AÃ‚Â civilian who works in the 56th Force Support Squadron at Luke Air Force Base has been an FBI agent, a flight attendant, a detective and a suicidal prisoner.
He’s even been a hit man. Twice.
His name is James Ferris, and he has played each of those parts as an actor. You won’t find his IMDB or Internet credits as Ferris, though; his stage name is James Ray.
“I like single-syllable names,” he said.
In his real life, Ferris “â€œ who retired from the Air Force in 2005 “â€œ has been an aircraft hydraulics mechanic, a recruiter and a management analyst.
He retired out of Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. That’s when he moved to the West Valley to pursue his acting career.
“This is a great area to build a resume,” Ferris said. “It’s fairly close to L.A., so there are some opportunities with television production and the movie studios. There’s also a vibrant independent filmmaking scene in this area.”
While he is passionate about acting and movies, it is not the only career for Ferris. He works full-time as the IDEA program manager at Luke.
“It’s a very rewarding job,” he said. “Individuals submit their ideas, which I review to make sure they’re eligible. They have to provide an identified problem and solution, and a clear benefit to the Air Force. It doesn’t have to be a money-saver, just an idea to improve things for the people in the Air Force or the assets they use.”
Ferris then sends the idea to the appropriate functional experts for review.
Over the past year, he has processed ideas that saved the Air Force approximately $750,000. He has also paid out more than $50,000 to Airmen for their ideas, he said.
Besides his closest colleagues, many people at Luke may not be familiar with Ferris’s true talent.
He’s been acting part-time since 2003, when he started performing in theater productions in Alaska, while he was on active duty.
He continues to do some theater acting but prefers film, he said. Ferris has appeared in more than 20 movies, most on independent labels and most, but not all, filmed in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
His first lead role was three years ago in a movie titled “The Abducted.” In that movie, Ferris played a psychopath who kidnaps and tortures women.
Due to his physicality, he said he is often typecast as either a bad guy or law-enforcement types. Ferris is bald, and at 6 feet tall and 195 pounds, with broad shoulders and a barrel chest, he cuts an imposing figure.
In person, however, he is soft-spoken and thoughtful. He said in the future he would like to branch out into different types of roles.
This is a big weekend for Ferris. Two of his films will be debuting at the Phoenix Film Festival, held at the Harkins 101 complex in Scottsdale.
The annual festival, which started Thursday and goes through April 5, will feature 140 screenings and several special events. Ferris plays supporting roles in the feature film “Paranoia” and the eight-minute musical short “Wish Inc.”
A trailer for “Paranoia,” which was filmed in several locations around the Phoenix area, can be found on the festival’s website, www.phoenixfilmfestival.com. Ferris plays the character Ben.
“It’s a detective role, but it’s also a best-friend role,” he said. “My wife [in the movie] and I are best friends with another couple, and through some different twists and events, the other man dies. I kind of take on the investigation, and through the unfolding of events, my life unravels. You get to see a nice arc of the character.”
His wife in the film is played by Tiffany Shepis, a world-renown “scream queen” who recently appeared in “The Frankenstein Syndrome,” which has been running on Showtime the past few months. Other co-stars in “Paranoia” include Katherine Stewart and Shane Dean.
In “Wish Inc,” Ferris plays a character he describes as “a depressed man in a park.” The lead character is strolling through the park and encounters him. The two have an exchange and sing a duet.
Both films are competing for awards at the festival “â€œ “Paranoia” in the Feature Film category and “Wish Inc” in the Arizona Shorts category. The primary judging is done by the Phoenix Film Critics Society, but there are also audience awards based on ballots filled out by audience members after each screening.
“The festival is a tremendous opportunity for the filmmakers,” said festival director Jason Carney. “It gets their film in front of audience members, which can generate great word-of-mouth.”
According to Carney, highlights of the festival include “Bully,” a documentary examining America’s bullying crisis, “The Intouchables,” about a quadriplegic aristocrat and a young man from the projects, as well as “Queens of Country,” a movie about the prettiest girl in a small Arizona town who finds a lost iPod filled with songs that speak to her sensitive heart.
The festival will also feature “The Victim,” a horror film starring Michael Biehn, an accomplished character actor who audiences will remember from his roles in “The Terminator,” “Aliens” and as Johnny Ringo in “Tombstone.” Biehn will be doing a signing for audience members after “The Victim” airs on Saturday night, Carney said. There will also be question-and-answer sessions after each film in order to give the audience an opportunity to ask questions.
“I think the festival is not only a great opportunity to see a film, but to hear the story behind it and interact with the people that made it,” Carney said. “So many times you don’t really get that perspective. I think there’s just a great sense of community in coming to a film festival.”
Ferris, who hasn’t seen the final cut of his feature movie, said he’s looking forward to the festival and everything that goes along with it.
“We did a private screening in Scottsdale a while back and got some great feedback,” he said of his film. “The director made a few adjustments, and I’m really excited to see the audience response this weekend.”
If you go”Â¦
2012 Phoenix Film Festival
Dates:Ã‚Â Through Thursday
Location:Ã‚Â Harkins Scottsdale 101 at Scottsdale Road and Loop 101 / 7000 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix
Festival pass – $150
Includes entry to all events excluding the opening night gala. Festival pass holders have the opportunity to get tickets to any films of their choice throughout the festival, excluding opening night.
Flex pass – $35
A flex pass includes four individual screening tickets to any four films (excluding the opening and closing nights).
Individual screening – $12Ã‚Â
This option is perfect for audience members interested in one specific film.
Paranoia (Feature-length film; runtime 87 min.):
7:35 p.m. today in Theater 6
9:15 a.m. Saturday in Theater 6
2:05 p.m. Sunday in Theater 6
Wish Inc. (Musical short; runtime 8 min):Ã‚Â
10:40 a.m. Saturday in Theater 9
4:24 p.m. Sunday in Theater 9Ã‚Â
For more information, go to www.phoenixfilmfestival.com.