26 year old Ashley from South London was brought up in a working class environment, after losing her father at a young age her mum raised Ashley and her four siblings on her own.
Ashley became a mother herself while in Sixth Form and continued with her A Levels, she wanted to pursue a career in media but knew the odds were against her and didn’t know where to begin. She applied for the MAMA Youth Project training scheme thinking she didn’t stand a chance and motivated by giving her son a better life she is now proud to be a Directors Assistant and Assistant Coordinator.
What were you doing before MAMA Youth Project and what was life like?
From the age of 15 I taught street dance for my local dance school. I absolutely loved it but as time went on I knew it wasn’t my ultimate career goal. After that I spent a summer working at Chessington World of Adventures as a Ranger on the Madagascar show where I had to warm up and entertain the crowd; I found that quite cringy. I also worked in pubs and as a waitress on top of those jobs.
What challenges had you faced so far in your life and what was your background like?
I come very much from a working-class background, my mum raised me and my four siblings on her own. I fell pregnant at the age of 16 and it was a scary time in my life, knowing that everything I knew would be different and so much harder.
What were your career expectations?
I was in sixth from when I had my son Russell and although I was incredibly motivated to fight the teen mum stereotype, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. My school were very supportive and I didn’t want to give up, mostly because I just knew I’d never go back. I moved forward with 2 A Level subjects. I was encouraged to go to University but it felt pointless to me, especially when I thought I might want to pursue a career in media, the focus was on Russell and any dreams felt like a million years away.
How was your experience with MAMA Youth Project?
I think I applied a minute before the deadline and honestly didn’t think I stood a chance. I didn’t think I fit the protocols but actually at MYP they want it to be diverse in the fullest sense of the word and welcome everyone. I was a trainee researcher for the music team. I absolutely loved it. I felt quite intimidated by everyone around me as most of them had studied at university and I worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up. I did my best to be as switched on as I could. I enjoyed the team exercises where we made up our own shows and then pitched them back to each other. The days did become long and there was a lot of pressure when Bob and the team had certain expectations for what they wanted on the show. We were the first series to be going on Sky One so we really wanted to prove ourselves. It was hard to call up agencies and try to get artists on the show which were still quite unknown at the time. We each had to Produce items and interviews and I was chuffed to sneak in with the first one. We interviewed Nina Nesbitt at her show in Shepherds Bush and we tried to go above and beyond and get a bit of a social media buzz too by going out and speaking with people queuing to get in, it was immense!
Following the training where was your placement and what was it like?
I got a two week placement with BBC Entertainment on a game show called ‘The Edge’. It was really interesting helping out with run throughs and host auditions and I had to do some cold calling for casting contestants – this wasn’t my favourite thing to do but you learn to be bold very quickly.
How long did it take you to find a full- time role in television?
Actually, I interviewed and left my BBC placement a couple days early. I have to say, I’ve done quite a few of these ‘Hunger Games’ style interviews now where usually you are there for entry level roles. They are so much fun but terrifying all in one. I became one of the office runners at Hat Trick Productions. I adored it there and it became my home for the next 2 years, over a few different roles. I like to think that I am polite and respectful anyway but the discipline that is instilled in you at MYP is phenomenal. Making an effort is one thing but you need to go the extra mile. Also, the technical training that I got at MYP helped me numerous times and knowing my way around a camera is great. At Hat Trick, you are surrounded by past office runners who are quickly climbing the ranks in their chosen genres, so it’s inspiring and has a similar feel to the MYP office.
What does your current role involve?
I look after the Director on The Witches, which is an absolute dream. My role prior to this one was the Script Coordinator on the latest Star Wars movie and that was so tough. I learnt a huge amount and worked very long days. It’s Star Wars so although I was learning, I had to get it right. The pressure of it was very high for a long time. My current job is a dream in comparison. The director is a legend, literally. Thanks to my script experience as well as managing the Director’s day to day requirements I also help with the final checks before the script revisions go to the studio. In addition to this I have taken on a new role as Assistant Coordinator on Wonder Woman reshoots.
What advice would you give to young people in a similar position to you have been in?
Don’t give up. There is literally no reason why you can’t do this. There are so many avenues, get your foot in the door and do your very best at that job even if it isn’t quite what you want to do long term, then use your spare moments to work out what comes next. Production skills are transferrable and are all beneficial elsewhere, I have made the transition from editorial to film and production is at the core of it all.
Do you think there is a wider social impact to what Mama Youth do and why do you believe it is important as a charity?
Very much so. MYP is one of the first diversity schemes to really highlight the inequality in the industry. In the 5ish years I have been here I have seen so many positive changes and I am so proud to have MYP at my core. It is so important to have everyone being represented on and off screen. It affects the greater population, to what they see on screen and they know, we know, if someone has written a role but they haven’t lived that life.
What do you consider the main personal impacts of Mama Youth have been for you?
I am incredibly proud and appreciative of everything Mama Youth has done for me. I would not be where I am today without them. You can make what you want out of life but sometimes the odds are against you. Nine years ago my life as it is now would have felt impossible, my family are all very proud and happy for me and MAMA Youth gave me the confidence I needed to know I am capable and I can do anything. I picked up and improved on many skills, not to mention the opportunities I have had just having MYP on my CV. They do a fantastic job and I can’t wait to be in the position to really give back to them, soon I hope!
I still have a long way to go but I’m in no rush and might as well enjoy the journey knowing that I’m on the right career path and one day I’ll earn the money to give my son better opportunities in life.