Next up, we have the ridiculously hard working and talented Ashleigh Harley. This girl is doing amazing things - Making films, writing books, making music! Essentially what I am trying to do, but she's MUCH better at it!
What made you pursue filmmaking?
Filmmaking has been my absolute passion since early childhood. I don’t really remember a time when I wasn’t absolutely desperate to start telling my stories through the medium of film. My family always tell the story that as a 2-year-old I would beg for our family camcorder, we still have the footage, it’s terrible! But definitely the sign of things to come.
My first opportunity to shoot my own professional film was on the set of The Wall of Lyon which only further instilled my passion for the art.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
I’m not sure how to answer that one in all honesty, as I don’t quantify filmmaking with achievement. The impulsion to do it is more out of necessity to deliver a story and satiate a burning desire to better my artistic practice. So that being said, on my CV The Wall of Lyon would be my biggest achievement to date. As it has done so well on the festival circuit and picked up such a great online presence.
However artistically I felt the music project I created to support The Wall of Lyon’s release, ‘Judge Me’ satisfied me artistically as it was far closer to my original vision.
How did you come up with the ideas for Wall of Lyon?
Ideas are strange little creatures. Aloof and allusive, you can sit around for one all day and nothing. But get busy and bam! Hundreds of them appear. The idea that sparked The Wall of Lyon started when I was in the midst of writing my science fiction trilogy some years ago (which is still being created!) and I realised I need a way of introducing this vast complex universe to an audience. Thus, The Wall of Lyon was born, a fantasy drama set some thousands of years in advance to the main storyline. Created to set up the history of a complex future world, The Wall of Lyon is Part One in an exciting new universe. I can’t wait to share it!!
Can you tell us more about your upcoming projects?
2019 is going to be a busy year! My number one project as always is The Wall of Lyon and ensuring it grows into its ultimate potential, which currently is in the form of a feature film script. My main goal for this year is to perfect that and get it into production. The feature will see new characters, new places and a whole deeper insight into the universe it’s connected to.
I also have secret project on the move that I’ll be announcing in a few weeks. It’s going to be very different from anything I’ve done before, and I hope will benefit a large amount of people. So if you’re interested in following the story or getting involved in my secret project sign up to my mail list at http://www.ashleighharley.com/sign-up/ or find me on social media.
Do you have any advice for young film makers out there?
Go for your dreams and don’t let anyone tell you no. Nothing is too ambitious or impossible.
Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful film maker?
No, but I imagine it could help. Everything is circumstantial, and everything is ultimately what you make it. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for somebody else. Some people go to the top institutions and become great filmmakers and hugely successful, others leave and struggle to get a job. So my answer is no, it is not essential. Spielberg didn’t go to film school, he was rejected and it didn’t hurt his career!
Which film has inspired you the most?
I’ve never walked out a cinema and thought “I feel inspired to make a movie now”. Life has always been cause for my inspiration. That being said, I’ve definitely watched films and though “wow, if only I could make something as good as that.” The recent Bladerunner was awesome, I’m also a big fan of Guillermo Del Toro’s work. Particularly Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape of Water. I’m sure those films are connected in some way, he truly creates fascinating fantasy worlds.
How do you go about casting for your films?
Whether I’ve written the script myself or it’s a fresh read I always sit down and completely clear myself of any preconceived perceptions I might have about the characters or the stories. I read the script cover to back in one sitting and brainstorm what does each character want? What is their background? How is their history effecting them today? With this in mind I allow a picture to form in my mind of the character. Then I discard it, and seek to audition actors from as many backgrounds and with as many emotional ranges and styles as possible to see what might come alive in front of me. I’ve always believed the best acting is free acting, when it is acting without awareness of the camera or ‘character’ but more organic responses between two people.
I like to see actors a couple of time and in a few environments, with the addition of their own direction and mine to see how they respond and what works best. Only after a process of seeing numerous actors bring the character to life will I make a decision.
Do you hire casting directors or do it yourself?
I like to do it myself. If there is an audition for a film I’ll be directing you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll want to be in that audition room. I hope to always maintain this approach. I’ve been on the other side of the casting desk, the frightening end where you give it your all and put your heart on the line only to have someone yell “NEXT!” The least I can do as the director is show up!
What do you look for when choosing actors to audition ie their CV, headshots...
Honestly. Without any doubt, and I’m not talking about being honest or that little white lie you put on your CV that says you’re a triple crown horse racing jokey when let’s face it, you’ve never even ridden a horse. I’m talking about the emotional honesty in your performance and belief in your characters situation. The moment you take that deep breath, lock onto the scene partners eyes, before you even say your first line your level of belief in the character is pouring out of you. For me, this is what makes an actor stand out, this is that allusive ‘presence’ we are all talking about and searching for.
Auditions are tough and subjective. Rejection is sadly part of the game. You can give the most phenomenal performance and not get the gig and it is simply down to the fact that the casting director had a different vision in mind. This does not reflect on you in anyway shape or forms.
So you ever consider actors who don't have a full CV or showreel?
100%. I think gold can come from anywhere and there’s a little bit of it in every actor. It’s just a case of honing it. I always hold open auditions to supplement my casting process, and for anyone who can’t make them I accept online auditions.
Aside from acting I can see that you're also making Wall of Lyon into a book and pursuing music. How do you find the time for it all?
Haha that’s a good question. I actually don’t have much time to spare, but despite that I’ve decided to take on another project this year. The book has taken a back burner as I’ve focused all my attention into perfecting the feature script. That will then form the basis for my next music project, an album that will be released as part of the whole Wall of Lyon saga.
The first book of the universal series will then follow the release of the film and viola, who knows what the future holds…
What are you most excited for in 2019?
Finishing The Wall of Lyon script! It’s been roughly two years in works getting it to fully integrate with the larger sci-fi series, I can’t freaking wait to see it come to life on screen!
Anything else you'd like to add?
If you’d like to contribute to making The Wall of Lyon feature film, the undercover project or just follow my story do get in touch and like me on social media!
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