Local filmmaker Rachel Noll James is raising funds for a new supernatural independent project Ingress that will be shot exclusively on Bainbridge Island.
Noll James’ crew will also be training locals who are interested in being part of the production to earn film credits and grow the film industry locally.
“I really wanted to let this be kind of a community opportunity,” she said. “One thing I’ve come to learn about Seattle is that there’s so many artists and aspiring filmmakers here but there’s not a whole lot of opportunity yet for people to live and work here. Most of the best people it seems like are leaving to go to L.A. or New York. I like the idea of bringing sort of an internship aspect to the production. That’s how we grow the local film scene.”
She mentioned she would love to find a space on the island to build a facility for special effects and other technological components of film where “we can conceive any project in any location and shoot it here.”
Through her work with production company Emergence Films, which she helped found with Sienna Beckman to support female-identifying filmmakers and underrepresented storytellers, a group of experienced film professionals will provide training for locals to receive film credits. Noll James said she has a few spots left to fill. Local trainees will not be paid for their work.
“The goal is to give people who don’t have the experience the chance to try it out and learn while also getting a credit on the film,” she said. “We are going to put everyone in a specific position.”
Her goal is to have $25,000 donated for pre- and post-production of Ingress. So far, her film team has raised $10,000 but they need another $5,000 to start production in November. That leaves $15,000 left for post-production, which can be received at a later time. Donors can make tax-deductible contributions that come with film-related perks, such as a film credit, invitation to the premiere and to the wrap party with the cast.
If you are interested in donating or being one of the local trainees, contact Noll James at Rachelnoll.com.
Conception of Ingress
Ingress, which Noll James will be directing, writing and starring in, is about a woman who can move between parallel realities who loses her husband tragically and seeks the help of a spiritual channel to find her way back to him. She said the idea has been on her mind for the past few years.
“I was really inspired by the island and the landscape here. It’s kind of rooted in a few things that are personal to my life. Part of it is parallel realities in a multiverse, which is something I’ve always found really fascinating,” Noll James said, noting that she used to talk about quantum physics with her father who was a physicist and physics teacher.
“It also delves into some things I’ve gone through in my own life around relationships and coming to terms with who I am and ways that I’m weird and unique,” she went on to say. “When you finally accept yourself you find others who are like you. There’s some aspects of mental illness and the way we judge ourselves and others being broken or wrong in some way and the power of self-acceptance.”
The movie is going to be filmed at various BI places such as Bay Hay & Feed, BI Museum of Art, Grand Forest, the Labyrinth, downtown, houses, beaches and other areas that she’s waiting on for approval.
“This will be the first thing I’ve shot up here,” Noll James said. “COVID kind of threw a wrench in things for a while there.”
Noll James said the film is in the early pre-production phase, which means “there’s a million little details rattling around in my brain.” She’s finished up her storyboard and is starting to meet with department heads about the vision of Ingress. On the flip side, she is also finalizing crew and cast. “Things are about to get really busy,” she said.
Noll James hopes Ingress will be released by winter of 2022. She said there will be an initial premiere for the cast, crew and their loved ones at the Lynwood Theatre. She is working with Far Away Entertainment (owner of Lynwood and Bainbridge Cinemas) to see if they can have showtimes for the public.
“We’ll also be submitting to festivals,” Noll James said. “Ideally, we’ll get a distribution deal where either people will be able to stream it or it will get a wider release. We’ll get it out as widely as we can.”
Noll James grew up in Santa Fe, NM and moved to Los Angeles to attend Occidental College (liberal arts school) as a theater major. While in school, she was primarily focused on acting. Upon graduating, she spent her first four years of acting in L.A. “doing the whole working actor thing; driving around town, going to auditions.”
“I reached a point where I was just feeling really burnt out on the working actor hustle,” she said. “You can feel like you don’t really have control over your destiny because you’re always relying on someone to say yes to you.”
Upon reaching a crossroads in her career, Noll James thought she’d delve into other aspects of film like writing and directing. She mentioned a fantasy book she loved as a teen that she adapted into a screenplay, just for fun and to see what the process was like. Although she did not know it yet, the rest was history.
“I did that and I kind of fell in love with screenwriting. Then I fell into this opportunity in a workshop I was taking with this film producer in L.A. where I ended up actually co-writing a script with a friend of mine and then producing the film and acting in it,” Noll James said, referring to the film Don’t Pass Me By, which she won an award for Best Feature Writer at the L.A. Femme Festival.
“That project was very much my film school crash course,” she went on to say. “Everything went wrong that could go wrong, and I learned a lot. We managed to pull this film together and get it out into the world. That kind of lit this spark in me of storytelling in its entirety and how empowering it felt to be able to create my own opportunities.”
Noll James and her husband moved to Bainbridge about four years ago, citing they needed something different from the chaos of L.A. She said her parents moved to Port Townsend from Santa Fe about 13 years ago, and she would always travel through Bainbridge when she would come up from California to visit them.
“Bainbridge kind of just stuck in my brain…and it’s turned out to be such a perfect choice,” she said.
According to IMDb, Noll James has 23 acting credits, nine writing credits, eight producer credits and five directing credits in her career. To date, she’s only directed short films so Ingress will be her first directed feature film. She’s also never directed and acted in a feature film.
“It’s been something I’ve wanted to try and do,” she said. “So far…I’ve only directed my own stuff. I think there’s a lot to be said for doing everything yourself on a project but there’s also a lot of fun to be had in collaborating with other people.”
Noll James said she does try to mix up the genres of her films but they do tend to lean toward dramas, thrillers and SciFi.
“I got some projects in development that are kind of time-travel based,” she said. “I’ve got a western that’s a love story. They’re all character-driven pieces. The plot of the story is very much focused around the journeys the characters are undergoing.”
As a woman, Noll James said there have been some bumps in regard to being respected and taken seriously, which ultimately led her to start Emergence Films.
“We found, unfortunately, when we were shopping our projects around, there were a lot of meetings we’d have where we’d leave and go, ‘Why didn’t that go well?’” she said. “Then we’d think about it and go, ‘Oh, it’s because we’re female.’ It’s subtle but it’s there. It’s changing but it’s changing slowly. Emergence Films was founded from that shared passion.”
“These things that we kind of accepted as the norm, all of a sudden we were going, ‘Well, wait a minute. This isn’t fair and maybe it doesn’t have to be this way,’” Noll James went on to say. “That became an initiative for companies to be founded. Now, in the last few years, we’re starting to see the Oscars and other awards being more inclusive. Not just for women, but for minorities as well. It’s been a very white-male-driven industry for a very long time. It just takes time to turn that shift around but I do see it happening.”
In October, Noll James will be acting in the rock musical LIZZIE with inD Theatre, a local independent theater on Bainbridge. She said local theater has been an “important part of my time here on the island.”
Through thick and thin, Noll James has found her place on Bainbridge and is starting to see the fruits of her labor.
“This is my love,” she said about film. “Through all the life changes and frustration of Hollywood and everything that came with that, I never lost my love for storytelling. I’m really excited for the possibilities that opened up when I moved up here.”