Warren Ray was born on September 17, 1965, in Corydon, Indiana. He attended Corydon Central High School, later attending the Louisville Technical Institute (Robotics Engineering). Warran has worked at Ghost Age Films, LLC, and throught the entertainment industry as editor, actor, and director among other titles. Warran has worked on films such as, 100 Proof (1997), Super Rocket (2009), Nothing in the Flowers (2011), and Maxwell Edison aka Man Who Loved Flowers (2012 and “Dollar Baby” based on Stephen King’s short story from the book, Night shift).
Warren has had a career in country music as well. Back in the early 1990′s, he was a singer songwriter in the alt-country/punk scene. It was never trendy and no one ever line danced to my music. The line race scene was very square compared to the CBGB atmosphere of the clubs I was playing only dancing was mosh or pogo. The line dance crowd would never step foot in the punk clubs I played in. Not his or his type of music at all. Warren was in the Indy Alternative /Punk music scene never Country main stream . It was called country punk then / alt country nowadays. Country music became a “trendy” style of music and was the “it” thing to listen to and go to country bars line dancing. His music was right at the highlight of that craze. Even tho he had great success with it, he returned to his love of film and acting soon thereafter. It was then he would be part of Stephen King history by being part of the “Dollar Baby” film program and with his adaptation of Man Who Loved Flowers but changing the name for his own reasons to, Maxwell Edison. Warren recently participated along with 19 other filmmakers in the new book about the “Dollar Baby” film program called, Dollar Baby: The Story of the Stephen King Dollar Baby Filmmakers by Shawn S. Lealos. Warren was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to let me interview him and his part in “Dollar Baby” history and his own career.
And now, here is my exclusive interview with “Dollar Baby” filmmaker, Warren Ray.
(Tony Northrup) Out of all the Stephen King short stories, what attracted you most to this one?
(Warren Ray) It was short, with not a lot of dialogue. When I read it ,right away it reminded me of the Beatles song Maxwell Silver Hammer. So it sparked some ideas.
TN: What changes did you make to make this your own as opposed to Kings original text?
WR: Well I added names to the characters. Taken from the Beatles tune, Maxwell Edison, Joan, and pc31. Mr. Kings original character was a nameless everyday average Joe. But I melded the too stories together.
TN: So many Stephen King fans want adatptations to be as close to the book as possible, how do you handle the pressure to keep the fans happy?
WR:I don’t worry about the fans. You can never make everyone happy. I’m a fan of Mr. King myself, so all I need to do is please myself and get to a point where I feel like I’m doing him justice. Only the most hard core King fans will ever see this film because of the contractual restrictions anyway. I just need to feel like I’m doing right by Mr. King.
TN: What was your main goal you wanted to achieve about this film?
WR: To have an official Stephen King project on my film reel and of course impress my friends and chicks.
TN: Where was the movie filmed specifically and were there any obstacles to overcome while filming there?
WR: We shot in louisville ky. Under a skyway on the edge of town, Downtown during rush hour, and in the Highlands area of town it’s a hip spot with lots of cool shops and restaurants. It was all done comando style on the fly hand held we rarely used a tripod. Only obstacles were folks shouting congratulations people assumed I was getting Married and that we were doing a wedding pictures shoot because David Brewer my camera man was using a cannon DSLR to shot video with and it just looks like a still camera he was holding. Haha.
TN: How long was the film shoot and the process from start to finish?
WR: well it took over a year to pull it all together. My first camera man had to leave because of family stuff. I had to recast a few roles because of typical BS. I had a friend come down with cancer who has sence passed away (punk rock icon from from the band the end tables) Chili Regot was going to be the bag lady in the film and we held of on production for a while in hopes he would be well enough to participate. It didn’t happen so I just left that part out. My friend Theo was also going to portray the smoking pregnant women on the street. But sadly she got sic and @lso passed away unexpectedly , so it was a bumpy road with lots of snags along the way. But all in all it took 3 days to shoot another 3 or so days to edit once it was shot. I was also dressed up in a suit and carrying a flower box, so I can see how it looked that way to people. haha.
TN: What is your greatest moment so far with the success of Maxwell Edison?
WR: I was stoked when it played a DB festival at the red square in Russia. It’s played like 8 or 9 countries now but I guess the greatest moment was having Shaun lelose book about the dollar baby program come out with a 15 page interview of me about music in film. Frank durobont was interviewed as well so that’s pretty good company. Feels like validation I suppose.
TN: What Stephen King story would you like to adapt on a larger scale?
WR: Cycle of the werewolf. I thought Silver Bullet kinda sucked compared to the book the adaptation was stupid with the changes it made to the story and it’s original structure. The whole calendar idea as story chapters was brilliant and you didn’t know who done it tell the end. The film gave it up way to early on. And the film didn’t do the calendar chapters if I recall.
TN: Where/When can fans see this film? Will it be playing many film fests across the country?
WR: I believe it’s playing the Dollar Baby festival at Crypticon in MN this October 23-25th.
TN: Growing up in the mid-western state of Indiana, what was life like for you there and how early in life did you discover the love of filmmaking?
