Film by Texas State alumna screened

Lifestyle Reporter

Movie enthusiasts gathered at the Alamo Drafthouse Village in Austin on April 9 to view a screening of the indie film The Bag Lady.

The film was written, casted, filmed, directed, produced and edited by Ericka Marsalis-LaManna, Texas State alumna of studio and fine art photography.

Ericka’s husband, Ray Sr., did technical work behind the scenes and starred as himself in the film.

This is the second film the pair has produced. Their first movie, Generation Me, was released in 2012.

The two recently founded TrendSmashers Productions and work as part-time filmmakers in Austin.

The Bag Lady is based on Ray Sr.’s life story. It highlights the struggles of living in an unstable household, homelessness, imprisonment and teenage parenthood, Ericka said. The story reveals how one must forgive in order to break the negative cycle.

“The film follows Ray Sr. through the toughest times in his life, including being in prison with a son,” she said. “After he was released from prison, he spent the next 13 years trying to keep his son away from the negative cycles that affected his own family for generations.”

The inspiration the two needed to create the feature film started as a trivial remark about the craziness of her husband’s life, Ericka said.

“It all started when I overheard Ray Sr. having to deal with a very intense phone call with the mother of his child,” she said. “Then I happened to comment on how hectic his life was and said, ‘Your life is seriously like a movie,’ and then it clicked.”

Ericka said Ray Sr. handed her a pen and paper and said she should start writing ideas down. An outline for the script was finished within an hour and a half.

“I definitely found Ray Sr.’s story inspirational,” she said. “Not only because of the obstacles he had to overcome regardless of all odds being stacked against him but also how it can relate to so many other people.”

Ericka said Burt Pritzker, her artistic mentor and senior lecturer in the School of Art and Design, provided encouragement.

“Anytime I create anything, I always find myself referring back to Pritzker’s lessons,” she said. “Although he was a (lecturer) for photography, his lessons apply to everything: music, art, paint and film.”

Ericka said the film’s plot encompasses a variety of life problems that people will find relatable.

“Today, over 50 percent of marriages end in divorce,” she said. “There are countless single parents and tons of teenaged parents. From this, I found Ray Sr.’s story to be significant as something to write about because it’s a story for most everyone.”

Ray Sr., who attended Texas State for three years, said having his life documented for the world to see was intimidating at first. By the end of the process, he realized his story could help others.

“It’s definitely scary exposing yourself to the world, especially with a criminal background,” Ray Sr. said. “But if it helps someone realize that the cycle of bad parenting leads to bad kids and then more bad parents, it’s worth it. I hope it helps people with similar stories.”

The film had one microphone, one camera and a budget of approximately $10,000, Ericka said.

“When running into acquaintances and explaining the circumstances of what we had to make this film, you could definitely see the skepticism on people’s faces,” she said.

The film has completed two paid screenings and can be purchased on trendsmashers.com, Ericka and Ray Sr.’s company site.

Samone Murray, recurring actress for the company, said Ray Sr. and Ericka are two of the hardest-working people she knows.

“Working with Ray and Ericka was nothing but amazing from their work ethic and positive attitudes,” Murray said.

Murray has faith in the success of the two producers based on their talent and drive.

“If there’s anything in life that you want to achieve, you simply have to go out there and work for it,” Murray said. “That is exactly why Ray and Ericka have been and will continue to be so successful.”