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Filmmaking Archives - Ashley Maria



360 Filmmaking Can be Affordable

What are the elements that go into making a 360 video? Well, what IS a 360 video?

In short, a 360 video is made with a camera that is able to capture ‘everywhere.’ It is able to see and record everything that goes on around it. It’s challenging to filmmakers since we are accustomed to guiding the audience with our shots, angles and edits, but it is also a welcomed change to a world that is way more connected than ever.  360 videos allow YOU, the audience, to decide where to look. You’ve got the power! As a filmmaker, I can use sound cues to encourage the audience to look in one direction or another, but what if they don’t? Then there must be something aiding the story all around.

This can be expensive for the independent filmmaker – or, so we are told. Sure, some stories require multiple cameras, hours and hours of stitching the footage and rendering, a production and post sound crew and many more experts to get everything just right so the audience will feel immersed. And yes, to be able to afford this for every story, would be the dream!

But what if you simply want to show your audience the full perspective of a moment in time? Creating this kind of empathy doesn’t have to be expensive. So, I decided to get out of my head and into the world with my 360fly camera.

360 filmmaking is about giving your audience the full perspective and allowing them to simply be in the moment. This weekend, I marched in Los Angeles for the Women’s March, and I filmed moments with my 360fly camera. Those who were unable to attend a march or maybe wondered ‘what is this march all about’ can see what it is like to be right in the middle of it all. I chose eye level so the audience would feel like they are right there next to me.

After all, these are tools to connect us. They make us think about our own lives and how we relate with each other. And – in more ways than one – they allow us to see different perspectives. Embrace 360!

Follow me on YouTube to see other 360 Full Perspectives I have created just for you 🙂



Bringing AR & VR into the public consciousness…

Since Pokemon Go launched on July 5, and Nintendo’s shares were at 14,490 Japanese yen ($136.59), not only has this app become a global phenomenon, but Nintendo’s stock has more than doubled. Personally, I have had a great time just learning to play the game. I’ve chatted up strangers as I tried to learn tips and tricks, and I’ve totally enjoyed the exercise! In a recent interview with Lenovo (below) I shared that my Fitbit step count has been the highest it has ever been.

Also shared in that interview: my initial perspective of how this free app, which works on just about any Android or iOS device, is most definitely bringing AR into the public consciousness. And oh my gosh — this is very good for me and what I’m doing around narrative 360/virtual reality (VR)!!

What I think will happen 

Gaming publishers and developers will soon come out with improved AR smartphone and goggle-related experiences; allowing for people to become even more accustomed to interactive entertainment.

So, who’s next?

My bet is on the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro smartphone (globally available in September) to make AR and VR as pervasive as the GPS. This Lenovo smartphone has a 16 megapixel rear camera on board with a special depth-sensing unit, along with multiple camera sensors, which power the AR experience. I am also betting on Minecraft. Yeah…they need to first make it work on smartphones and follow that up with an even more immersive experience with Hololens (or any other headset).

What do you think?

I’m guessing the future looks bright for both AR and VR — and I couldn’t be happier about it!

[What’s the difference between VR and AR? Click here.]

Pokemon Go image

Article published on Lenovo blog – 14 July, 2016:

Why Pokémon Go Could Be a Watershed Moment for AR Technology

– by Gavin O’Hara

If you are alive and/or have checked the internet over the last few days, then you know:there is an invasion happening. They are here and living amongst us—down the street, in the park, at the office—and they are adorable.

Less than a week after the release of Pokémon Go, people of all ages are wandering their neighborhoods, smartphones in hand, obedient zombies desperately hoping for a glimpse of Ponyta or Eevee. Pokémon Go not only looks to be a legitimate gaming phenomenon right out of the gate, it could also represent the moment that augmented reality (AR) went mainstream. We asked LA-based virtual reality filmmaker Ashley Maria for her take on the Poké-madness.

* * * * *

I live in Los Angeles, right across the street from a huge church. I pass it often, waving to the pastor and continuing on to the grocery store next door. It’s a nice, neighborly relationship. I have never just stood outside of it, though, looking up and staring at its sign—until today.

I just stood there. Looking. And waiting. You see, I was trying to figure out my first beacon.

Pokemon_fence-900I’m talking about Pokémon Go, a new smartphone-based game that forces players to go outside and explore the world around them.  Maybe force is a strong word but you do have to go outside to catch Pokémon and collect supplies from “beacons” in your area.

The game places a Pokémon in the space around you and challenges you to catch it with a Poké Ball. It uses the camera on your phone, so you can actually see a little Pokémon in front of you. They put one next to you when you first start the app, but then you must venture out for a super-fun Augmented Reality experience in your city.

As AR & VR technologies make their way into the mainstream, all it takes is one breakout application to help us understand how much they will impact our lives. Pokémon Go is that app. With more than 7 million downloads after a few days, this interactive AR game leveraged nostalgia to gain initial traction, and used its real-life implementation to get us all absolutely obsessed.

I first heard about the game in my Facebook feed when a few friends were hunting Pokémon at Disneyland. A short while later—with my social feed full of images of Pokémon popping up in friends’ apartments—I knew I had to join the party.

