How do you go from fangirl to the director's chair? Actress, writer and new director Ashly Burch is a walking representation of the work it takes to climb that ladder in an entertainment space that is constantly changing. Known best for her incredible voice work as Chloe in Life is Strange, Burch hit the web with her webseries Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin'? and has become a staple of geek culture since. Her latest endeavor -- directing and starring in an episode of RocketJump! The Show -- hit the waves on Wednesday, and sees Burch taking on the role of director for the first time.
I sat down with Ashly to pick her brain on the industry, her experience behind the scenes, and where she's going with her episode: Fan Friction.
With the switch from on-camera to behind the camera, Burch says that she learned quite a lot about the process from the other side as she worked.
I think I had a different sense of what being a director was, just based on directors who are popular and talked about in mainstream media... I think there's this misconception around that -- where the director is considered the sole author of the film or tv show or whatever it happens to be. But it's incredibly collaborative, and that's what we wanted to explore with the show.
On that scale, a movie, a short, whatever you're making is never the result of one person's vision or work. It's impossible to make something of that scale without people behind you. [I was] in awe of everyone and what they were doing. I think Martin Scorsese was the person to say that the director is the ringmaster, and that's very much what it feels like. You're the captain of the ship, but it doesn't sail without your crew.
The episode itself is a refreshing new take on what life is like on the other side of the camera, honestly displaying the struggles that the production team faces in a very human, inspiring way. "I have anxiety," says Burch. "Directing was both an enormous trigger for that and one of the more soothing things I've done over the course of my career."
What's more, Burch's episode goes deep into what fandom means to female fans and those of us who buried ourselves in fan fiction -- she even reluctantly shows off one of her old superhero fanfics, an "emotional" story about a few of our favorite caped crusaders. But the short itself focuses on two friends writing one fanfic together, with two very different visions. For Burch, fan culture is a 'round the clock job.
I grew up when YouTube was kind of becoming the goliath that it is now. And it's easy to get sucked into wanting to make a viral video... I think you see a lot of stuff online that isn't made necessarily with love. It's not even to say that they're unsuccessful, but for me, the whole point of being into anything creative is because you love the process.
Honesty and devotion are key when it comes to a production, and Burch is no stranger to the feeling. Between her passionate voice performances in various video games and her daily life as a die-hard fan, her work is steeped in the true meaning of fandom.
It's the best job in the world if you're able to do it, but to me, I think you should only do it if you're coming from a place of love and wanting to share that love, and wanting to share your specific brand of love. It's easy to match a cookie-cutter formula with what's going to be popular, but ultimately I don't think that's fulfilling for you as an artist
... I think we are honest, and anything that you're making that comes from a place of honesty and love, people will respond to it strongly and more passionately, because they'll understand.
RocketJump: The Show is out now on Hulu.