BABE #102: ASHLEY POWERS,
Freelance Film Producer
Ashley was nominated by her BFF (and one of our contributing writers) Anna Claire, who had only the most wonderful things to say about her work as a freelance film producer (with extremely impressive credentials ranging from commercials, to reality TV, to pilots and even wardrobe.) After chatting with her, we too can confirm that Ashley is a hustlin' babe who is self-starting, driven, and tough as nails. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Ashley. You are certainly a BWH and we're excited to see what you do next!
Hometown: Ocala, FL (Not born there, but spent most of my life there!)
Current city: Orlando, FL
Alma mater: UCF
Degree: B.A. in Film/Cinema Studies
Very first job: Hostess @ Roadhouse
Hustle: Freelance Film Producer, Production Manager + Coordinator
Babe you admire and why?
Currently obsessed with Brie Larson. Aside from being a gorgeous, incredibly talented actress, she’s also a crazy-smart “real person” with a huge amount of depth and drive. She also says she can’t figure out fashion, which I can completely relate to.
How do you spend your free time?
I’m currently spending a lot of time learning how to use my new camera (a Sony a6500)! I love outdoor activities (beach hangs, kayaking, hiking), and trying out new recipes. Traveling is my real passion. I try to get out of the country at least once a year.
Favorite social media account to follow?
TextsFromYourEx on Instagram, because we can all use a good laugh.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
Probably the Alien-themed bar across from the H.R. Giger museum in Gruyere, Switzerland. Views, cheese, chocolate and science fiction—oh my!
What’s one thing you wish you knew more about?
Politics. It’s so hard to weed through the BS, but we are all in this together and we have to take responsibility for our role in the future of this country.
I have so many, but Jaws is a go-to that never lets me down.
Queso or guac?
My head says guac but my heart says queso.
What’s something not many people know about you?
I listen to country music when I drive because it soothes me. (Don’t tell anyone.)
Tell us about your hustle:
I wear many hats, but the bottom line of my job is to make sure all the moving parts of a shoot come together. I manage the budget, book travel, deal with castings and locations, hire crew, rent gear—you name it.
What does your typical workday look like?
There’s no such thing as a “typical day” in the film industry. Sometimes my office is a hotel room. Sometimes it’s a cabana next to the dolphin habitat at Discovery Cove. Sometimes it’s a mansion in the Hamptons. And that’s exactly why I do this job. Each day is a new adventure.
When and how did you get into film production? What has that journey been like for you so far?
I went to college with no real idea of what I wanted to do in life. I met a girl in my honors program who was studying film and she, along with one of my professors, encouraged me to try it out. I fell in love with it. I realized in my first cinematography course that I was lightyears behind the others students in regard to technical knowledge, so I decided to apply for an internship with Panavision to learn about cameras. There, I met a number of camera assistants and coordinators who were kind enough to let me tag along on film shoots, and the rest is history. Over the years, I’ve done everything from camera, to wardrobe, to art, to script supervising, and now my current role. I think my path has made me exceptionally good at my job because I understand the needs and process of each department better after having been a part of them.
Specifically, how did you break into such a tough industry? What is your advice for someone trying to follow a similar path?
In this industry, it’s all about who you know. Ninety-nine percent of the time I hire people I already know, or based on a recommendation from someone I’ve worked with. Walking up to a seasoned film professional fresh out of college and saying "I’m a director" is not going to get you anywhere. You’ve got to be willing to start at the bottom, work harder than the other people around you, be eager to learn and always be humble. You have to prove that you’re willing to put in the work.
How many freelance projects do you manage at a time? How do you manage your own schedule and determine when to say “yes” or “no” to a new project?
Generally, one or two. After two, you start confusing jobs and things fall through the cracks. I like to be on top of everything, so taking on too much at once is a no-no. The film industry tends to be seasonal, so I try to work as much as can during certain windows and then I try to block out time to live my life (travel, work on personal projects, etc.).
What is your work environment/office culture like?
It’s a blast! I get to work with some of my closest friends and I also get to meet creative, interesting people all the time. We have crazy experiences (Ex: Tina Fey is standing right next to us. Do we say hi? Is that weird? Is it weirder not to?). And, they feed us. On a serious note, I really enjoy going to work and don’t think I could ask for more than that!
How would you say being a woman has affected your professional experience?
