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Thrive organizers: why did we choose them?

I’m not only interested in what the women of Consilium Consulting Group (CCG) teach entrepreneurs; I’m interested in the women of CCG themselves. You see, the goal of “Pioneers in Skirts” is to empower every woman looking to accomplish in her career – no matter if she’s starting out, returning to work or making a change in careers, like the CCG ladies. I admire that they are brave enough to follow their dreams.


Never give up sloth

We all are given the advice “to stop holding back and follow your dreams.” So why aren’t we all doing it? Why aren’t we all astronauts, dancers or world travelers with a revenue building blog? Follow Your Dreams. Do What You Love and You’ll Never Work a Day in Your Life. But you’ll also be eating PB&J’s for the rest of your life and your children will be “those kids” who smell in class… (My mom just yelled at me for writing this because we didn’t have much money, and I never smelled. So I take it back. Smelly people can come from all walks of life.)

But it’s difficult to follow your dreams.

I know that. I was told I would never make money in the film business. For a long time, I thought the naysayers were right. It wasn’t until my second semester of grad school at USC that I truly believed I could have a money-making career in filmmaking. Plus, I was pretty damn good at it. Yeah, I said it. And guess what? I’m making money at it. Not a lot. I eat those PB&J’s and they’re fine for now, but it’s time for me to take that next step in my career. What exactly is that next step? For me, it’s taking charge of my business and owning my accomplishments. By attending “Thrive,” my crew and I will be capturing a valued story of women breaking barriers and taking risks — but I know I will learn tips about what I need to do to succeed in my career, too!

Read a bit of what Patti Villalobos will discuss in her session at Thrive. Read her Thriving At Work, In Business – be a TRUE success in business blog! #ThriveWomensBiz

I look forward to sharing more updates about the “Thrive” retreat with you as we get even closer to the mid-March date. Can the world slow down for like, a minute? And, when “Pioneers in Skirts” is released into the world (targeting a July 2015 premiere – #CrossYourFingers), you can learn more about the event and other ways we found to answer the question, “What Does It Take For Women to Succeed?”



Building the sizzle-reel

As we near closer and closer to March (I know, right? Seriously?), I am proud to share what we are planning next for the Pioneers in Skirts™ filming effort.

Executive Producer Lea-Ann Berst and I are making the documentary movie “Pioneers in Skirts”; focused on answering the question, “What Does It Take For Women To Succeed?” We have recently jumped head first into this film and are giving it all we have – which is truthfully the only way to make a movie. Just this last week, we filmed at the Girls World Expo in Raleigh, NC then moved on to Atlanta to interview Kat Cole, the President of Cinnabon.

We are filming interviews and events to build content for a sizzle-reel that will be used to raise funds to make the rest of the film, and this is set to go live at the end of April 2014. The footage we have gathered to-date has been amazing.

Below is a photo of Ms. Cole and me chatting at her dining room table about movies, career advice and coffee. No big deal.

Cinnabon Kat Cole Ashley Maria“Pioneers in Skirts” is my life.

I dream about it. I even dreamt last night that I painted my apartment wall green to make a homemade green screen for “Pioneers in Skirts” interviews. Of course, in real life, that would just be silly…right? Hmmm….

No green screen needed for this.

With every good documentary comes a story arc that evolves around people who help you tell the story you want to tell. I’m excited to announce that we have chosen to follow the Consilium Consulting Group (CCG) to film how and why they decided to start their new company (follow them on Twitter @ThrivewithCCG). These ladies are all quitting their high-powered jobs to pursue a new (ad)venture in their lives.

thriveMy crew and I will travel to Franklin, Tennessee in mid-March to attend a business retreat for women called “Thrive” – where entrepreneurial women will learn new ideas and advance their skills to really succeed in their career and in their business.

The weekend is designed to help attendees fortify their business knowledge, tap into the freedom of their creativity, connect them to their own intuition, and find support in a powerful and meaningful way with other successful business women!

