Rachel Noll James was recently interviewed by TheCelebrity.Online Magazine and below is the Q&A session we had with her.
Rachel Noll James As Cover Story – November 2023 Edition
Please share your background.
I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico and moved to LA when I was 18 to pursue film and acting. I was a theater major at Occidental College and then went on to study Meisner technique with The Ruskin School of Acting. My first few years in LA I was very focused on auditioning and acting, but I quickly got tired of the audition runaround and feeling like I had no ownership in my creative destiny, so I started to create my own work. I adapted a young adult novel into a screenplay to teach myself about screenwriting, and then fell into an opportunity to write and produce a low budget film called “Don’t Pass Me By” which became my crash course in film production. I wrote, produced and acted in the film, and won “Best Feature Writer” at the LA Femme Festival for the script. I then began to create as much as I could. I wrote scripts, made short films and commercials, and began developing my next feature script “The Storyteller” which was the project that introduced me to Dan Clarke, our wonderful cinematographer for Ingress. Soon after, I co-founded Emergence Films with my producing partner Sienna Beckman and we began working together on a slate of projects. In 2017, I moved from Los Angeles to the Pacific Northwest and the beautiful community where we shot Ingress and are now filming our next feature film Inheritance.
Childhood to Adulthood – How was your transition from childhood to adulthood and what are the bad and good things you remember?
I am lucky to have a very supportive family who are artists and entrepreneurs themselves and have always been very supportive of me. I never felt pressure to be any particular thing or chart any particular path, I was always given the support and encouragement to find my own way. Transitions have always been hard for me, so those big life moments definitely built my grit and resilience – going to college, moving out on my own for the first time, moving through formative relationships until I met my husband, Devin. I don’t really look back at my childhood or early adulthood in terms of good things or bad things, because I truly believe that every experience I have had in my life has shaped me into who I am now, and I wouldn’t change any of those experiences, no matter how difficult they may have been in the moment. I am definitely growing in self awareness and self trust as I get older, and looking back at my formative years, I can see the ways in which I spent so much time worrying about what others thought of me and fitting in that I had a hard time really knowing who I was and what I wanted. With each passing year I feel that shifting – and the freedom and joy that comes from living for myself first is something that has impacted my life and work immeasurably.
Struggle – What hardships have you gone through in life?
We all have our struggles. Mine have primarily come from self identity. I was always a people pleaser and a bit of a control freak – both which came from a deep place of anxiety that I would end up alone if I didn’t fit in with everyone else. I became very good at reading a room, at blending with whoever was popular or acceptable, at becoming a very carefully curated version of myself to ensure I was always accepted and included. The problem with this, as I got older and started pursuing my art, is that I was always trying to assess what casting directors or producers or audiences were looking for, and make myself into that thing – rather than just showing up as myself. So in my early days in the industry, no one really knew what to do with me or the things I created because they couldn’t see who I was. This has been my work over the last decade. To shed the need for approval and acceptance, and be willing to step out as myself and share my voice and my feelings and opinions regardless of how they are received. Ingress is the most vulnerable and personal piece I have put into the world to date – it reflects much of my “weird” as well as my thoughts, feelings and personal journey…. and it has been absolutely incredible to hear people’s feedback on how THEY feel seen and understood in watching this film… because when we are willing to show up vulnerably, we give others permission to do the same. And that is what art is for. Right?
What do people usually not know about you?
I find small talk exhausting. I love to know all the gooey confusing complicated things going on inside of someone and find real connection points. I can be very extroverted if I am with people I know and love, but I need time alone to recharge. I have a hard time investing myself in something I don’t believe in. I am fascinated by the unexplainable things in this life and all we don’t understand yet. I love to explore possibilities. I try to always find the opportunity in a situation and look toward challenges as learning opportunities. I love knowing that something I have said or created has impacted someone’s life in a positive way. I have to always be creating in some capacity – it is my life force.
What sets you apart from your competitors in the industry and in life?
We all have a perspective that is completely unique. And the older I get, the more I am embracing and appreciating my own unique perspective. I am a work in progress, and I am always working on myself… the way I see it, the more I can open myself up and understand what makes me tick, the richer my canvas becomes for all the creative work that I do. This is the beauty of storytelling. I can be given a prompt that a hundred other people have been given, and the story I create will be unlike anyone else’s. This is why I don’t really believe that I have “competition” in the way this question implies… because we are all bringing our own unique perspective to the work, and that perspective will connect with people who vibrate on that same frequency. I really believe every person and every story has an audience, and to connect with that audience we need to have the courage to show up in our work with vulnerability and truth. This is why I am so passionate about representation in storytelling and film. For decades we have primarily seen one perspective on the world when we go to the movies, and so many people have been left out of this equation… When you see someone witness themselves in a character or a story, it is absolutely transformative on both sides.
What are your upcoming major events – Unforgettable Moments or products/services that you want to promote/inform?
Ingress has completed its festival run and will be released in early 2024. I am incredibly excited to share this special film with the world. Feedback from early screenings and festival audiences have been absolutely incredible. People tell me they find themselves talking and thinking about the film for days afterward, and some have even said it has changed the way they think about their relationships with family members or people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. I’m humbled and so excited to get this film out to the world and see what audience is waiting to receive it.
I am now currently in production on our next Emergence Films production – a feature film called Inheritance. This is a script I have been living with for almost 10 years, with a passionate female creative team who has been working and waiting for the right moment to bring this story to life. Cast includes myself, Austin Highsmith Garces, Wes Brown, Michelle Hurd, Chris Mulkey, Brian Mcnamara, Cynthia Geary and Dana Sparks.
What expert advice would you like to give?
Be patient. I can say this because I was the most impatient person alive when I started. I thought if it didn’t happen for me in 6 months I was a failure. I thought if other people weren’t giving me their praise and validation I was a failure. The patience piece is as much about giving yourself time to create tenure for your work and your talents, but also to grow into yourself, get to know the industry, and really get clear on what you want and WHY you want it.
Find your want to. There are a million reasons people want to work in this industry. What is your reason? It wasn’t until I was into my early 30s that I had the shocking realization that I didn’t even know why I wanted the things I had been working so hard to achieve. It started out as a love of the creative process, but along the way I had lost that in pursuit of validation and acceptance. I lost the love of the process in pursuit of the end result. I had to do some serious soul searching to come back to my true want, and pivot my whole approach to put myself and my enjoyment of the process front and center again.
Remember that the process is the prize. It’s amazing how easy it is to start dreaming someone else’s dream if you aren’t paying attention. Hollywood is an industry of glamour, product and reverence. All that dazzle can be a distraction that has you so focused on comparing yourself to others or focusing on those external validations that you forget why you used to love this. Don’t let that happen. If you are in this for the long haul, find your love of the process. The process is what comprises 90% of your life.
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