Being a woman has, in the long run, been an asset to me in this industry. But that has not always been the case. When I started in the camera department 12 years ago, it was not considered a place for women, especially in the South. I could have clawed my way up the ranks, but I chose to pursue a path where my skills would be completely appreciated. That decision led me to place where I do feel that I am of the most use.
What is the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
I would say, in general, the gender ratio is pretty balanced on a set (I did recently crew a job for a male producer with all women and he LOVED it). The ratio changes based on department, but women are definitely present in them all. Obviously, there is still gender bias in the film industry, but I’d say that it’s also one the places that women are beginning to gain respect faster and more publicly than any other. Because it’s constantly under the public eye, people tend to take notice of things like the traction that female directors are starting to get. I also think that it’s a huge asset to have powerful, influential women like Brie Larson and Jennifer Lawrence out there kicking ass and empowering each other.
What are some memorable career milestones for you?
When I first started in the camera department, a production coordinator called me and said: “You’ll be picking up the camera truck. Can you drive a truck? Yeah, of course you can.” I had never driven a box truck, but I knew I could figure it out, went for it, took that bad boy to an empty lot and practiced parking and backing up against bushes. That same mentality has gotten me through all of my big milestones. With each step up there is more on the line, but there has to be first time for everything. Best to jump in feet first!
What are some of the everyday struggles with your job that we might not see?
The way that a sporadic schedule is hard on your personal relationships and ability to plan life.
What is one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work? How’d you overcome it?
My biggest obstacle is my desire for perfection. One of my colleagues loves to say, “Embrace the change.” That really is the nature of film production in a nutshell. When you think all pieces are in place and you sit back admiring your perfect plan, don’t get comfortable - the hero talent is about to break their arm and it is definitely going to rain. I have to remind myself that any problem can be fixed with the right amount of effort.
What’s your favorite thing about your job? Least favorite?
My favorite thing about my job is the freedom it gives me to do other things. I don’t have to ask anyone for time off. It’s mind-blowing to me how many people survive off of two weeks of vacation a year. I’d be so stir crazy! My least favorite thing about it is leaving for work at the same time people are coming home from the bar.
What would you say is your biggest strength in your role?
I am a planner. Like, a huge planner. I am that person you want to go on vacation with because I’ve already mapped the whole thing out and made dinner reservations.
Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
My biggest inspirations are the women I work with on a regular basis. We have some fierce women in this industry.
What’s your ultimate dream job?
I’d love to produce a travel show and see the world on someone else’s dime!
Are you involved with any other community organizations or side projects?
I am currently developing a pilot with a friend. I can’t really say much other than it involves animals, public servants, and changing lives.
What advice would you give to a Babe trying to break into your industry?
Call me. Ha. Team up with other women (and people in general) who lift you up. Offer to help out and don’t be “above” any task. In this industry, you learn by doing. Make the most out of every job. Do things that scare you. Be someone who others want to be around.
What does success look like to you?
Sure, being recognized one day for something I created would be amazing. But success, to me, is more than that, and it’s something that is attainable on a regular basis. It’s crawling into bed at night and feeling like I did it. Putting it all out there, seeing a finished project and knowing what went into it.
What helps you wind down and manage stress?
I make time to travel. I go out in nature. I drink wine.
What are some notable experiences you’ve had on the job?
One of my most memorable moments happened on my first big job in the production office. I was told that there was a celebrity talent involved that I “might not even know,” and I was like: Okay, no big deal. Who? It was freaking Christopher Walken. I am a huge fan, and was determined to nail it. I hounded his people about what he liked (almost nothing aside from raw veggies and tabasco sauce), decorated his trailer to perfection, and talked to the car service people 10,000 times to make sure they knew to drop him at his trailer upon arrival. Of course, the day comes, it’s almost time, crew breaks for lunch, and who comes strolling in the front door of the stage? Freaking Christopher Walken. Everyone starts freaking out, and the director grabs him and starts corralling him towards his trailer. And Mr. Walken spins around and says (in that voice you can totally imagine), “I’d just like to have some lunch!” Proof that celebrities are just people.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Don’t let fear stop you from trying new things. Don’t assume that anyone else has it figured out. I did well in school because I was given tasks and completed them, but it was a rude awakening for me when I got out into the real world. The path to success is not going to be outlined for you. It’s going to be a process of trial and error, and that’s how you’re going to figure out who you really are.
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