Sunday, March 21, 2010


Ashley Russell, Class of 2006
Like most teenagers, I was trying to figure out what I was good at, what I wanted to do, and frankly, what I was going to study once I graduated High School. I had tried various creative outlets: writing, music, theater, dance- but nothing fit. For a while I was doubting my creativity, my urge to be imaginative and share my thoughts with the world.  I seriously contemplated a more practical course of study…which, if you knew me, would have been the equivalent of Alice Cooper in a suit and tie, heading to a 9-5 job.

But luckily, I was haunted by an opportunity. During my freshman year history class, the Ballard High School Digital Filmmaking Program debuted a series of short videos completed by their students.  Watching these shorts, I realized I wanted to document and create stories about all the things I loved, and what better and more creative way to do so than with a camera?

I spent my Sophomore and Junior years in the BHS Digital Filmmaking Program, learning everything I could about making movies. I produced narratives, news pieces, music videos, and Public Service Announcements (PSA’s). Some of these projects received international attention. A music video project entitled The Drive Thru won the Seattle InternationalFilm Festival’s FutureWave Audience Award in 2006, and in 2005, MTV & OneWorld held a contest for high school students to complete a PSA regarding the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Our video, Get Tested, Get Educated, received worldwide status on the MTV/OneWorld website as a runner-up in the competition.

Toward the end of my Junior year, I wanted to take advantage of the Running Start program, and enrolled at Seattle Central College. Believe it or not, it had not hit me yet that I wanted to be a filmmaker, long term. I still had no idea what I was going to do or where I was going to go after High School – which was frightening, and curiously enough, even more stifling. 

During a cultural anthropology class I was taking at SCC, a woman named Debbie Guerrero came and spoke to our class about her native culture, beliefs, personal history, and background. Through her speech and words of wisdom, she breathed a ray of hope and inspiration into me. I instantly knew I wanted to make a documentary about her, and from that realization came another, that I wanted to be a filmmaker. That’s how I saw the world. I didn’t want to paint, write, draw, or act out my inspirations- I wanted to make movies about them, and in turn inspire others. 

Luckily, SCC had a 2-year Film and TV Production program, which I immediately applied for. I was accepted to start Fall 2006, following my June 2006 high school graduation. I spent my time at SCC making short films, documentaries (I finally got to make my piece about Debbie), and learning everything I could about filmmaking as an art and as an industry. A handful of the films I made in school have been in local film festivals, including The Girls at The Northwest FilmForum’s 2008 Local Sightings Film Festival.

The first film I worked on out of school was Dear Lemon Lima as the Wardrobe Supervisor, which awakened my love of design and paired it with my love of filmmaking. Since then I have worked for the costume department on various productions from assistant to designer. Some of my costume credits include Costume Designer for season 2 & 3 of the Syfy TV series, Z Nation, Costume Designer for Matthew Lillard’s directorial debut, Fat Kid Rules the World, Key Costumer for Courtney Hoffman on Captain Fantastic & Costume Design Assistant to Audrey Fisher for the pilot of the Amazon TV Series, The Man in the High Castle. My most recent Costume Design project was in Little Rock, Arkansas on the indie film Antiquities which should reach film festival audiences in 2017.

Looking back on what has guided my success in the film industry- separate from the creative support from my family- are two very direct and early influences, one being Mr. Lawrence and the digital filmmaking classes at BHS, the second being the unintentional influence of Debbie Guerrero. They both taught me how to find what inspires me. As a Costume Designer I have such a direct influence on how the audience sees the characters that it’s got me hooked…latched on to that feeling of successfully conveying an idea: whether it be a costume, a character, or a story. I love being intricately involved in writing who the characters are- purely through the design of the costume- and in turn, inspiring others.