RASPBERRY JAM PRESS
By Gary Murray
With her thick glasses and shy demeanor, Courtney Ware looks more like an undergraduate literature student than a filmmaker. The young woman is presenting her short feature Raspberry Jam at the Dallas International Film Festival as a part of the shorts program. It is the first festival she submitted the work to and the first acceptance. “We are one for one,” she quipped.
Where more of these short works are opening chapters for longer works, Raspberry Jam is a complete tale. In a scant eight minutes it tells the story of Stephen McMurphy, a family man caught in circumstances beyond his grasps. It is an almost fairy tale telling of the fiction, to the point of having a leprechaun as the narrator.
Attending the press conference with Courtney were her two main actors of the work, Andrew Sensenig (Stephen McMurphy) and Frank Mosley (Leprechaun). Andrew is a rarity in Dallas, a working actor. He is a face that has been seen on TV and commercials as well as films such as I Love You Phillip Morris and W. Frank Mosley is an actor/director/producer with numerous credits on both sides of the camera. Both had worked on different projects with Courtney as a producer.
These seasoned professionals were ecstatic to be on hand to help out the novice director and talk of their work in the film. They both praised the young woman and Andrew said that she was more prepared for her three day shoot than some Hollywood directors with full crews. Frank was even more direct saying, “I would have done anything for Courtney Ware. If she would have wanted this leprechaun to fly I would have taken a dive off the roof.” Andrew was just as elated with working with the director. “I’m really excited about this one and hopefully it will keep leading to others,” he said. “This girl is going places, big time.”
On how the project came together, Courtney explained. “The writer Mike Maden and I are partnering in a project called Sunny in the Dark. Mike sent me Raspberry Jam on something completely unrelated about a year and a half ago. I read the script and loved it. In September I decided ‘we’re gonna shoot it’.”
“I used to hate short films because I thought you couldn’t do anything with them other than run the festival circuit,” said Courtney. “My mind really changed on that when I decided that short films are a great way to hone your craft and they are a great way to get together and bring people together and work together. Every single person on this crew I had worked with before and it was such a great experience to creatively craft this short. I have obviously changed my mind about shorts.”
Frank said of his director and friend, “She commands a very quiet control that exudes a very deliberate voice as a filmmaker. She knows exactly what she wants and you are rolled into it with her very effortlessly. I think, whether male of female, this is the kind of director I want to work with.”
Andrew, for the most part of the film, has a frozen expression on his face. He laughed about finding that perfect spot of emotional beat. :”We’d find a spot that Courtney liked,” he said, “and figure out a way to know how to keep doing it over and over again. It wasn’t too tough. Actually the character seemed to have some depth. You have to put your mind in that particular spot.”
The other challenging idea in making Raspberry Jam was in designing the leprechaun. “I wanted the leprechaun to be more of an urban leprechaun if you will,” said Courtney. “We decided to pull back from ‘Lucky Charms’ and went thrifting. We wanted it to be sort of subtle but still obvious that he was a leprechaun.”
As an actor working steadily, Andrew has a unique perspective on the role that Texas plays in the industry. “It is very frustrating,” he said of his schedule. “This is what I do for a living but over the last couple of years maybe five percent I’ve done in Texas. The rest is in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Florida and LA.” Courtney said that they had to find a window where Andrew was going to be in town.
Of the situation in Dallas, Andrew finished, “There is just not enough happening here. It is a Catch-22 that you can’t make a living here doing it until there are enough people doing it but if you can’t make a living, you don’t do it. Texas has more talent and a better crew base but it is not going to happen until people start doing more of it.”
Courtney defended her hometown against the juggernaut that has become Austin filmmaking. She said, “Dallas has so much corporate stuff going on here, I think that it has the stigma of being more on the commercial side. I think the best think to do is to keep making films in Dallas. It is such a great area, within 30 minutes I can get to any sort of city and in 45 and you are in West Texas. The different locations that we have here are more than Austin.”
To finish her thoughts about Raspberry Jam, Courtney said, “This story is about hope. A lot of films dealing with hope are really unrealistic, which is funny because I feel that this is a more realistic portrayal of hope. A lot of time, people in movies are overcoming great odds and in life and every day things. You are overcoming great odds and everything is difficult and it still doesn’t turn out the way you want.”
She smiled and then said, “It is about finding hope past this. This is what is more what life is like.”