Artist interview: Filmmaker René Ashton
René Ashton is a woman of multiple talents and interests. Her passion for acting has landed her more than 100 commercials and dozens of network television shows.
Not only does René act, she writes her own material. Her first film, the romantic comedy, BE MY BABY starring herself and Lacey Chabert is available on DVD and television worldwide. In 2010 she had three features optioned which lead her to form her own production company, Abundant Media, LLC. Since then René has joined the WGA and written and produced three spec television pilots. MILF MONEY, starring herself and Missi Pyle, won 10 out of 13 festivals entered. Her romantic comedy, SHRINK-ISH was just optioned and René will star in the film in 2018.
Directing seemed to be the next natural course of things, so René wrote, produced and directed the short film, SERIAL DATER and most recently completed writing/directing/producing/acting in the web series, 40’S AND FAILING. René co-produced, wrote, directed, and acted in THE CANDLE which is screening at FirstGlance Film Festival in October.
You’ve been acting for a long time and more recently moved into writing and producing too. What has that transition been like for you?
It's been great! I wish I would have started doing it sooner. This industry is changing so much and creating your own content gives you some control, even if it's just over your own content. I highly recommend that all aspiring actors write, direct and produce at least one project of their own. You'll learn a lot and it's quite empowering.
Have you always had an interest in horror?
I hate to be scared but so appreciate how horror movies can make my mind race and think "what if?" What I like most about The Candle is, it's a psychological horror. I don't know about you, but I've spent more hours than I care to admit thinking about what I want instead of being grateful for what I have and realizing that everything in my life is a choice. My choice. That's the theme of this movie and incorporating horror elements has been really fun.
You’ve got a great cast and crew involved in this project, was it difficult to pull together the right people?
Getting the amazing cast and crew was quite easy actually. Abbie Cobb played my daughter on a TV show a few years ago and I just knew we'd be friends and would work together again. I knew she had something special about he and she proved it on our set time and again. I wrote The Candle short with her in mind the whole time. I met Elaine Hendrix on a hike. Watching her love for her dog made me picture her as Ryder's Aunt but when she read the script, she wanted to play the mom. Done. My producing partner, Richard Joel, has been a dream. I've never met someone who does as much as I do. I'm grateful I pitched him the idea over drinks one night and he's been on board 110% since. Our composer, Rob Christie, was brought on board from Richard. Besides being a great composer, Rob is an amazing team player. No one asked him to write, compose and record a song for the credits and he did. And it's amazing! I cried when I heard it. A lot of the crew I've worked with before. I like to use the same people when I find ones I like who excel at what they do, are reliable and fun to have on set.
This is a short based on a feature length movie, what is the strategy behind that?
One of the great things about this business is there are no rules. There's no one strategy to getting a film made. We wanted to do the short version first as a proof of concept to help us build the brand and get an audience through the festivals which in turn may help us get financing and distribution for the feature. And I've had the idea for so long that I really wanted to direct the short with hopes of directing the feature.
You are promoting The Candle as a franchise. Have you already developed future projects?
The first feature is written and the next 5 are outlined.
What does a long term promotion strategy for a franchise look like?
The great thing about THE CANDLE being a franchise is, it's an open platform that allows us to cover all ages, races, demographics and timely topics. Everyone has a birthday. Everyone has a wish.
Are you using social media to promote The Candle?
Your cast is made up of experienced actors with a strong social media following. Is that an important part of building an audience for The Candle?
Having recognizable actors with a following certainly helps. Unfortunately (and fortunately for some) social media is now playing a bigger role than ever in getting financing. I recently got financing for another feature of mine and it's based on the two 20-something leads’ social media following.
Where are you taking The Candle from here? Do you have plans for distribution?
We just started the festival circuit but in the near future, we're taking THE CANDLE to a theater near you...after we get it financed, shoot it and have distribution in place. AKA, we are just starting to take meetings now for the feature. :-) We're grateful to have gotten into so many great festivals like FirstGlance where we have our world premiere opening night, October 6th, at The Kimmel Center where we are nominated with so many other great films!
What has been the best thing about working on The Candle?
As an actor, I'm reliant on my reps to get me auditions and then for producers/directors/ad agencies/studios to hire me. Creating, writing, directing, acting and co-producing THE CANDLE (and all my projects) fulfills my creative mo-jo and keeps me from sitting around complaining about not working. We as actors have to do more than that. And I'm very grateful that I love to do it all.