Rachel Noll James – Carving a Path for Local Filmmakers
Rachel Noll James is a local award-winning screenwriter, actor and filmmaker who is passionate about bringing a female perspective to stories and genres that have traditionally been male-dominated. She recently completed her new film, Ingress, which was filmed exclusively on Bainbridge Island.
Rachel grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico where she spent her childhood dreaming of being an actor. “It was always a part of the makeup of my personality. As soon as I could walk and think, I was writing and putting on little plays in my house,” she recalled. “When I was really little it was Rapunzel. I’d make my friends play all the parts except Rapunzel and I’d play her…we’d put on the show for whoever would watch.”
During her elementary and high school years, she would opt for the performance option when writing reports for school, turning them into skits and plays. Whenever an acting class or school play was available, Rachel jumped at the opportunity to participate. Her favorite classes were creative writing and English, where she could imagine worlds and turn them into stories and plays. “That creative engagement with stories and storytelling just fed something in me that to this day nothing else can touch in quite the same way,” she said.
She went on to attend Occidental College in Los Angeles as a theater major, and spent her first few years after college acting and continuing to hone her craft through workshops and classes. However, she found herself becoming increasingly restless waiting for others to offer her work.
It was then that Rachel began exploring other aspects of the industry, such as screenwriting, directing and producing. Drawing from a fantasy story she read as a teen, Rachel wrote her first screenplay, which gave her a taste of the process involved in writing a movie script. Not long after, while taking a workshop from a local Los Angeles based filmmaker, she was given the opportunity to co-write a script with her friend. That script turned into the film Don’t Pass Me By, which she produced and acted in alongside Hollywood veterans Keith David and C. Thomas Howell. It also won her an award for Best Feature Writer at the L.A. Femme Festival (the film was released worldwide in February 2014). From that point on, Rachel knew she wanted to be an active participant in every aspect of filmmaking.
In 2016, Rachel co-founded Emergence Films with Sienna Beckman. The film and TV development company focuses on supporting female-identifying filmmakers and underrepresented storytellers. Their goal is to showcase strong, complex and multidimensional women through female driven stories and characters.
By 2017, she and her husband were exhausted by the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and decided to move north. They’d frequently driven through Bainbridge Island on the way to Port Townsend where her parents had moved more than a decade before, and the proximity to Seattle and the idyllic lifestyle of island living made Bainbridge an easy choice.
Rachel continued to write and produce films, such as The Storyteller, which won the Silver Prize in the Family Film category in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards and was released on Hallmark Movies Now. She is also credited with numerous award-winning short films including Paramnesia (part of acclaimed collective Fun Size Horror Volume 1), Half Light (released exclusively through Seed&Spark), and the proof-of-concept Follow The River, which premiered at the Port Orchard Film Festival.
Last year, Rachel began production on her most recent project, the genre-bending independent feature Ingress, which she wrote, directed and starred in. From the start, Rachel wanted the project to be a community opportunity. Filming on Bainbridge Island allowed her to offer internships to those in the community that wanted to learn more about film production and get some hands-on experience. In addition, there were several locals who were part of the cast and crew. According to the film’s press release, the production hoped to “bring on local crew to learn on the job, partner with local businesses, and ultimately create a positive experience that would open doors for more film production to come to the island in the future.” The film was shot in just 15 days and post-production wrapped up earlier this year.
Ingress revolves around a woman, Riley Carol, who is able to move between different parallel versions of her life. Although she found the unusual ability to be adventurous in her youth, it became untenable as she got older and eventually led to a mental breakdown. After seeking therapy, she learns to control these “episodes” and manages to maintain a “carefully controlled normal life.”
When her husband dies tragically, she finds herself unable to keep the realities from blurring again, and seeks out Daniel Cassanders, an author and spiritual speaker who channels an entity called LUCAS. With Daniel’s help, Riley hopes to learn how to control her episodes and find her way into a reality where her husband is still alive. “As they embark together on a journey through multiple realities, Daniel and Riley uncover a bond that surprises them both. Daniel having sudden and visceral flashes of a life with Riley that feel like memories, and Riley beginning to wonder if the husband she is trying to find is actually the man she is meant to be with…” The film is currently being submitted to film festivals and she hopes to see it released sometime in the next year. You can view the trailer here: Ingress Teaser Trailer | Scifi movie trailers 2022 – YouTube
Rachel noted that there are many artists and aspiring filmmakers in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, however there isn’t a great deal of professional opportunity for them here yet, and she hopes to be part of changing that by nurturing and growing the local talent base. She would love to eventually find a location on Bainbridge to build a studio that would house the latest film technology so that new projects, regardless of where the story is set, can be filmed and produced locally.
Going forward, Rachel is turning her attention to a screenplay she wrote called Daisy Delivered, a romantic dramedy about an agoraphobic graphic designer who discovers a company that will deliver her “love”. Rachel will be directing this project and producing under the Emergence Films banner with her partner Sienna Beckman who helped produce Ingress. They’ve already begun working on the early phases, such as cast, crew, and location. With a smile, she said, “I’m sure I’ll find a little role (in the film) for myself too.”
Rachel is also in pre-production for the indie film Inheritance – a family drama she developed with two talented women she knew in LA. The story centers around two sisters and the complexity of family inheritance – both in terms of traits inherited from their parents and financial inheritance that causes complications in their already strained relationship. They hope to go into production next year in the Seattle area. Rachel wrote the script and will be playing one of the title roles.
Rachel continues to act, most recently as the lead character in the 2021 inD Theatre production of Lizzie, which was performed at the Rolling Bay Hall.
Rachel is a member of the Northwest Film Forum and Women in Film Seattle. For more information, visit her website at Rachel Noll James | Filmmaker. Storyteller and her IMDb page, at Rachel Noll James – IMDb.
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