It will be a place where women can develop powerful networks and meet mentors who foster and nurture the leader in them. I will be attending as a filmmaker, but value having the chance to sit in and take advantage of the sessions. I am extremely excited about the people I will meet!


Continued… Why We Chose Thrive Organizers



This will be the BEST blog you will EVER read! NO, SERIOUSLY!


Look at this picture! They’re ghosts!

disney ghosts

And look at this one!! CRABS! Oh my!



Okay…so maybe not. I mean, if this blog made me some mac & cheese, then maybe it would be the best blog ever… or maybe if it, like, helped me pay my rent.

But I just have to express how TIRED I am of all those super exaggerated Blog/Buzzfeed/Jezebel links that say everything is SO AMAZING. And you will FREAK OUT when you read this. And you NEVER would have IMAGINED this would happen NEXT!!

I bet I could have imagined it. Don’t underestimate me.

These links are usually a buzzkill. Yeah, I said it.

But not this one:

Did you check it out? Pretty SPECTACULAR right? You’re welcome.


Saying everything is so AMAZING, and you would NEVER BELIEVE — that’s like extreme spoiler, right? For example, whenever a friend told me the newest episode of “Breaking Bad” was epic – that was already too much! I knew it was going to be epic, so I anticipated epic-ness. There was no “Oh wow, this episode is epic.” It was just “Yeah, it better be epic because Suzy said so.”

Sad days with those Breaking Bad spoilers… I don’t want to talk about it.

Anyways, give me a break. Please no more of these over stimulated titles to blogs. I click, and then I am immediately unimpressed expecting epic epic-ness. Unimpressed, I say!

Sure, I guess I could just stop clicking on them, but then I may actually miss something epic – and isn’t that the worst of all? Feeling left out? Sigh.

K. Bye.



Why I Love NC – in Moving Pictures…

Want to hear something super duper cool? No? Oh … okay.

Oh, wait, you do? Awesome!

So back in July, when I was home in North Carolina, I learned about a contest (from my Mom – she’s cool). It was a contest hosted by “Our State” Magazine asking us to make short documentaries showing what we loved about North Carolina. Fun, right?

And today we were announced as a FINALIST! yayyyyyyyyy!!!!

What would your documentary look like for your home state? 

Making the Movie

I already had my Flip Cam with me – lovingly named “Flip” – and I thought, what if we were talking about everything we loved, and then the camera comes to life and takes his own journey around NC? So…we did it!

I got my cousin Margot (@Justhewayur14) to pretend to be my sister in the video and her friend Monica to film our little intro. We did about 10 takes before we got the timing right. And then I took them to Bojangles as a “thank you.” I’ve actually worked with these ladies before – I came to their filmmaking class to speak about the film industry a few years ago.

Then my mom and I went on a Day trip to Kill Devil Hills where we spent most of  the time filming – but I also ate my first lobster. So that happened.

Besides getting attacked by bees and sweating our faces off (summer in NC!)… it was a great time making movies!

Here’s the final video — What do you think?

And here’s a fun ‘Cutting Room Floor’ extra for you!

We find out later this week if we win the contest… so cross your fingers!



We did not win the contest, BUT we do have future plans for this short NC video… so stay tuned to this website page! Check it, like, every other Tuesday. K?



What Did You Think?

I want to hear what YOU think!

This past weekend was the big premiere of our short film “Business & Professional Women: A History, A Movement.”


Check out the title image for the film – designed by Jen Van Horn.

The screening was amazing to say the least! IMAX hosted us again. You may remember we held a screening of “Volcano Girl” and “Friday Night Fright” at IMAX 2 years ago.

What did you think of seeing a documentary on the big screen? What did you learn about the Business and Professional Women’s Clubs and women’s organizations? ANSWER in the comments section below!

Pioneers in Skirts

Pioneers in Skirts Logo

Awesome logo design by Camden Watts — a fellow filmmaker friend!

