We Are the Daughters
1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
Back in Fall 2017, we directed and shot a branded content series for Jo Loves, a fragrance brand created by Jo Malone CBE and a documentary about the company’s journey for Sephora. Perfume is so evocative and sensorial; it immediately inspired visual stories. We shot across New York’s iconic Central Park, the bustling London Tube, and California’s sun-drenched coastline.
2) How did you get into directing?
We always knew we wanted to go into the creative fields with backgrounds in photography and writing, so initially we both entered college together as advertising majors. In our first year, we took a prerequisite Visual Storytelling class and long story short—we were way too enthusiastic and went overboard on all the class projects, causing the film professor to insist we belonged in directing. He literally banged on doors to facilitate our transfer into the television & film programs. We didn’t realize in the moment, he’d just banished us to a life of freelance—haha! Also, there are a ton of brother duos in this industry, but where are the sister duos with weird matching boys’ names?
3) What is your most recent project?
We co-directed This One Step, a short film that’s currently screening at festivals. It follows a young Texan combat veteran and his wife as they re-learn the rhythm of their relationship, complicated by lingering PTSD. Westin’s script came alive once we cast a real-life Army paratrooper and amputee as the lead. As co-directors who often shoot our own projects, our cinematography has recently attracted attention. This Spring, we DP’d an indie feature film shot in Ireland. We filmed in the rain, hail, sleet, and freezing wind while wearing enough layers and rain-gear to stock an REI store! The film is an LGBTQ coming-of-age drama currently in post-production. Now we’re brewing new ideas to direct: short and long-form.
4) What is the best part of being a director?
The best part of being a director is the on-set camaraderie and collaboration with all the other badass departments. Growing up in a remote location, we never had the chance to play organized sports, so film sets are what we imagine being on a team is like. As a director, nothing beats a crew member or actor’s appreciative face when you create an environment for them to do their best work.
5) What is the worst part of being a director?
Our friends in non-creative fields definitely have clearer career paths. To put it into an analogy…they’re on a moving train—sure, they can fall off, but ultimately they know the stops ahead. Directing is like pushing a broken down car up a hill with no road map. If you stop, it stops. It’s exhausting and some days you just want to hop on a train, but uncharted territory brings a lot of adventure and freedom with it. Also, if you’re directing, you’re too busy on set to grab crafty!
6) What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, TV movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre–comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
If it’s the right fit for our voice, we are open to all formats; storytelling is storytelling. Our style is observational, natural, cinematic, colorful, and unconventional. As self-proclaimed “story-explorers” we do, however, gravitate towards the genre of drama….but try to find humorous moments in the middle, because isn’t that where real life is most reflected? We aim to create films that represent intelligent and driven characters of all backgrounds in unexpected pairings on-screen, breathtaking locations, and music scores which Austin loves to compose.
7) Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you?
It’s difficult for us to single out a specific “mentor” because we have friends, family and fellow filmmakers (many of whom are still working alongside us in the trenches) who inspire and encourage us. However, one comes to mind—especially since she first told us about this contest. We got the opportunity to meet with Violaine Etienne of Serial Pictures, thanks to being a winner of the Moët Moment Film Festival. She really emboldened us to listen to our gut and embrace projects that hit close to home. Those words swirled in our head when we created “We Are the Daughters”, the women’s empowerment PSA that ended up being our SHOOT winning entry. We’re open to more mentors, though. It takes a village!
8) Who is your favorite director and why?
We love that Denis Villeneuve, Patty Jenkins, Alfonso Cuarón, and Cary Fukunaga are unapologetically empathetic filmmakers. They have strong visions and give their characters space to think for themselves. We’re also fascinated by directors who hold cinematographer resumes—like Fukunaga & Reed Morano. After watching The Rider, we’re excited to see what Chloé Zhao directs next.
9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Films that lodge in our brain share the common thread of impeccable characterizations driven by subtle social messages. For us, that’s Incendies by Denis Villeneuve, Wild Tales by Damián Szifron, Chocolat by Lasse Hallström, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri by Martin McDonagh, and Eastern Promises by David Cronenberg. We’re anxiously awaiting the new season of Big Little Lies while currently bingeing Killing Eve, and could easily re-watch True Detective (Season One) or Happy Valley. Gordon von Steiner’s fashion films for ZARA & Miu Miu give us chills for their imagery and original music. Rune Milton’s “It’s a Beautiful Journey” spot for Nokian Tyres proves a tire commercial can be gorgeous and mesmerizing.
10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
Believe it or not, we were raised on an aquaculture farm on the Californian/Mexican border.
When we weren’t picking up tarantulas, we were inventing ways to time travel to Ancient Egypt. Because our backyard resembled the Middle East meets Mad Max, film crews appeared, exposing us to the crazy idea that you could invent worlds as an adult. Launching out of film school, Westin won a Directors Guild of America Student Award. She then produced music videos for Interscope and films that appeared on VICE, Vimeo Staff Picks, and Short of the Week. Austin composed original music scores for films that won a Student Academy Award, BAFTA, premiered at Telluride Film Festival, and commercials for BMW and United Nations. Now, we’re focused on co-directing as sisters.
Contact the Ray Sisters via email