Douglasville author’s short film starts to get attention at festivals

A Douglasville woman is getting attention at film festivals for a project two years in the making that focuses the lens on three women with traumatic childhoods as they navigate life.

Rachel Neal, a Virginia native, said her film “Raggity Anns” has been accepted to play at the Independent Shorts Awards, which will be held in Los Angeles in February.

The 18-minute film was inspired by stories in Neal’s relationship book, “Hey Rachel: Real Talk, Real Relationships, Real Advice,” which was published last year. The film has also been selected for the online Direct Short Film Festival.

She worked with a longtime friend, Kirk Davis, who filmed and edited the project. The film features three characters — Destiny, Fran and Zola.

She raised $10,000 on Kickstarter for the project. She had initially hoped to make a feature-length film but shortened it to maintain creative control.

Her hope now is to turn it into a web series that will depict the lives of the three internally flawed women who live in the affluent suburbs of Atlanta.

“Everyone says they’re (the characters) an extension of different types of my personality,” said Neal. “Everything that I have done — film, book … derive from all of the tragic experiences in my life. The three characters in the film stem from my dysfunctional childhood, and the theme of the book is related to all of the dysfunctional relationships that I have endured. All the women have flaws like that. Fran’s father killed her mother.”

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A tragedy in Neal’s past also made her step out and take risks.

In 1995, she was working as a flight attendant on ValuJet Airlines on an Atlanta-to-Miami route when the DC-9 caught fire as it was taxiing down the runway at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Neal suffered second- and third-degree burns and underwent surgery and years of therapy.

She never worked as a flight attendant again.

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“It was still in my subconscious,” said Neal, who remembers sitting in a rear jump seat when suddenly a wall of fire shot up from the floor.

When it dissipated, she helped the remaining passengers get to safety.

She never talked much about the accident until recently.

“People keep asking what inspired me to become a filmmaker,” said Neal, who is not ready to put her own story on film yet. “It started when my career path was changed. When you go though a traumatic situation, you have to figure out how you will cope. Everything in that accident kind of led me to where I am today. I just don’t have a fear when I’m doing new things. You have no fear; you’ve experienced the worse. It allows you to take chances.”

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