A professor speaks to a group of students sitting in the film viewing room with black and white film on the screen over his shoulder.

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York College Alumna Completes Work on Her First Feature Film

Ashley Hettleman in front of the fountain

Film and Media Arts graduate Ashlyn Hettleman ’23 recently wrapped production on a heartwarming Christmas movie that promises to bring holiday cheer.

Originally enrolled in the Marketing and Communication programs at York College of Pennsylvania, Ashlyn Hettleman ’23 quickly realized that those weren’t her true calling. Her passion for storytelling and filmmaking eventually led her to change her major to Film and Media Arts.

“This is what I want to do with my life,” she says. “I took so many film classes and loved it.”

Charting her career path

Hettleman’s decision to attend York College came without much pause. As soon as she set foot on the campus, she felt a connection. She hailed from Maryland, so York College became her home away from home. During her time at the College, she not only pursued her studies and immersed herself in the world of film but served as a resident assistant.

“I miss college so much,” she says of her experience. “It was amazing, and I made so many friends.”

During her senior year, Hettleman took an independent study course on filmmaking. She spent months creating a short film, solidifying her desire to pursue filmmaking as a career. The film, a piece about a college student who begins hallucinating and turns to drugs and alcohol to cope, moved people to tears. Recognizing her passion and energy, two of her film professors, Matt Nease and Doug Henderson, helped pave the way for her to work independently with Everything Fire, a film production company they founded. She creates compiled sizzle reels and social media posts that provide proof of concept.

A full feature film adventure

Hettleman’s most recent project in conjunction with her professors’ company, Everything’s Fire, is a Christmas movie currently titled Christmas Telethon. As a Second Assistant Camera, her duties included working with the slate, or clapperboard; assisting the director of photography; and changing camera setups when needed. She also acted in the film as a barista and phone bank worker. The film's plot revolves around a news station facing financial troubles and resorting to a telethon to save the day.

After graduation, Hettleman was brought on by Everything’s Fire to work on the Christmas film, which then opened a new door for her to be hired as an independent contractor at Bold Creative Media, another company Nease and Henderson founded.

While the release platform for the film remains uncertain, Hettleman is excited about the possibility of working on other feature film projects.

She credits her York College film classes and the filmmaking independent study with shaping her aspirations. As she makes her mark in the world of film, she carries with her fond memories of York College and hopes that other students can experience the joy and growth she did during her time there.

Challenges and rewards

One of the biggest adjustments for Hettleman after graduation was adapting to the freedom and flexibility of setting her own schedule as an independent contractor. Though the situation is different from the structured days of college, she finds immense satisfaction in her newfound independence. Hettleman’s career aspirations have expanded from wanting to be a director of photography to considering directing. Whatever paths she explores in her film career, she hopes her stories have an impact on viewers.

“I just want to make people feel something,” she says.

Like any aspiring filmmaker, Hettleman faces challenges, the most significant being the pressure to consistently generate fresh and innovative ideas. Working closely with the owners of Bold Creative Media and Everything’s Fire, she continuously seeks to push creative boundaries and deliver unique content. She finds tremendous reward in her work and relishes the opportunity to collaborate with Nease and Henderson. She is grateful for where she is in her career.

Hettleman is dreaming big. Her goal is to direct a feature film, but she also harbors a desire to create short films twice a year. Her network of professors and friends from the Film and Media Arts program at York College provides a strong support system as she strives to achieve these goals.

Her advice for students interested in the field is simple but profound: “Follow your passions and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not a good career path. Go out and make stuff.”