After the screening of the film, we set up a panel in IMAX’s Venture Hall to discuss the future of working women and the necessity of women’s groups. I was able to gather a team of filmmakers — Roguemark and Larry Evans –to film the event in hopes of using the footage in our feature length documentary, “Pioneers in Skirts.”

What did you think of the panel? Did you learn anything new? If you didn’t get a chance to ask a question, what would you have asked?


My post-screening feet want to thank everyone who attended the event!  (Sweatpants are a girl’s best friend…)





Interviewing Kevin Smith…AGAIN

I got to interview Kevin Smith…AGAIN! Check it out here:

Huffington Post Live has been good to me. My head pops in at about 8:30 minutes. So grainy. I filmed it at about 6:30am with a ton of lights pointing at me, but it still looks terrible!

If you’ve been reading my blog for the past 4 years (what…you haven’t??), then you’ll remember I interviewed Kevin Smith back in 2011 on his Smodcast radio show. Avid grabbed a group of film students to interview him about directing and other fun filmmaking questions. He sang “girls on film” to me in his excitement of seeing a female director. Look at me! I’m a girl! This Huffington Post Live interview marks the second time Kevin Smith has congratulated me on being a female filmmaker. Can we just be friends now, Kev? Cool?

What do you think of the question I asked him? I asked him about fundraising to make my first feature. I agree that you need to just do it, but I’m not ready to go into even more debt. Thanks USC. I hope to get my movies funded! Key word… “hope.” But you also need to believe in your projects enough to put in your own money. And baby, I’ve been believing for quite awhile!

Oh, you want to buy me a coffee? I will never turn down a FREE coffee. Never!

I’m a poor filmmaker.

Love, Ashley



Interviewing for Huffington Post LIVE

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 9.26.38 PM

Yesterday I was asked to interview Josh Lieb, an Emmy award winning comedy writer, on behalf of Huffington Post Live.





Here’s the whole interview:

My question comes at about 22 minutes.

The Process

This must be how they do it on every show using the Google Hangout or Skype technology to have the audience ask questions.

We signed in about 20 minutes before the show went live. The other interviewers – Mike McCamon (Chief Community Officer at and Eric Navarrette (Writer) – were really nice. They tried to help me as my Google Hangout stopped working…it never did go back to normal. I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand Google Hangout… but, for what it’s worth, knowing these guys for a very random 45 minutes, was nice.

Anywho, we sat there on Google Hangout completely silent for nearly 40 minutes waiting for our turn to ask a question. I’ll admit that it did get strange after awhile. Think about it, I was sitting silent on Google Hangout for over 1/2 an hour staring at the faces of two guys I just met. I didn’t know when it would be my turn to ask a question…so I tried to act cool.

Time to Ask a Question

Then they introduced us. I heard “we have some people waiting to ask questions” and then I saw my face pop up on the TV behind Josh Lieb. “Oh crap,” I thought. “That’s my face…act cool.” And then my face just kind of stayed on the screen as if I were staring down at the interview, watching over them – like the Wizard of Oz head. I was the creepy green Wizard of Oz head. Yep.

Ashley Maria on Huffington Post Live


wizard-of-oz hologram

Terrifying Wizard of Oz Head. Do you see the resemblance?

They jumped to a video of the Water campaign, and I could breathe again. No longer were they staring at my face. Josh Lieb wrote’s short campaign video, and Mike McCamon worked on the campaign as well. So Mike was the first one up to chat about the Water campaign.

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 9.30.33 PM

That’s Mike.

I still wasn’t sure what they were seeing of us in the live show, so I stayed all “Poker Faced.” Here’s an image of what I could see as a member of the Google Hangout. The show would go “blank” when one of us was being featured, so again, I wasn’t sure what they were seeing.

Huffington Post 1

This is what I saw. Note my email with my questions. I didn’t want to rely on my memory. There was also a 5 sec delay between our Hangout interview and the online interview.

