An eerie voicemail message from Alex (Haydn Winston) to girlfriend Cheyenne (Kristi Ray) opens the captivating proof-of-concept trailer for A Song for Imogene. The feature-length project from independent studio Honey Head Films is in the works and the trailer, currently being shown only to investors, is receiving a strong response.
“It’s a testament of what Honey Head is capable of creatively from the story perspective . . . the boots-on-the-ground small footprint filmmaking on a local level, how good that can actually look,” says Honey Head Films cofounder, producer and lead actress Kristi Ray.
Ray launched Honey Head Films with Erika Edwards, the writer and director of Imogene, in 2015 after the two met on a craigslist casting call. Today, Ray and Edwards are the self-proclaimed “Honeys” who run the award-winning boutique film company that produces commercial content, music videos, documentaries and narrative short films, all in-house.
“Don’t wait around for permission or even an opportunity, it doesn’t just show up at your doorstep, it’s something you have to create for yourself. Erika and I are walking proof of that,” says Ray.
Imogene is Honey Head’s inaugural full-length feature film. It unveils the true, raw, rural South, a landscape that has been misconstrued by mainstream Hollywood, says Edwards.
“First of all, they never get the accents right. Anyone who’s from the South can say, ‘That’s not a North Carolina accent, that’s definitely not a Georgia accent,’” laughs Edwards. “They use these stereotypes of the South to serve a greater plot, create comedy, or craft a character that’s one-dimensional.”
In contrast, Imogene is described as gritty and real. Both Edwards and Ray grew up in North Carolina and worked together to develop the character of Cheyenne. Imogene began as a short film — a “short” as it’s called in the industry — with a climactic scene in a gas station bathroom off U.S. Highway 74.
“I really wanted to say, OK this is set in the South, but it’s a character-driven story, these are real people living in these drive-by towns and there are serious issues they deal with, and this need to escape,” says Edwards.
The female-forward plot centers around Cheyenne running from an abusive relationship with Alex into the arms of a rekindled friendship with her estranged sister.
“I was born in Eastern North Carolina, so I spent my formative years down this tiny dirt road in a rural area. I’m not very different from that character,” says Ray of her role as Cheyenne. “I also had an ‘Alex’ once. I see Cheyenne as an extension of who I could have become.”
Edwards and Ray have been nominated to speak at the 10th anniversary of the 3% Conference in Atlanta this fall, so named because only three percent of creative directors are women and even fewer are people of color. The hope is to bring that up to 50 percent and Honey Head Films is contributing to the increase.
“In our industry there is a lot of gatekeeping. I always say, once you get to that point of where you feel like you’ve stepped through that proverbial gate, turn around and hold the door open for everyone else,” says Edwards.
“If She Can Dream It, Then She Can Achieve It” is a national campaign designed to inspire young girls to become innovators in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). If/Then is locally exhibited at the Cape Fear Museum and Honey Head Films has been invited to take part. It will include an outreach component allowing Edwards and Ray to work with students at GLOW Academy and DREAMS of Wilmington.
“We are really proud to showcase a career path for young girls who can apply their tech skills in a more creative way,” says Ray.