Wyoming native Jaren Cerf left her first film audition humiliated. Acting just wasn’t for her, she thought.
For an hour, she’d waited in a room with the other women auditioning for the same role. She chatted with her competition in an attempt to calm her nerves. The project and its audition process, organized through a major casting agency in Montreal, were bigger and more formal than she’d anticipated. The audition didn’t seem to go well.
Afterward, she sat in her car and cried.
“I’m never going to do that again,” she thought.
Then, a few months later, she found out that the Canadian and Irish line producers liked her audition, despite how she felt it went. She earned a lead role acting as Rosie in “Song of Granite,” an Irish film about Joe Heaney, a traditional singer from that country.
“I was actually in total disbelief, and excitement and appreciation, probably above all,” she said, laughing.
The surprises have kept coming.
Now, “Song of Granite” is Ireland’s official submission for the Oscars. Cerf’s waiting to find out in January if it will be nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film for the 2018 Academy Awards, she said.
Cerf, who lives in Montreal, has enjoyed reading the film reviews in publications including the New York Times, Variety and Village Voice.
“So far the people who have gone to see it have been pretty moved by it,” Cerf said. “Visually, it’s stunning and moving.”
Cerf grew up in Laramie and graduated in 2002 from Laramie High School. She moved to Los Angeles shortly after graduation to pursue a folk music career. She worked for a few years as a personal assistant to actor Scott Bakula at Paramount Studios before returning to music, according to her biography at jarencerf.com.
Then she became involved in a form of electronic dance music called trance and worked with DJ Armin van Buuren, which led to tours and creating hits in the genre. She’s also recorded two folk albums.
Her performing career slowed after becoming a mother, but she continued writing music for other artists. Her collaborations include co-writing a song for the 2014 Sochi Olympics and another with a well-known French DJ that made the #2 on the Billboard charts for club music, according to her website.
Cerf has been performing since she was a child. Her father, John Voight, would accompany her and her sister, Josie, in singing and yodeling competitions and performances throughout the West, she said.
She’d always wanted to act and, at age 31, decided to try it out, she said. “Song of Granite” was her first film audition.
The character was described as an American woman in her 30s living in Canada, with a daughter about age 6 to 9, a background in folk music and an appreciation for Irish music, she said. Her daughter was almost 6. Cerf’s mother listened to a lot of Irish music, and, of course, she was a folk artist.
“I thought, well, that’s weird, that’s exactly me,” she said.
She found out that a video she created to promote her folk album released last year helped her win the role. Her short film pokes fun at sexism and ageism in the music industry, and it depicts her hiring her daughter as her manager, she said.
Her character in “Song of Granite” interviews the main character, Joe Heaney, as part of an effort to transcribe hundreds of songs that were passed down generation to generation, at a time when traditional music was no longer popular, Cerf said.
“He’s got kind of a special, strong character, and Rosie was really good at getting him to tell the stories about the songs or getting him to really communicate sort of what’s going on with the songs,” Cerf said.
The black and white film directed by Pat Collins is a portrait of Heaney’s life and an exploration of music, according to press information for the film.
“Shaped by the myths, fables, and songs of his upbringing in the west of Ireland, his emergence as a gifted artist came at a personal cost,” according to the website.
“I think people who have an appreciation for traditional music in any form are really going to be moved by it,” she said.
Cerf performed music from the film at its debut in Austin’s South by Southwest in March and other promotional events. One of the songs she sings is “Rocks of Bawn,” based on her favorite version by traditional Irish singer Beairtle Ó Domhnaill. Earlier this month, she was thrilled to receive an email from the singer saying he’d heard her version and to keep up the good work, she said.
Cerf’s not sure how much acting she’ll do in the future, but she’ll keep exploring her artistic passions that have lead her at times to unexpected places. Right now, she’s working on pitching a book to publishers about transitioning to zero waste, she said.
“It’s awesome to have a role in a film to begin with and in way that was so surprising to get it,” she said. “Because it’s music related, and I have a background in the music industry, I think it feels even more personal than that. It’s been a really cool journey so far.”