Huffington Post 3

Then this happened when I was trying to take a screenshot. I was convinced my whole computer was about to freak out. It did not. But I DID stop taking screenshots.

ash huff 1

This is what it looked like if you were watching  on your computer.

When it was my time to ask a question, it was one of those “jump right in” moments. Do not hesitate. Just do it.

It was SO STRANGE! I watch most of my TV online, so part of me felt like I was just watching this show, and then suddenly they were talking back to me – telling me to ask a question. Kind of like a little movie I made a few years ago? I said to myself “oh that’s right, I’m a part of this…” and jumped in.

I would totally do it again! I actually “production designed” my Google Hangout screen. I actively put my computer at an angle to add depth, and then moved clutter from behind me so nothing was calling attention from the talent…me. When I logged in, I got a “Oh good background,” from the organizer. I was like, “No big deal.” :)

Ran Out of Time

You’ll notice we only asked one question, but we were asked to prepare three. I guess they ran out of time, so that’s a bummer. I really wanted to ask so many more questions about his writing routine and his process – especially how he can write multiple stories at the same time. I’m a part of a writing group, so that really helps me. I wonder about Josh!

The way this town works, though, I’m sure I’ll run into him randomly at an event, and I’ll go for it!

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 9.11.54 PM

Another screenshot of the interview.


Speaking of a Small World — Name Drop Alert –

Josh Lieb was a Co-Executive Producer of the Daily Show with Rory Albanese. I met Rory at UNC-Chapel Hill when he came to do stand up for the UNC Comedy Festival organized by Lewis Black, a UNC alum. I would hang out with these guys every year. Definitely one of my best memories of UNC!

All the performers one year - do you see Rory Albanese and Lewis Black?

ash with rob riggle

And this is me with Rob Riggle. Just wanted to throw that in there.

I did go one year to see the Daily Show live. I sat in the VIP section and asked Jon Stewart a question. I literally had no idea what I was going to ask him the second I stood up, so I rambled and eventually asked when he would be going to the Comedy Festival. He asked "when are you graduating?" I said "this year." He said, "well, then I'll be going next year!" He got a good laugh with that one.

Meh. Oh well. I got to ask Jon Stewart a question! and now Josh Lieb. Cool! The truth is, Josh was probably there when I was there. SMALL WORLD!!!!


Thanks to @MarketSleddogg and @1talkingmoose for watching and posting pictures of the interview. You're the best! I love my North Carolina posse.



It’s Nice to Meet You…or is it?


Alright friends. I am daring you. NO. Double dog daring you…(triple?)

double dog dare

I dare you — The next time you meet someone, shake their hand and say “It is nice to meet you,” — I want you to mean it.

The “Nice to meet you” is becoming generic and insincere. Similar to the “How are you?” No one really wants to hear how I am doing!

I’m done with people saying “nice to meet you” while not even looking me in the face! I find myself trying to stay in their gaze if only just to entertain myself. It’s nice to meet me? Are you sure? Because as far as I can tell you are just working the room, fella! And in this industry, sincerity is a lost trait.

I’m done with it. I’m over it. And you should be, too.

Don’t just try to get the “hand shaking” out of the way. Try to really MEET people. This is, after all, your first impression.




Pioneers in Skirts – Developing a Film – Realizing Its Goal

In January, I began putting more focus on my feature length documentary, “Pioneers in Skirts.” [Click here for the Twitter Page and here for the Facebook page.] This is a documentary I have been “thinking about” for over three years. It started out as a short film about the Business & Professional Women’s Organization, (BPW) an organization started over 90 years ago to advocate for women’s rights. As I sat behind the camera listening to their stories, I realized I had never heard them before, at least not from someone who wasn’t on the cover of newspapers and interviewed by Oprah. This was the “average” person who made change happen.

Like the Gandhi quote, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” – these are those people. I was in absolute awe of them.