I downloaded the app, created my character (“itsashleymaria”) and waited for it to figure out my location. Immediately, there was a little Squirtle in front of me ready to be caught! I never played the Pokémon games back in the day so I felt pretty cool throwing a little white-and-red Poké Ball to catch this guy. Through the app, I saw that there were even more beacons and interactive spots for me to check out.

I ventured out, arriving at my first beacon (the church). As I stood outside, it didn’t seem to be working. I noticed the sign was on the other side of the fence – did I need to be directly under it for it to work? I actively tried to figure out how to get into the fenced-in courtyard but no luck. I’m not one to give up easily but my phone was drained. (This app drains your battery FAST.)

Pokemon_Ponyta-900After a quick charge, I returned determined to figure it out. This time, it worked right away. A cool horse-like Pokémon called Ponyta appeared. I took a billion screenshots because she was so cute, and then I caught her.

Now I’m hooked. And it made my FitBit happy! I hit about 5,000 steps just searching for Pokémon. Plus, I got to see other parts of my neighborhood I may otherwise have never seen.

To learn more about Lenovo’s own augmented reality technology, explore their new AR smartphone.




The biggest career challenge…ever

Making Pioneers in Skirts™ has been the biggest career challenge I’ve ever faced –

But hey, that’s a statement a first-time feature filmmaker typically would make. Creating a feature documentary film takes an incredible amount of dedication, belief in the film, as well as a business mindset.

Most documentaries take years to make, are intended to be impactful, and are usually made with a zero-to-almost zero budget. Not one bit of this effort is easy.

I hit setbacks every day — 

The saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” applies to me on a regular basis, and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. It’s become abundantly clear to me that no amount of schooling would have prepared me for making a feature film on my own.

On a daily basis I am faced with having to figure out how to professionally move a movie forward with an impactful “story” and, well…all while making my rent payments.

So I juggle my learning curve with my (very good) film-making skillsets, and with the need to work on paying gigs.

Robotics Girls

Filming for Pioneers in Skirts — a robotics team prepares for a competition.

My education has made all the difference —

As I venture down this path of making my first feature film I am very thankful to have received a top-notch education that taught me process, increased my understanding for the film industry, and helped me to gather a team of trusted colleagues. It taught me how to handle project setbacks, figure out how to fix them, and move on.

Pioneers in Skirts began when I noticed I was hitting another kind of setback…

A few years ago, I felt myself losing confidence in myself, and my ambition — it was soon after exiting the University of Southern California with my Masters in film. I knew I wanted to have a career in film; but, as I took the actions expected of me to grow in my career, I was surprised to be knocked down at every step.

Everywhere I went to promote myself or showcase my abilities, I was hit in the face with the realization that people were surprised that I was a Film Director. From the comments to the stares, I was surrounded by unwarranted assumptions that I had no idea what I was doing.

I even experienced a few occasions of walking on a set when people assumed I was dating a man who worked there – that I wasn’t part of the crew or the person in charge.

At first I found it cute when the studio guard thought I was an actress, but that soon got old.

And when I realized men of all ages were flirting with me…a lot, at work — and women and men were increasingly saying to me, “it’s tough being a female director in Hollywood, how about try being someone’s assistant and see if you can work your way up…” — I knew I was experiencing something I didn’t know how to handle.

It really got to me — I started to question myself and my abilities – were their assumptions right? Did I not know what I was doing? Was I dressed wrong, did I say the wrong thing, was I wearing too much make-up?

“Of course not” my inner pioneer would say, but if it happened every day, how could I ever get past it? I was hit in the gut on a daily basis and it took its toll.

Ashley as a kid

Okay — here’s a shot of me as a kid. With my extremely supportive Mom, and our dog (who supported me too).

My inner pioneer, that young girl who made films in her backyard in humid North Carolina, had great grades and was successful at just about everything. She had confidence and ambition.

I have always known I wanted a life of story-telling and entertaining.

I had to do something —

After 4 years of research and filming Pioneers in Skirts, I’ve come to learn that women face this kind of negativity every day, and even more so in male-dominated fields. Something inside is subtly chipped away until they reach their breaking point.

Soon after graduation I hit my breaking point. I had had enough and needed to find answers. How did I end up here? What can women do differently to have a better chance of getting where they want to go in their careers?

Early on I discovered it wasn’t me —

It was my environment.  The “toughest time in my career” has taught me about unconscious bias — a bias that most of us have no idea we are guilty of. And the lack of real mentors (and sponsors) — and the lack of support.

Women used to support each other in the past. They had a reason to support each other…it was called “The Women’s Movement.” Today, women (and men) don’t seem to know how important it is to provide better support for women. Pioneers in Skirts aims to change that.

I’ve grown as we’ve made Pioneers in Skirts —

I’m learning how to deal with the challenges of making a feature documentary, as well as the challenges of pursuing a life-long career in one of the toughest industries to work in.

And I’m excited for 2016 – this is our movie release year!

We are intensely editing, writing, shooting and editing some more. We want this film out in the world so it will impact other women like me – women who have always imagined what their careers would look like, and want to make their dreams a reality.

meeting Gloria Steinem at the White House

The day my producer and I met Gloria Steinem. We told her she was our hero…she returned with, “we are all each others hero.”