More than a decade ago, Naomi McDougall Jones played Fredrika in “A Little Night Music.”
“It was one of the first times I definitely felt like a professional actress,” she says.
She was 13 and the only child in an otherwise all-adult production put on by the Aspen Community Theatre (ACT).
Now, the 25-year old is returning to her hometown to spotlight and raise funds for a film that she’s written, and to bring together the arts organizations that helped launch her career more than 20 years ago.
“I grew up doing as much theater as anyone would let me do,” she says.
That meant participating in production put on by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Theatre Aspen (formerly Theater in the Park), ACT, Thunder River Community Theatre, Aspen Country Day and Aspen High Schools, plus more.
“I think the sheer amount of arts in general going on for a town of this size is astounding,” says Jones. “The amount of experience I was able to amass here, before going to school, was enormous.”
She graduated from Aspen High School in 2005, spent a year in Cornell University’s theater program and went on to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. There, she met Caitlin Gold, who is co-producing “Under Her Skin” with Jones.
The film is a psychological thriller, which follows the main character to New York City, where she moves to escape her mother’s death. But, once in New York, “we find out that she’s still alive.”
“It’s a twisty little story,” she adds.
Jones wrote the screenplay and is co-producing it with her company partner, Caitlin Gold. They have everything in place-—including partnering with independent film company Triboro Pictures—except the funding.
With some start-up money from a fundraising platform site called Indiegogo, they were able to raise $10,000, and are now in the process of trying to secure the rest. The budget for this type of film, says Jones, could range from $50,000 to $1.2 million. Once that’s in the bank, the goal is to start filming in October.
And that’s what brings her back to Aspen. On Friday, June 1, Jones hosts “Daring to Dream” at the Wheeler Opera House. The free event will showcase Aspen’s thriving art scene, with presentations from a variety of organizations including Aspen Film, Aspen Writers’ Foundation and the Aspen Historical Society. She will also screen a trailer for her film, and give out award money to a Roaring Fork Valley resident so that they can start their own project.
“I came up with this idea that it might be nice to pay it forward to somebody who has creative energy to spare,” she says.
Artists, ages 10 to 21, were asked to submit three-minute films depicting their dream project, and these were narrowed down to two finalists. The winner will be announced at the event on Friday.
“This is an amazing thing that we have and we should nurture it,” she says, of Aspen creative community.
And part of that means coming back to say thanks.
“It will hopefully be a neat evening for everybody, but it will certainly be a neat evening for me. It’s all of these organizations that meant so much to me and my life and people that I worked with a long time ago, and were such an important part of my growing,” adds Jones.
Jones will also host a Backers’ Brunch on June 9 for those seriously interested in supporting the film financially. For more information, visit underherskin.com.