The Directors: Ashley Armitage
Ashley’s quirky style and honest approach to filmmaking has garnered worldwide attention, whether it’s shooting women combing underarm hair or gorgeous pastel portraits of families, her work oozes candidness and a fresh approach to storytelling.
Ashley catapulted herself into photography and directing at the fine young age of 15 after observing the lack of diversity and representation in the media. Her work, which helps to dismantle the beauty standards, continues to push the boundaries of the expected and often outdated ideals that society adheres to. Whilst marrying impactful imagery and a progressive outlook, this Seattle born turned New Yorker continues to inspire a next generation of female filmmakers through her campaigns.
Name: Ashley Armitage
Location: Chicago + New York
Repped by/in: Prettybird
What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?
I love scripts that feel authentic and meaningful with a sense of humor. I want to make things that feel like they’re breaking barriers while also being light hearted.
How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?
It varies from project to project but usually when I’m inspired by a script I’ll immediately almost manically and impulsively start coming up with ideas and visuals. I think I’m a visuals-first kind of director and that probably comes from the fact that I began as a photographer before I started directing.
If the script is for a brand that you're not familiar with/ don’t have a big affinity with or a market you're new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?
I definitely try to do some research before even hopping on to a project. I think it’s important to be aware of a brand’s history to make sure everything is aligned.
For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?
I think my relationships to the DP and 1st AD are both super important. It’s necessary to work with people in those roles that you can communicate quick and easily with, and that you’re on the same page creatively with.
I’ve become lifelong friends with some of the DPs and ADs I’ve worked with. Being on set is kind of like summer camp—you’re spending long hours with like-minded people, often in really funny bonding situations.
What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?
So far I’m really passionate about beauty work. I think there are so many stereotypes and barriers to break through in this category. The industry has made big moves to be more inclusive in terms of race, gender, and body type but there is still so much work to be done.
What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?
Hehe, this is sort of canceling out my last answer but I can do more than just beauty work! I honestly think that any type of commercial can be interesting, it completely depends on the script.
How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?
I think it all comes down to communication and compromise. I think collaboration is super important and sometimes it’s just a matter of finding a comfortable middle ground.
Your work is now presented in so many different formats - to what extent do you keep each in mind while you're working?
It is interesting being a photographer and director in the age of social media. When I’m shooting motion I always make sure the 16:9 aspect ratio is our first priority but these days brands want cutdowns in 1:1 and 9:16. It’s a funny thing to have to consider.
What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work?
Honestly if anything I’m going backwards to older technology haha! I started out as a film photographer and now as a director I try to push shooting on 35mm film as much as possible. The tangibility and way film handles light can’t be replicated.
Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why?
I love my two commercials I directed for Billie. Billie’s Project Body Hair was the first commercial I ever directed, back in 2018, and it was the first shaving commercial ever to show body hair!
I’m also proud of my films for Supershe and All Good. Both were shot on 35mm film, and I’m so happy with how they turned out.