Some people you meet and you just instantly like them. Sarah Murphree is one of those people. I met her at the Nashville Faith in Film breakfast and was instantly drawn to her friendliness and charisma. She is a talented actress and filmmaker who’s getting ready to embark on a new documentary adventure to Nepal.
When did you first discover an interest in acting?
The first time I discovered acting I was eleven years old. My cousin was in the musical Grease and my mom insisted we go to the performance. I wasn’t thrilled about going to see the play. My only prior knowledge of plays were that they were boring and this Grease play did not sound fun. When we arrived at the play, naturally my mom drug us to the front row, where I would be forced to pay attention. As the play went on, I was hooked. This was the greatest thing I had ever seen, and I didn’t want it to end. During the performance, one thing that stuck out to me was how quickly the play brought the audience together. Before the play the audience was a room full of stiff spectators, yet after it ended the place was filled with echoed laughs as neighbors turned into friends. This left a great impression in my mind. I remember thinking how great it would be to be apart of a performance like that one day. Although I was young, after that night I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to make people laugh. I wanted to perform. I wanted to act.
Tell us about your acting/filmmaking training.
After seeing the musical Grease, I joined the Forensics team where I competed in public speaking, impromptu and comedy sketches. Our tiny middle school did not have plays, but I found great joy in performing and learning to think quickly on my feet during improv competitions. After middle school I was accepted into Nashville School of the Arts for theatre and visual arts. I studied theatre for four years, expanding my love for acting. I enjoyed theatre but always wanted something more. During this time I began taking classes with Alan Dysert at the Actors School. This was my first exposure to the world of film and acting for the camera, a totally new concept from the stage world, but I loved it. I begged my parents to let me start auditioning for film opportunities around town. Thus began a long haul of trial and error about the film business, the agents and potential scams. I learned a lot about the film industry during that time which peaked my interest. I still wanted to act, but a desire to make my own films surged within. After high school, I went on to attend the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I studied journalism while still focusing on my love for acting with a double minor in theatre and film.
After taking my first film class at UT, I was even more convinced that this was what I wanted to do. I not only wanted to act, I wanted to make my own movies. I wanted to tell powerful stories that united people the same way the musical Grease had done for the audience so many years ago. After college, I debated over making the move to Los Angeles to pursue my long term dream. After much thought I choose to come back home to Nashville. During my time at home, I would be able to focus not only on acting but also on my personal film projects.
What are some of the film/television/video projects you’ve been a part of?
During my time in Nashville, I have met so many wonderful, talented people and gotten a chance to work on some wonderful film projects. I have done work through Watkins, the Nashville Film Institute and MTSU. Through the Nashville Film Institute, I was recently in a film called Dine and Dash. I played Kendall, a workaholic TV producer forced to join teams with a BBQ loving southerner. My co-actor, Caleb Watson, and I had such a fun time getting the chance to go behind the scenes at some of the top BBQ restaurants in Nashville. This year I also competed in the 48 Hour Film Festival. I played the role of a dead girl revived to life by a team of kooky medics. The film project was a blast and our teams film went on to win “best comedy” and “best audience reaction.” The most recent film I acted in was with Raeanne Rubenstein, a former photographer for People magazine. The film titled Mary and Albert is a clever romantic comedy. I played Meghan, the lead character’s best friend who was always eager for a good time. During the set, our good time laughs became more real than ever as we forced endless bottles of wine (sparking grape juice) down during one of our major scenes.
Any dream role?
I love the characters in which Jennifer Lawerence is cast. I would have loved to be the struggling older sibling she plays in Winter’s Bone or the recently widowed character she plays in Silver Linings Playbook. I was an avid Hunger Games and Harry Potter reader and would be delighted to have a role similar to Katniss or Hermione.
Tell us about your films.
The first film project I directed and produced was for the 54 Hour Film Festival in Murfreesboro, TN. Jonathan Everett and I directed and produced the film entitled Heart Heist. It was quite an adventure as we stayed up through the wee hours of the night. Although it was my first opportunity directing and producing, our film won third place, reassuring me anything is possible. This past spring, I competed in another short competition hosted by the Nashville Film Festival. My short ended up winning first place which granted me backstage access to all the festivals events. This award meant so much to me, as I took full advantage of that pass attending every film event I could.
What are you working on now?
I am currently working on a featured documentary and a book I hope to turn into a film after it is complete. The documentary I am working on is called Camp Koinonia. It’s about the only camp in the nation to admit children with multiple disabilites.
In a world where so many people struggle to get along with others on a daily basis, there is a place where people with autism, down syndrome, deafness, blindness, cerebral palsy, loss of limbs and various other disabilities come together, living under one roof. Camp Koinonia is a powerful place where children are paired with counselors in a camp setting. For one week counselors live side by side with their campers. The first time I went to Camp Koinonia I was a counselor to a wonderful little girl who remains a dear friend in my life today. After this experience, I thought this was a place people needed to know about. I went back to camp the following year to create the documentary. I believe if a person with multiple disabilities is able to get along with others and exude so much happiness despite their disability, then each of us should be able to do the same. I am in the process of editing the documentary and hope to have it completed within the next year!
Tell us about your upcoming trip to Nepal.
This Christmas I am going to live in Nepal for three weeks. It’s quite a story how this trip came to be, but one in which I am very eager to embark. I have always had a longing for other cultures and third world countries. This summer I got to fulfill that desire. I lived in Wedowee, Alabama where I served as a freelance videographer and photographer for an organization called SIFAT (Servants in Faith and Technology). The goal of SIFAT is to provide valuable training to help people in developing countries rise above poverty. SIFAT sent me on my first mission trip abroad where I worked as the photographer for a mission team in Ecuador. During my time in Ecuador, I saw and met so many wonderful people. Through Ecuador I grew a great love for people in third world countries and a desire to see more.
During my summer with SIFAT I met a wonderful girl named Chelsea Leander. We became great friends and both sought to help people in the third world. She is a student at Auburn University and received a grant to research poverty in some of the poorest communities in Western Nepal. I am going as her travel partner where I plan to make a documentary about our experience. After Ecuador and a trip to Haiti, Nepal will be the third country to which I have traveled. Through all these experiences in third world countries, I hope to one day find a common element and create a powerful film based on the lessons I have learned and the people I have met.
What are your goals as a filmmaker?
My goal as a filmmaker is to tell stories that inspire change and encourage people to think about things from another perspective. I like films with a solid story involving relationships and families. I also love a good comedy. I think some of the best humor comes from real life situations in which we all can identify. I feel as if most of the current movies have lost a sense of authenticity, and my goal is to bring that back.