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Pulaski County Journal article about my journey with 'Welcome to Monterey'!

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

I was so fortunate to get the chance to sit down with the Journal and discuss all things Monterey. We discuss why I made the film, how it's been going & what my future plans are.

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DOCUMENTARY from page 1 - I had to take them to Monterey to experience it,” she laughed. “It’s just such a unique place.” “That’s what I’ve thought is really unique about Monterey, they just really care. I mean, they have an annual three day festival for a town of 200 people - clearly they have some passion and a heart for their town.” Ray spent her high school years continuing to do the things that she loves to do - create comedy sketches, act in school plays, participate in a variety of sports, and even a television production class. After graduation, she then made the move to the big apple to attend both the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts and the New York Film Academy, where she was trained in acting and acting on film. After finishing up her programs there, she then traveled to Los Angeles to pursue her passion for acting. One of the most unexpected reactions to the film was Ray’s sudden surge in online followers who were interested and supportive of the film. She stated that one Facebook post that she made reminding people about the film really took off, so she decided to dedicate both a Facebook and Instagram page to the film. There, she shares photos of fans who have bought her “Welcome to Monterey” merchandise as well as her awards and old photos she had collected over the course of filming. “I did a couple of YouTube videos and web series while I was there because I still had a passion for it, but I mostly focused on acting. I was on commercials and some T.V. shows, but several years into that I realized that I really wanted to make this film about Monterey,” she said. “I didn’t realize going into making this film that it was going to be a ‘thing’ like this. I didn’t know I was going to be able to do all the things that I love to do which is talking to people and hearing their stories. This opened up the door for all of that,” she noted. Thus, “Welcome to Monterey” was born. Created as an homage to her family, the film gives an in-depth, first- hand account of life in small town Monterey. It explores the history and present-day lifestyle of the town, leading up to the 20th annual Labor Day festival “Monterey Days.” The overarching theme that shadows the film is whether Monterey has a future in today’s world, as population is on the decline. Since finishing the film, Ray has entered “Welcome to Monterey” into over 40 film festivals globally so far and has won numerous awards and has attended screenings all over the world. Some of her awards included the Best of Hoosierlands Best Documentary award at the Indy Film Festival, Best First-time Filmmaker award in London, and best documentary in four film festivals spanning from India, Serbia, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma - just to name a few. She has also been a finalist eight times, a semi-finalist four times, and honorable mention a few times. Ray has also received numerous compliments from viewers everywhere, including those who were featured in the film. Shortly after the completion of her work, Ray hosted a screening of the film for everyone who was in it at the State Theatre in Logansport. “I see it as furthering the story. My grandma and her brother made the history books, I made the film version of the books, and now I want to put it all together in a museum.” “I wanted to do this story because I thought it was unique, but I also wanted to do it for my family and future families. It’s like a time capsule. It encapsulates life in Monterey in 2017,” she said. “I really wanted to capture the lives, experiences, and stories and the uniqueness of Monterey. Now, I can take everyone along and help them experience it through this film.” “I loved every second of this. Even going through hours of footage, editing and filming, my driving force was how passionate I was for the project and for the story. I was absolutely intertwined with it,” she said. “This is my family.” Her advice to aspiring filmmakers of any age is simply “just do it.” “It was the best day of my life. I have never made a documentary or a feature length film before, and they said, ‘You did it, you captured Monterey.’ That was my true intention, if anything. I didn’t care about awards, I didn’t care how much money it made me, I didn’t care about any of that. What I cared about was being able to gather and grasp what Monterey truly was and hold onto it in a film that people can look back on forever.” “I’m not going after being a famous director - I had a passion for this particular project so I did it. I have always enjoyed filming and making videos since I was a kid, but my goal in life is just to do whatever I like and am passionate about at that time,” she said. “So I say that I will never film another documentary again, but then I take it back and say unless I find something else I am super passionate about - but what’s more passionate then your family’s history?” She also added that she believes the film is relatable to anyone who lives in a small town, as many of the themes, stories and nuances of the film are widely applicable. However, she does have another long term project in mind that takes place in Monterey, but it’s not another film. “I really want to buy the Monterey train depot and turn it into a mini Monterey museum. That’s my big passion As for her next steps after “Welcome to Monterey,” Ray states that she wants to continue to follow and pursue her passion projects, whatever they may be. Ray explained that whenever she is asked, she always says she will never make another documentary again. She cites the reason being the long, strenuous hours of combing through film and editing it together took a lot of work and time. However, she said she got through it because making the film was truly her passion. gifted a lot of old photos and antiques but she was unsure what to do with them since filming has wrapped up. Ray said that she would love to see the items in glass boxes and memorialized for future generations to see and enjoy. Overall, she reflected that the whole process of scripting, creating and editing “Welcome to Monterey” was truly a labor of love for her. project.” She noted that over the process of filming, she was She later added that the depot was also built by her great-grandfather’s brother, Joe Keller. “I hear people say so many things like, ‘You need to go to film school and have this equipment, etcetera - there are a lot of ‘have to’s.’ But I didn’t listen to that. I say find your ‘why’ and go with it. Don’t wait for all the things that people say you have to have.” The documentary includes the history of Monterey, based off of the three history books that have been written about the town. Ray read all three of the couple hundred page books prior to filming. Her relatives Ruth Keller Zehner, Tom Keller and Peggy Keller actually helped write the books for the town. The first edition of the series was published in honor of the town’s 150th anniversary in 1999. “Welcome to Monterey” documentary DVDs are on sale starting Sept. 1 and can be purchased at and at Monterey Days. If you would like to keep up with Lauren and her journey, you can also follow her on Facebook at laurenzrayvideos or join the newsletter from her website. Although fun, the process of making “Welcome to Monterey” also presented some unforeseen challenges. She cited her greatest challenge as trying to get her interviewees to relax and to talk more during their segments. “They said that they were afraid to talk a lot because they feared saying something wrong or making someone else mad. It is a small town after all. To get the truth and to get their real opinions, it was a challenge sometimes pushing through that. I totally understand why they were thinking that way. They later told me that I made them very comfortable though, and they relaxed after a while,” she explained. Ray’s aunt and uncle Linda and Kenny McCune helped her find people of different age groups from the town to interview for the film. One of the interviewees included her now late grandfather, who she is happy to have captured on film. According to her, she learned things she never knew - things she wouldn’t have normally asked. “There’s one thing to see a picture of your grandpa, but it’s another thing to see a video of them. It really is so much more impactful,” she said. “I felt closer to him these past three years than ever before.” One of the questions that she made sure to ask during the interviews was why they think the town cares so much for their community. Expecting a straight answer, she was surprised to hear that no one could think of one simple reason. Rather, they comically reflected that the reason they care so much is because the town really is one big family - most of the people in Monterey are related to each other in some way. Regardless, when it comes down to it, Ray says that the town is unique because they do care so much, no matter the reason.


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