“ON YOUR RADAR” IS A WEEKLY GRAD FILM NEWS SEGMENT THAT FEATURES A STUDENT PICKED AT RANDOM.
ASHLEY ALEXANDER IS CURRENTLY A 3RD YEAR STUDENT AT GRAD FILM. WE ASKED HER A FEW QUESTIONS AND HERE’S WHAT SHE HAD TO SAY:
Where do you consider home and what is it like there?
I grew up in Houston, TX. Rushmore was filmed at my high school, St. John’s, and that film pretty accurately reflects the culture of my youth. I had this obsession with breaking out and exploring the world outside, which is something that’s never left me. I went on to study international relations in undergrad and I’ve lived in 5 different countries in the past 10 years, spending most of my adult life in Asia.
Home is a strange concept to me—I don’t feel tied to any one place. I feel very strongly about being a global citizen and having a responsibility as a filmmaker to tell global stories that touch on universal human nature. We all have hopes and dreams, we all face conflicts and obstacles—we all have stories—whether we’re nomadic herders in Mongolia or cosplayers in China. I tend to fall in love with the culture and place where I’m living at any given moment, which makes me excited to explore stories in different cultures and places around the world. That said, I have a particular tie to China—I’ve lived there longer than almost any other place—and my fascination with the place, its culture and development are reflected in many of my stories.
What or who is inspiring you right now and why?
I grew up in a household filled with strong women and I’m always inspired by stories about strong women, especially in time periods or cultures where that’s not the norm. We honestly we need more female filmmakers, especially coming out of Asia, and I hope to continue to promote female filmmakers throughout my career.
Having studied international relations, I’m constantly inspired by current (and past) events, especially human stories in places experiencing social, economic, and political upheaval. I’m fascinated by the choices people make in extraordinary situations, especially war. Many of my stories are inspired by real events or real people because I strongly believe that fact can be much stranger than fiction. I was recently researching a story in the National Archives in DC and it was incredible because you can hold original hand-written documents from a hundred years ago. You can get access to a wealth of original primary sources—it’s like you can step back in time and get into the mind of your characters. If you haven’t been, I strongly recommend it.
Artistically, I’m constantly inspired by filmmakers coming out of East Asia. I love Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho, Kim Ki-duk, Ann Hui, Wong Kar-wai, Edward Yang, Jia Zhangke, Zhang Yimou, and Chen Kaige. Farewell My Concubine is one of the most beautiful stories ever told. Memories of Murder still continues to haunt me. I’m also obsessed with war stories (Band of Brothers), BBC miniseries, Wes Anderson, and 19th century literature.
What has been your most rewarding experience at NYU Tisch Grad Film so far?
I’ve really enjoyed the collaborations across the school. I’ve found frequent collaborators from the acting and production design departments, as well as Stern, Steinhardt, and Gallatin. I’m currently working on a virtual reality project exploring simulation theory with an ITP student that has been incredibly fun, exploring and creating new technology and forms of storytelling. I’ve also very much enjoyed the space and time to workshop projects that I’m developing, from workshopping writing to directing to pitching. I’ve been using my classes this year to develop the script for a commercial feature film set in Beijing, China.