them.
The entire arc was from a seat in the audience in 1999 to directing one of the headlining shows in 2008. And I was completely self-taught or learned from the people I was watching. It was a fantastic experience.
Always looking for something new and challenging, I transitioned to film in 2009 and have been waffling between the two mediums since then, but decidedly more in the film realm for now.
= > Tell us about your first leading role?
I tend toward more character acting, so even my first ‘leading’ role would be considered a ‘supporting lead.’ I played Rosalind Hay in the show, “Moon Over Buffalo.” I was 21 and completely new. But everyone took me under their collective wings and I fell in love with my cast mates, and had an incredible time learning and growing in the part. The man who played my father left a lasting impression on me. He was so supportive and had a wonderful laugh. You always knew when he was in the room. He loved life and he loved performing. He passed a couple years ago, but when I wrote my first feature screenplay, he is one of the men I named a character in my film after.
= > Describe for us how you got the role as Evelyn Jones in ‘No Lost Cause’?
That was a pretty easy process compared to the rest of my acting career. Rachael wrote the part with me in mind and asked if I would play it. I love doing accents, so Evelyn was original written as a “slow-talking southerner,” but after trying it, we mutually felt that sounding so much more southern than the rest of the cast was more distracting than humorous.
= > Was this the first film that you directed? Please tell us more about the film.
“No Lost Cause” is the story of Beth Ann Collins, a young woman who is tragically paralyzed after a drunk driving accident. She is forced to live with Billy, her estranged father, as a result. Doctors give her very little hope: if she is to recover, it must be within the next six months.
Beth Ann’s cruelty and spitefulness toward anyone who crosses paths with her increases each day as the chances for a full recovery drift further and further away. But Billy won’t give up on her, nor will the people who love her unconditionally. They have faith in something more powerful than a doctor’s diagnosis.
It was shot completely in the rural areas of Kentucky with all Kentucky actors and crew. It was the first feature film that I directed. I had several years of experience in directing stage shows, but this was my first try at screen directing. By this point, I had been an extra in a film, and had worked as a Production Assistant for about 2 months during another film, so I had a rough idea of how the two differed.
I was in charge of the emotional side of “No Lost Cause.” My passion lies with generating real, authentic performances from the actors and helping them portray the emotions of the characters in a way that will resonate with viewers. I mixed the two experiences of stage and screen and would have a day of rehearsals for the main actors, where we would talk about the upcoming scenes, the emotions involved in them, and what we wanted to convey. Then, when on set, it was not uncommon to get a performance take I was satisfied with and then ask them, “How would YOU do this?” and let them have complete freedom on the final take.
In the editing process, it was 50/50 on choosing my version of the take vs. their version. I just chose what I thought was the most authentic and true to the character. However, it certainly helped the actors become more comfortable, to know that they would have complete freedom.
= > How has God led in your film career?
I have tried to keep God involved in every project that I undertake. When I was heavily involved in acting or directing for the stage, I only chose projects that I felt were family oriented, or honorable to my character and to God. I wouldn’t use profane language and I didn’t take any parts that I felt were degrading.
Now, I have done some work that’s had it’s outrageous, silly or saucy moments, but that’s also life. Life is outrageous, silly and messy and saucy sometimes. I’ve even written things that had very dark subject matter, but I handle it in such a way that it’s real, not degrading.
I anticipate the same for my film career. I want to portray real people with real problems or circumstances, good and bad. I even wouldn’t mind playing the ‘bad’ guy, but I’m not going to do anything with subject matter that’s a disservice to my faith.
So far, I feel God has rewarded me for my choices. This hasn’t been a popular path, or one that’s been easy, but it’s been very fulfilling.
= > How can people learn more about you and your work?
Right now, I am working on developing a website for my company, but it’s still in the planning stages. The best way to learn about “No Lost Cause” is on Facebook via www.facebook.com/NoLostCauseMovie. We had a website for the film, but it’s currently being streamlined and revamped. We wanted to put all of our interviews/media in one convenient location. I’m sure we’ll post a link to that on Facebook once we get it up and running. Our distributor, Destiny Image, has a website for the film as well, www.NoLostCauseDVD.com. It has the trailer, plot summary and the bios of the main cast and crew.
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