WR: It was boring as you may expect, I was into Syfy and practical effects as a young kid. The Planet of the Apes franchise was big when I was a kid, pre-Star Wars. As well as the Universal Monster movies. My father was a successful theater director and set designer. So I was around all the behind-the-scenes aspects of show business, sets, costumes, practical effects, lighting, sight lines, and acting. I was a professional child actor in 1977 doing summer stock theater in front of audiences that were over a thousand strong on a nightly basses. I recall reading Starlog magazine and the like backstage while around to go on stage. I did my first film ever on super 8 film with little Star Trek models hanging from thread in front of a painted starfield on black poster board in the dressing room of Stephen Foster Story with another child actor. While the adults were all on stage, we were shooting Syfy movies. I was 10yrs of so but always loved movies and wanted to make them ever since I can remember.
TN: What was your first Stephen King book and Why did you chose this particular short story?
WR: There was a copy of Carrie around the house when I was a kid as well as The Shining. But “my” first King book was Cycle of the Werewolf. I was working as a carney one summer in my early 20′s. I picked it up while in a drug store in Damone, Iowa. I recall setting in the back of reffer truck and reading it in one setting, the art was so cool and even though I was on an adventure in the heartland of America, I still needed some kind of an escape from the shit service job and constant smell of onions on your body and in all your worldly property. Cycle of the Werewolf did that. It was like a Rockwell painting or a werewolf come to Mayberry! It really spoke to me. That’s why I was so disappointed when the films adaptation was so different then the vision. The book provided me.
TN: You studied at the Louisville Technical Institute in Robotic Engineering, how did you go from that profession to writing/acting/directing ?
WR: Well, I went to Louisville Tech to study Robotics because I really wanted to learn about hydraulics and neumatics because I wanted to get into practical effects building for film but I found that the school was really intended to create maintenance workers for assembly line robots, so after the first year of robotics theory and geometry I dropped out. I wanted to create and that was the wrong school for that. It was really a grad school but the only place to study robotics without going to a full blown University. I was already into doing film effects and theater acting before I studied robotics. It was really a “trade” school.
TN: What do you find more challenging: directing, writing, or acting and which do you prefer more of?
WR: Writing is the toughest for me. I have dyslexia so I can come up with ideas all day long, but having to write it down is the problem for me. I prefer act for directors I trust because I’m a bit of a control freak, so if I can just worry about my role in the film it’s a real cakewalk compared to all the worries of the director. I use flash cards to seperate ideas and scenes or story boarding before I ever get a script together. So folks have to trust my vision there isn’t always a complete “script’ so to speak. It’s all in my head for the most part and always subject to change depending on location, mood, and random events. Worries of the director.
TN: The film, 100 Proof, was your first film in 1997. Tell us about that first film experience?
WR: It was interesting. I drove to Lexington to meet the director. I was trying to get some music I had done in the film score (I was a singer, songwriter, recording artist for the 90′s, part of the alternative country movement. Well, an actor they hired wasn’t working out, the unit production manager knew me and told the director, ‘Warren used to be an actor, when he was a kid”. So, one thing led to another, next thing I know, I’m getting paid to be Tommy the Liquor Store Guy. Cool thing is that Jim Varney was in that film and I had the opportunity to hang out with him for a bit. Super nice fellow. He had a beagle dog back home in Tennessee that he missed and w as showing off a photo of his beloved pet. Then when the camera roled he played the nastiest mutha f**ker you’d ever want to meet. He was trying to make a departure from his type cast as’Jed Clampett’ and and ‘Ernest’ does whatever films. He was playing a real bad person in this psychological thriller. It was one of the last live action films he did before he passed, he did the Slinky dogs voice for the Toy Story film. I was on set for 2 or 3 days. It was shot on film. I did not see the final product for well over a year or so. It took so very much longer to see a done film project back then before the advent of HD video. They edited with a razor blade and tape back then, what a headache.
TN: I personally found your version of Man Who Loves Flowers (aka Maxwell Edison) to very “1960′s/1970′s” influenced and a sort of..Tarantino feel to it. Was this something you envisioned how the story to be when you read it or a style of filmmaking you prefer?
WR: Well l grew up in the 60s/70s so all my influence was tv and movies of my youth. I love Tarantino he is in my Top list of fave directors. He is older then me but as a child actor I was hanging out with college age theater kids, so I was exposed to adult thyme and dialogue earlier then most kids were. I think at first I wanted to do a Hitchcock style black and white. To keep it simple. But I think I saw that the Man Who Loved Flowers had been done before more then once so I decided that shooting the text verbatim would be boring and probably had already been done. So I decided for a more mod kitch feel with a bit of a Steve McQueen homage built in.
TN: Final Question, What’s next for Warren Ray?
WR: I play an Apollo Era astronaut in the film “Orbs, They are among us” by jkfilms that movie has distribution and should be out on digital and DVD this winter. A sequel is planned to shoot next year called “Orbs Apollo 21 ” in Witch I will star and we find out what happen to the 2nd lieutenant from the first film. After his encounter with the Orbs.
I want to take this opportunity to Thank Warren Ray for his time and patience out of his busy schedule to do this interview. Look for more “Dollar Baby” interviews coming soon! And check out the Dollar Baby Fan page on Facebook for the latest news, adaptations, and schedules of these hard to see films playing at the next film fest near you!