PRODUCER HAS WORLD PREMIERE AT SOHO HOUSE IN NEW YORK CITY
This creative soul wears multiple hats in the industry, ranging from a film producer, wardrobe stylist and an actor. Residing in Manhattan, this woman has always desired to entertain people. From attending FIT and enrolling in The Mastered Program, she networked to reach another level in her career. She has worked on such film projects as The Disillusion of Pretty Butterflies, Full Moon and High Tide in the Ladies Room, Patty Pan, Lizzy on Leroy Street, Misty Button and on theater projects such as A Weight of a Real Woman, Cool Cave, and You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown.
She even started her own production company to focus on continuing to make and support films by women starring women. With various stories to bring forth to the world, she enjoys giving audiences a beautiful story telling experience and sharing her artistic design of costumes which are two gifts she believes is her contribution to the arts. We are happy to sit down and discuss more in detail of her gifts and passion.
PRODUCER AND COSTUME DESIGNER TAKES ART TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL
NIE: Thank you for taking your time and having this interview with us. Congratulations on your recent film ‘Lizzy On Leroy Street’ making its world premiere at the SoHo House In New York City. What can you tell us about this project? And your inspiration for the story? And how did you pitch the story to the director/writer Seanie Sugrue?
Ashton Clay: My inspiration for Lizzy on Leroy came from different experiences I have had with the homeless . I grew up in Charleston, West Virginia. There was a homeless man named Bill aka Aqua lung that was a fixture in our town for over thirty years . He was originally a successful attorney but went through a terrible divorce and basically became very depressed and wound up on the street. Another high profile homeless person in our town was a transgender woman named Elizabeth who was abandoned by her family and suffered mental illness and eventually wound up on the street. Both of these homeless people were subjects of many artists in Charleston. They were featured in various art galleries.
“Do what you love and what makes you happy.”
- Ashton Clay
My sister befriended both of them and she actually bought Bill a house. Unfortunately, Bill was more comfortable on the streets and he eventually ended up setting the house on fire by accident and as a result he ran away and no one has seen him since.
Elizabeth on the other hand got Cancer and at the end of her life was reunited with her family for one last time. These stories and countless other ones in New York made me want to write a story about the homeless as people with real stories rather than just fixtures on the street . Everyone has a story.
I sent the director, Seanie Sugrue, ten pages of Lizzy on Leroy and he loved the concept. He is a brilliant writer so I told him he could go ahead and rewrite it as long as he stayed with the original concept. I was really happy with the end result.
At the screening , people were so moved by the story that it made me want to continue sharing inspirational stories that touch audiences and brings awareness about these important issues.
“Don’t live for someone else’s plan for you. In the end it’s your life so make it count!”
- Ashton Clay
NIE: You attended the Apulia Web Festival for your first pilot called ‘Oh Dalia’. What originally attracted you to this project? And how was the entire production process?
Ashton Clay: I had created the character of Dalia about two years ago with my friend Heidi Olson. We were siting in my car and just started talking with Russian accents. We came up with a story about a Russian housewife living in the Hamptons with her developer husband and her niece Natalia who drops out of school and moves in with her loser boyfriend. A few months later my writer friend helped me write a draft. After the rough draft was created my friend Heidi and I rewrote the script in the language that would fit these characters.
Fast forward a few months and I was able to assemble a great team and we shot the first episode of “Oh Dalia” in three days. It was challenging because in order to keep expenses down the crew had to wear many hats. I myself was the wardrobe person, producer, casting director and starred in the project. This experience was invaluable. I realized after this project was completed that I was capable of much more than I ever gave myself credit for.
We got accepted to the Apulia Web Festival. At the festival I was honored with a best actress award for my betrayal of Dalia. Unfortunately, I skipped out at the end of the award ceremony because I had an early flight and really didn't think we were going to win anything. Lesson learned. Never assume anything!
NIE: Congratulations on starting your own production company. What can you tell us about this monumental achievement, and why now?
Ashton Clay: I have produced four projects in the last two years so I felt it was time to start my own production company, CLAYMOTION Pictures. This is what I love to do so the timing just felt right. I am working on a second episode of “Oh Dalia” to shoot this summer.
NIE: Where did the desire to be an actor stem from?
Ashton Clay: I knew I loved acting when I was eleven years old and I put together a production of the Wizard of Oz that I directed , starred in and casted with the neighborhood kids. I was always creating characters at a young age and performing them for friends and family. My sisters and I were gymnasts and we recreated a version of Cinderella called GymnastNella where we acted out the characters by doing acrobats on one of the neighbor’s lawn.
NIE: What process and techniques do you use to get into your characters as actor?
Ashton Clay: I consider myself a performer verses a serious actor. I like creating characters. I find dramatic acting extremely challenging but comedy and creating characters comes much more natural to me.
I have taken several improv intensives at Second City, The PIT and The Annoyance that have helped me with my acting as well as creating various characters. When I take on a role I really delve into their back story and what makes them tick. When creating a particular character the wardrobe, make up and hair are crucial to the completion of the character.
NIE: You also are a costumer designer going to FIT and enrolled in the Mastered Program. What made you first go into fashion and transition into film and acting?
Ashton Clay: I have been a wardrobe designer for twelve years. I graduated from FIT last year. I was lucky enough to be asked to do wardrobe on several films and theater productions so the transition back and forth from acting to wardrobe seemed natural. The producing only happened in the last five years. I feel most creatives like to delve into all areas of the arts.
NIE: What are some of your secret tips that help you in this industry to keep grounded and focused?
Ashton Clay: I consider myself fairly grounded. I don’t take myself too serious and I never see myself as knowing it all. I am constantly learning and growing from other artists.
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NIE: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to pursue a career in the field?
Ashton Clay: The advice I would give to someone that wants to pursue a career in a creative field is make sure you have financial means to support your love of the arts because you don’t get into this business to make money. If you are one of the fortunate ones to be able to support yourself in this field consider yourself extremely lucky. But most of us need another form of income.
NIE: Who inspires you?
Ashton Clay: My dad was a big inspiration for me. He was hardworking but also took the time to cultivate several passions and made time to smell the roses along the way while also running a publishing business and taking care of four daughters. It is so easy to become in the zone and to forget to find a balance in life.
NIE: What are the most impactful words of wisdom someone told you and who was it?
Ashton Clay: The most impactful words of wisdom would be: Do what you love and what makes you happy. Don’t live for someone else’s plan for you. In the end it’s your life so make it count!
NIE: What are three things you would say to your younger self that you know now?
Ashton Clay: I would say to my younger self “Why didn't you start sooner in this field”? Also never compare yourself to anyone else . “We are all on a different journey so no one is going to be the same”.
And lastly ” life is shorter than you realize so don’t spend time worrying about things you have no control over. It’s a waste of time”!
NIE: We’ve heard you have several exciting upcoming projects in different stages of production. What’s next for you?
Ashton Clay: I'm super excited about filming a second episode of Oh Dalia and I have two projects that are in the conceptual stages. One is a psychological thriller and the other pays tribute to the punk scene.
NIE: Before we go, is there anyone you would like to thank at this time?
Ashton Clay: I’d like to thank Seanie Sugrue for being the best creative partner and Julie Reifers for introducing me to him and his amazing team. I would like to thank my dear friend Emel Gunduc & my mentee Daniela Reina who have been on this journey with me in the last five years. They never stopped believing in me. I also want to thank my mentor Marcia Haufrecht who has taught me so much and has become a close friend. Lastly a huge thanks to my friends and family for always supporting my endeavors.