, Muskogee, OK

Local News

December 26, 2011

Independent filmmaking’s local leading lady


Finding her soul mate

In 1991, ShIronbutterfly Ray came back to Muskogee to stay. It was then that she found her soul mate, Oscar Ray.

“I had been married twice before, but when you meet your soul mate you just know,” she said.

Ray had been hired at the Girl Scouts office, and as was the custom, the Girl Scouts office put an article in the paper about their new hire.

The financial company that Oscar Ray was working for had been recruiting new representatives at the time. He was in charge of hiring, and the recruiting officers brought him a photograph of her from the article.

“Everyone was telling him that he should hire me,” Ray said. “I guess we were the last ones to know that we were soul mates.”

Paving the way for young students

When Ray entered the second grade she knew that she wanted to be a teacher. Since then, she strove to use her passion to share knowledge in everything in which she is involved.

In 1996, she and her husband started the Darkwood Film Arts Institute, a nonprofit that would give film training and on-set experience to anyone 10 or older.

The classes teach acting, writing screenplays, doing makeup, cinematography, directing, editing, costuming, producing and marketing.

“We have students from ages 10 to 75, and some have already made their own movies,” Ray said. “It validates us when they do what we encouraged them to do. It’s like saying what we do matters.”

The Rays have taught youth summer programs at Tulsa Community College and the Teen Center and adult classes in various cities in Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas.

Achievements, honors and awards

Ray’s most recent achievement was being asked to be on the Legends Panel at the Muskogee Women’s Leadership Conference.

The panel is made up of various women who work in male-dominated areas and who have vast experience with success in their careers and their personal lives.

“People like Wilma Mankiller were previous panelists, so I was really honored to be there,” Ray said.

In 2005 she received a Governor’s Arts Award for Special Recognition for the Darkwood Film Arts Institute, and the festival directors for the Bare Bones Film Festival received a Golden Halo Achievement Awards from the South California Motion Picture Council.

Her festival is also honored on as one of the Top 10 Festival Destinations.

It’s always exciting to be recognized for just doing what you do, she said. 

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