Please introduce yourself, what you do, why you do it, and what you want people to know about you.
My name is Ashlei Hardenburg-Cartagena and I’m a queer German-Puerto Rican and thoroughbred Jersey Girl. I write and direct musical shorts, with a bit of character-driven drama pilots on the side.
I love finding ways to pair action-packed stories with meaningful moments that tug at the heartstrings. I do it because it gives me a thrill, and it’s absolutely fulfilling when the people you are working with are just as happy about the project as you are.
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
I make a real effort to work with queer artists in front and behind the camera. I’m dedicated to making a space that’s not just catered to cis-straight-white-man, especially when the stories are queer.
I’m especially cognizant of making stories that veer away from queer trauma and instead celebrate queer joy, and I find that those stories can be told most authentically when created by queer artists.
BONUS: it’s nice to not feel like an OTHER on set, you can truly feel the difference!
Describe THAT moment when you realized you wanted to do what you do now. Who did you tell first? What has it been like since that moment?
I had a chance to direct HAIR at Vassar College. It was the most satisfying, challenging, and rewarding experience to work with so many people on a powerful musical. There was a moment when some prospective students were visiting and sat-in on a rehearsal. We were rehearsing Good Morning Starshine, and had choreographed a moment of everyone holding hands.
The whole room had an energy and we could all feel this current running through us, even the prospective students. I knew then and there that directing was what I wanted to do. I wanted to create those moments that could move both the performers and the audience.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?
Making movies is REALLY expensive. I’m grateful for the support system that I’ve found through networking, crowdfunding, and finding amazing artists to collaborate with. I’m awed by how much talent is out there, and they’ve shown me that sometimes you just have to DO it.
Don’t hold yourself back. Stay true to your vision, but be flexible to collaboration so that you can create the best possible version of what you’re making.
If you had to pick the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could take your career (or business) to the next level…who would those 3 people be?
Top 3 people to advance my career: Jennifer Lopez, Ewan McGregor, and anyone who worked on IT’S A SIN. I look up to these people/projects, for how COMMITTED they are to anything they do.