INTERVIEW: Jake Raymond on Ashes, Writing and Gymnastics
Jake Raymond completed his feature film, Ashes, which will be making the festival circuit starting with a world premiere at the 2017 Milledgevile Film Festival in Georgia. The film is about a man who explores and experiences his grief in losing his parents by fulfilling their final wishes. Jake talks to us about creating, writing and what inspires him. Check out the interview below.
Tell us about Ashes and your character, Liam. What was it like playing a character who experienced tragedy and going through that journey?
Ashes is a passion project and my first feature film as a writer and producer. The motivation for the film was to create an acting opportunity for myself and my friends. There are so many talented actors these days, most of the time just getting an audition is a win in itself, so I wanted to write a script that I could cast my friends in and give us all an opportunity to work together. Along the way I found a whole new love for film-making and I’m excited to continue my career not only as an actor, but also as a filmmaker.
In the story, we find my character Liam, after discovering his parents’ final wishes are to have their ashes scattered where they first met. Joined by his closest friends, they set out to explore the place for themselves as they navigate old memories while creating new ones.
It is definitely my most challenging role to date and also offered the biggest breakthroughs I’ve ever had in my acting career. As an actor that tends to get cast in more comedic roles, I wanted to challenge myself and really dive into the vulnerability of this character. I’m very fortunate to still have both my parents in real life and they were actually on set with us everyday doing the catering and craft services for the film (they are incredibly supportive). As terrifying as it was to imagine my life without them, there was an immediacy in having them so close to set that really lent itself to finding the honesty in Liam’s loss. It pushed me to go to some scary places as an actor and I think it’s that ability that makes for the most captivating performances.
What are your favorite movies? Which ones influenced you the most?
My two favorite movies of all time are The Sandlot and Dazed and Confused. They’re classics. The film that influenced me the most for Ashes though was actually an independent film I was cast in a few years ago entitled Liminality. It was a micro budget film that ended up looking like a big budget film. I was so inspired with what they were able to create and remember the premiere of the film being the place I first felt the desire to make my own movie. I am incredibly thankful for my experiences on “Liminality”and was fortunate enough to get the same cinematographer (Danny Dunlop) and composer (Spencer Creaghan) for “Ashes”— a very lucky win for me.
Is there a type of character you enjoy playing the most, or do you have a dream role?
As mentioned, I tend to get cast in more comedic roles… particularly characters that aren’t very nice. Don’t get me wrong, I love these characters and they’re so fun to play— but there was a joy in finding the honesty and subtlety in Liam that really landed with me as an actor. These are definitely the type of characters I would like to play more of and will continue to write for myself.
As far as a dream role, I’m often told I resemble one of my favorite actors, Eddie Redmayne, so I’m determined to play his brother in a movie one day. He is such a gifted actor and it would be an absolute honor to work with him.
Ashes was actually my first venture into writing and it was early 2015 that I started on that script… so just over two years now. I love the freedom in writing and the ability to put exactly what’s in my head on a page. As a creative person, my imagination is always running wild, so it’s cool to see those thoughts turn into a script and something tangible.
The film you are currently writing, Chalk, is about your own experiences as a gymnast. What can we expect to see in Chalk? Will it be a very personal movie for you?
Writing Chalk has been an incredibly personal experience so far. Not fulfilling my own Olympic dreams as a gymnast is one of the biggest regrets of my life and turning that into a script has been a bit like therapy. I’m really focusing in on my own regrets with the sport and essentially looking to live out my Olympic dreams on the big screen. It’s been a fine balance of finding the truthful moments and combining them with fictional story elements to round out an entertaining feature film. I’m excited to see where the script will go. The biggest win in this whole process has been resuming my elite gymnastics training, with the help of the MatéBros team (www.matebros.com), in preparation to play the lead character in the film.
What do you love the most about being a creative person?
The freedom to indulge in my own imagination. There’s something really special about taking a thought from your brain and turning it into a piece of art. It allows you to share your experiences with others.
If you could create your own superhero movie, starring yourself, what kind of superpowers would you have and what would it be about?
Awesome question! I think with my gymnastics background I would definitely want to see a lot of acrobatics in the film. The superhero would use gymnastics as a form of martial arts to fight the bad guys and then back flip to safety.
Follow Jake on Twitter at @Actor_Jake.