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New Bern native stars in film set in NC

By John Swartz, Online Managing Editor
Published On: Oct 17 2012 09:36:44 AM CDT
Updated On: Oct 17 2012 03:51:57 PM CDT

A young actress trying to make it onto the big screen has turned to her hometown in an effort to make her dream come true.

New Bern native Kristi Ray is in the midst of drumming up some buzz about her most-recent project Pieces of Talent, a psychological thriller that was shot throughout Eastern North Carolina, including New Bern, Wilmington and Fayetteville.

Set in a small North Carolina town, Ray plays a young actress who gets caught up with a local filmmaker whose dark side that has him obsessed with making his “true art.” Ray’s character quickly becomes the obsession of the filmmaker, and she has no idea what she’s signed up for. You can watch the trailer here.

The film was screened earlier this year at the New Bern Civic Theatre, and is now available to view online throughout October. The 90-minute film hasn’t received a rating yet, but Ray said it’s probably not fit for those under 15.

This film is something that Ray has been working toward for a long time. After catching the acting bug at an early age, it spread throughout middle and high school as Ray appeared in shows at the New Bern Civic Theatre and with the Rivertowne Repertory Players.  Off the stage, Ray was in the National Honor Society and was cheerleading captain at New Bern High School.

Ray even choreographed and organized the flash mob at last year's MUMFEST.

In a chance to catch up with Ray, it was evident that she is enthusiastic about her craft.

WCTI: So I guess it’s fair to say you are passionate about performing. What’s your favorite thing about being an actor?

RAY: I've been trained in method acting through a full scholarship to The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute here in New York. We learn how to use experiences to express our character's inner needs. That's what makes the work so real and relatable. I love a challenge, becoming someone else. It's therapy. Acting is my way of making people feel, and while doing it I constantly learn about myself. It's an expressive art where you are channeling emotions and experiences to help others relate. I'm in love with more than just acting. I love filmmaking as a whole. The beauty of coming together to tell a story with words and images, especially when it's something you've invested yourself in so deeply.  I've always felt that I could be content making art with passionate people for the rest of my life. It's more than a career, it's a calling. 

WCTI: Switching gears a little bit, how’d you get involved in the Pieces Of Talent project, and how’d it all come together?

RAY: I responded to a casting call in May of 2010 based out of Wilmington. The production company (Shutter Blade Media) was looking for a 20- to 25-year-old female for the lead role in their film. They sent me an excerpt of the script to prepare for the audition. After learning a little more about the character, I realized I needed to do some heavy research. Charlotte was an angsty, punk, smokes-a-pack-a-day type of girl. I had to learn to smoke and look cool doing it and get a little grungy. But something just clicked in the room when I read for the role. Director Joe Stauffer and writer Dustin Lewis immediately gave me a callback and it all progressed from there.  They had been fleshing out this script for nearly two years and when I signed on we began principal photography in September of that year. It was a long, hard journey but all the blood, sweat and tears are what make this film so special. I can't begin to describe to you the trials we've been through, nor the on-set chemistry and friendships built. The vast amount of talent that went into making this film behind-the-scenes is incomparable to anything I've ever been a part of. We have an amazing crew, a dedicated team, a true family.

WCTI: Woah, you picked up smoking for the role! Had you ever smoked before, even in high school or something? Were they real cigarettes or those herbal ones we’ve all heard some actors use, or is that just a Hollywood myth?

RAY: Haha, never touched a cigarette in my life until three days before the audition. I went to buy a pack at the tobacco shop on MLK and got the clerk to teach me how to open it "naturally" and how to hold them. And my friends sat at Union Point with me huffing and puffing and trying to inhale. They were real cigarettes on set. We made special casing for the pack and called them Duke Fire's to honor someone who donated a lot to our project. The only time we used herbal tobacco was the sunrise scene where Charlotte (my character) shares a blunt with the male antagonist. And for the record, I don't miss it at all and haven't touched a cigarette since!

WCTI: So to set the record straight – real tobacco, but fake marijuana, right?

RAY: Yes and yes.

WCTI: Hear that kids? No need for weed. OK, back to the movie. What did you think of making a horror-psycho thriller? When you watched it, was it scarier to make or to watch?

RAY: Well, here's the thing. The movie is not THAT scary. It's marketed as a horror film but I don't think it necessarily fits in that genre. It evokes feelings and emotions and questions from the audience that a shallow slasher movie won't. It is definitely not scary for me to watch at all! I've seen the film dozens of times and worked on post production – editing, ADR work, re-shooting, even rewriting – for several months that my entire perspective is skewed. I can honestly say making the film was the most enjoyable and best experience of my life and also the hardest. The scariest scene of the film, at the end of the movie, was of course emotionally compelling and challenged me as a performer to "get there" over and over and make it believable but at the end of each take you see this amazing supportive team of your best friends around you, and you're absolutely not afraid. You can't possibly be anything but overjoyed.

WCTI: So what’s next for you guys on this project; you can view online now, but are you hoping to hit some silver screens in the near future?

RAY: The online pre-release is intended to gain momentum and grassroots support for the film. We are looking to secure distribution and are currently in talks. It's all very exciting. A theatrical release would be ideal, we will have to wait and see. The idea is that you sell the film for enough money to make a new one. If the right important person sees it and wants to buy the rights to it we could be seeing it on the big screen. 

WCTI: What about you; any new projects on the horizon?

RAY: Actually yes, someone at a production company here in NY recently saw Pieces of Talent and offered me a supporting role in their feature film shooting this winter. I'm on the train heading to two auditions at the moment, had six last week so things are picking up. A film like this can give you a lot of momentum if the right people see it. 

WCTI: So, I guess the people of New Bern might be able to see you on the big screen before too long?

RAY: I'm working hard to make that happen. No dream is too big. 

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More info:
Pieces of Talent trailer
Watch Pieces of Talent online