Billy Ray’s father was a literary agent, and after having been surrounded by writers while growing up, it seemed natural that the younger Ray would also become a writer. The first piece of work he sold was an episode of The Jetsons, an animated series that ran from 1962 to 1988. One of his earliest screenplays was Color of Night (1994) starring Bruce Willis, but it was Volcano (1997) that got Ray on the Hollywood radar screen. His next screenplay, Hart’s War (2002) was a big budget production starring Bruce Willis and Colin Farrell. On the strength of the screenplay, he was hired for four more jobs before the movie was even released.
HBO had optioned Buzz Bissinger's exposé "Shattered Glass" about journalist Stephen Glass that appeared in the September 1998 issue of Vanity Fair and hired Ray to turn the story into a film. Ray read the article as well as all of Glass’s work and talked to people who had known him before writing the screenplay Shattered Glass (2003). He felt it was a natural progression to move from being a writer into the director’s chair, and he made his directorial debut with the film, starring Hayden Christensen as Glass.