I watched the footage again and again as I edited the short film. I realized that we, my generation, never really asked average women who came before us to share their stories. For some reason, we associate women’s rights and advocacy as “feminism from the past.” And those of us who are in our twenties justify our disassociation from the bra-burners because we have nothing to complain about, nothing to continue fighting for. Women are doing okay, right? We don’t want to be perceived as “that girl” who is never happy with the state of women today. C’mon…you know “that girl.”

The past is the past right? No. The only equal right we have to men is the right to vote! I learned that fact when I was working on the BPW short film.

I don’t want “Pioneers in Skirts” to be a call to “fight” – I want it to be a call to support. I have come to realize the women of my generation no longer support each other the way the women of the 60s and 70s did. I want that back. I think we need that back to continue working toward equality and beyond.

Do you, as a woman, feel you can accomplish anything? Or do you struggle with that “family issue?” Or are you afraid of appearing too aggressive? In my preliminary interviews for “Pioneers in Skirts” I met women who have these fears and older women who lived through these fears. So what’s the answer? The answer is support (promise me you’ll still watch the movie now that I’ve given you the conclusion…). We can’t hide in the corner afraid to share our troubles, and we can’t judge each other for sharing. We need to support each other and offer solutions. This is the only way for women to continue a forward momentum toward equality in the workplace.

I swear, if someone says to me one more time, “Oh, look at the hens working together,” I will scream! But you don’t do that. Don’t scream. Don’t do what I do…

Please, please don’t let the bulls**t that people say to you discourage you from realizing women need to stick together. Through “Pioneers in Skirts,” I will share the stories of women being knocked down by words of others and how they pioneered through.

Please keep up with the making of this film. If we all can share this notion of support – and really change our way of thinking – then we can make a real difference. Together.



Advice for Employment in the Film Industry – Don’t Get Stuck

Before I graduated from film school, I spent some time thinking “How do I support myself after the assignments are due…and student loans have stopped keeping me afloat?” “Oh gosh, how do I pay them off??” I had to step back, stop freaking out, and first decide between the corporate side of film or the freelance side. Two employment routes you can take in this industry.

Some advice I can offer – find out if you’re an “office” person or a “set” person – or both – before you commit to full time employment. I quickly discovered I was both, meaning if I were on set every single day for months, I would probably long for an office job and vice versa.

I used to think that I was just lazy and noncommittal, and maybe I am… but I have also discovered that I need change to stay challenged and excited. What about you? I have a lot of colleagues who work their office jobs and then accomplish their “real” goals on the side. I also have friends who are on set nearly every single day, and are able to maintain a life outside of it.

I know what works for me: I just say, “don’t get stuck.” That’s one fear I have – getting too comfortable in an office job or a job on set and not allowing myself to be challenged to create my own projects. In my year out of film school, I have met a lot of people who say they feel they got stuck and can’t go back to realizing their goals. That’s heartbreaking, but they also drive a Lexus and don’t worry about rent. I can’t allow myself to get comfortable and not strive toward the goal. I also can’t allow myself to get scared of “having no money!” I’m at a point in my life where I only have me to worry about, which won’t always be the case, so I need to take advantage of it now.

If you decide to live the freelance life like me, be smart about your finances. For example, for the longest time, I wanted a popcorn maker to make homemade popcorn. My parents have one (from like the 90s) and homemade popcorn is WAY better than microwaveable. I started to ask myself, “Do I really have 40 bucks to spend on one, though?” I discovered that I can easily make popcorn in a pot on my stove (the way my parents did when they were kids…). No official popcorn maker needed, and it’s way more fun! So, not only did I save 40 bucks, but I also saved shelf space. And, when you live in a studio apartment, shelf space is incredibly important!

In conclusion (is this a term paper?), the second you think, “I should buy this,” pause, do some research and see if there is a more economical way of doing or buying that item. THIS is how I am able to live on a budget in Los Angeles! Don’t get me wrong, some days I wish I could just tell that little voice in my head to “shut up” and go shopping! But then I remind myself of my goals and calmly walk out of Target…because this usually happens at Target.