Hazel Pasley (“Young Ruthie”)
As part of the cast in the 2019 drama The Mountain Minor, you had the fortune of playing “Young Ruthie.” How did you get the part for the film?
I was very fortunate for my parents to have befriended the producer, Susan Pepper, while she was director of the Junior Appalachian Musicians JAM Program in Sparta, North Carolina, where I live. I was very young, but I think that she knew that I could dance and play guitar, as those were my main interests while I was in the program. She ended up being the producer for this movie and recommended me to Dale Farmer, the director. They contacted my parents, and I sent in a video of me dancing, and that was that.
You were only twelve while filming the movie. Was this your first experience acting, and if so, how did you approach the process? Might we see more acting in the future?
I participated in local theater and plays before the movie. My siblings and I always loved doing acting performances for our parents growing up, but I’m pretty sure that our acting wasn’t as high-quality as what’s required in a film! I focused a lot on my role as Ruthie leading up to filming. I even had a couple of Southern accent tutoring lessons from some friends, as I felt like my accent wasn’t strong enough. Learning the lines was so fun; I remember going down to the creek in my yard and acting them out by myself, envisioning an imaginary Charlie. As far as future acting, I would love to! It’s not my life passion, but a great hobby. I certainly am excited to perform in another theatrical production in my town. I can assure you that I would not count out acting in another movie in my life.
During the filming, you had to learn guitar using Mother Maybelle Carter’s “Carter scratch.” What was that process like?
Honestly, it wasn’t too difficult to pick it up because I knew the banjo. The way my hand fell was very similar to the way a clawhammer banjo hand is positioned, so I got the movements pretty quickly. I didn’t sound as good as Maybelle Carter, but oh, well. However, I was not ready for Asa Nelson (“Charlie”) to play as fast as he did in one of the scenes in the film! I really had to work to keep up at that point.
What was the filming process like for you? Did you form a close bond with the other musicians on the set?
The filming process was amazing. I was in a state of euphoria for a week. Whenever I was on set, I could almost convince myself that I was in another time period. The place where we filmed was gorgeous and perfectly secluded. One of the best memories I have that truly defines this is one night we were all sitting out on the deck and there were more stars in the sky than comprehensible. Music filled the air constantly. Amy Nelson (actor Asa Nelson’s mother) made us the best meals. Dale Farmer kept such a warm vibe throughout the team. I tell ya, what more could you ask for in life?
I think everyone got pretty close while filming; we spent so many important moments together! I see Trevor McKenzie (the composer) quite often nowadays, as he does some music projects with my dad. I really want to visit the folks in Ohio whenever the chance arises. Dale and I have talked about it before. A lot of us have reunited at film showings and such, and it’s always so great.
When did you first start playing guitar and banjo?
My dad tried to teach me guitar when I was really little, but it didn’t quite click until I entered the JAM Program. Around the same time that all the stuff with the movie was going on, I was also learning banjo in JAM. I picked it up pretty quickly, but I haven’t improved much in the past few years, I admit. I’ve been much more into folksy music with a guitar and my voice, both of which definitely need improvement!
What musicians inspire you?
My biggest inspiration is Tracy Chapman. Her music hits me at a level that nothing else does. I’ve learned several of her songs on guitar, and each time I hear something that she’s put together, my jaw just drops. If I were to make it as an artist, it would be an artist like her. Of course, Michael Jackson is my second biggest inspiration, but he doesn’t exactly fit in with this type of music, does he?
What’s next for you?
Currently, I am wholly devoted to the sport of soccer. I really love writing songs in my rare down time, though. I’m learning the drums as well. Musically, I’d like to get an album out with a series of my own music. That will probably be years on down the line, though.