Building an Ambitious World: A Conversation with The Wall of Lyon Creator Ashleigh Harley
Ashleigh Harley is an award winning young Writer, Filmmaker and Musical Artist best known for her work with ‘The Wall of Lyon’ a new and exciting fantasy series for films, books and music. Ashleigh’s exciting career began at the young age of 12, writing and crafting the first instalment to her epic saga, a unique, blockbuster science fiction trilogy set to be released succeeding The Wall of Lyon.
An ambitious artist, Ashleigh has already received a BAFTA Mentorship, won awards for Best Music and Best Fantasy for her work in The Wall of Lyon, been selected for a much sought after place with the National Film and Television School, mixed at Real World Studios – producing her own music, received an internship with the BBC, danced on Channel 4 and appeared in various film and stage performances.
About The Wall of Lyon
“Divided from the truth by ancient, towering walls, and abused by the reign of an outdated society; outlandish fantasist ‘CASSINI’ seeks asylum in an unknown world beyond the man-made walls of an authoritarian regime.”
Allegorical fantasy drama from debut writer and director Ashleigh Harley, ‘The Wall of Lyon’ considers the divisions of society and our discernment of belief – when ultimately all our lives are only ever governed by our own convictions.
In our interview, Ashleigh tells us about the inspiration behind The Wall of Lyon, where she fits into the story and her plans for the story…
If we go back to the beginning, was there a defining moment for you to get into the Film Industry?
I have always been a great believer in the notion of hard work cultivates good luck. Film has always been a part of me. I can’t recall a single day that has gone by where I have not picked up the camera or put pen to paper; so in that respect, a natural progression is the only way I could define my induction into filmmaking. I was unfortunate to fall ill as a child, and as a result was unable to further mainstream schooling and thus I became lost in the world of fiction. At the age of 12 I started cultivating the plot for The Wall of Lyon and it’s universal setting to paper.
You could say I put my 10,000 hours in early, I have literally spent my entire teenage years, and well over half my life cultivating my ambitions in film. Turning my work in to a reality has been my absolute focus, and I was determined to take any opportunity that may turn that dream into actuality. I was fortunate to be accepted in to my local BFI Academy, where I later met BAFTA Winner Geoff Thompson who was a great champion of following dreams and conquering fear. He was the first to invite me on to a professional film set, The Pyramid Texts, where I paid my dues as a runner and loved every second. Later, I received a BAFTA mentorship, got an internship with the BBC, won a much sought-after place at the National Film and Television School’s BFI scheme, acted in a few films, won awards for my work in music and films, and even got the chance to mix my own music at the world renowned ‘Real World Studios’. It’s been a real blast to say the least.
What was it about The Wall of Lyon that enticed you to make it, can you tell us about the inspiration behind it?
I have always believed filmmaking to be the greatest form of storytelling, a newer and more modern form of philosophical thought to further our practice as a society. A greater form of capturing a person’s heart, we as filmmakers are awarded the unique opportunity to both entertain and to enlighten simultaneously and broadly – and thus because of this it is my belief that it is the duty of filmmakers and writers to look upon the world and promote the changes that need to be made.
When I embarked on my journey with The Wall of Lyon I saw discrepancies in the world that I wished to change, notions by which we govern our lives that needed to be reflected upon, and thus I sought to promote my observations and my ideas in the form of a fantasy.
It was necessity inspired the creation of The Wall of Lyon; in two senses. I was not the model teen, illness and some pretty extreme bullying had caused me to drop out of school, and it was the perfect picture of someone who’s life was not going to plan. However, one day my life completely changed and suddenly I knew exactly what I needed to do. I had a story to write, films to make; and quickly found myself capable at things that previously had been beyond my comprehension and ability. Quickly a science fiction trilogy evolved, and in writing the final chapters of that saga The Wall of Lyon emerged.
A prelude set thousands of years in advance to our civilisation, a story linked to my previous trilogy but could stand alone on it’s own mythos; The Wall of Lyon was to set the scene of an epic time-spanning saga of hope and mystery; to answer us all the unanswered question.
Though I have found influence for The Wall of Lyon through mythology, the likes of the Popul Vuh, The Epic Gilgamesh, the Greek classics etc, The Wall of Lyon created itself of its own accord, as did all it’s subsequent volumes. Therefore, I could not ignore its insistence to be made.
What can you tell us about The Wall of Lyon, and where you fit into the story?
In a place of no redemption, where nothing is absolute and absolution cannot be gained, lawless pariah CASSINI feels she does not belong in an overtly repressive world. With violence and rumour shattering much of her life, she has come to believe the myths about her; and now thinks herself to be the sole survivor of a divine legend feared and known as ‘The Fallen’. Searching out the truths to her beliefs she finds herself to be divided from society and her own family – and thus has attached all sense of hope and identity to a wish.
Upon one fateful evening after an arduous dispute with her estranged brother (FENRI), she encounters a terrorsome beast (BEHEMOTH). In a moment of blind faith, and misplaced loyalties CASSINI and FENRI’s fates are twisted awry and forever against one another. Will CASSINI make it beyond The Walls? Or will she fall victim to the darkness surrounding her? For what lies beyond the walls; turns even man against himself.
My place within The Wall of Lyon as it’s creator is ever evolving, as it has become its own beast in many senses of the word. My aim is to do what needs to be done to serve the story, be that through writing, directing, anything I can do in my power to deliver the story to the best of my ability. There are some keen social messages within The Wall of Lyon that are further expanded upon within the novelisation, and I believe that is my primary purpose with this instalment of the saga.
You Direct, Wrote and Act in The Wall of Lyon as well as Composed a song for the film, is there more pressure on you when juggling these roles?
Absolutely! That is just the way I like it. I thrive under more projects and roles as it allows me to leverage my time and creativity between different mediums, making it easier to avoid and overcome the dreaded creativity block. At times, naturally, pressure and stress will build up, particularly during post-production as it is a more drawn out process, however all is easily solved and comes together in the end. It’s an odd adage any filmmaker will find on set, it doesn’t matter how little time you have, or how many shots you still have left to cover, somehow, you’ll always get exactly what you need.
Out of all the roles you have had on The Wall of Lyon, do you have a preference and is doing this much on a film, do you see yourself fulfilling all these responsibilities again?
That is an impossibly tough question! I adored every role I took on with The Wall of Lyon, and it is hard to choose a preference. I am in no short terms, immersed in creating the fantasy universe of The Wall of Lyon, so the writing and musical aspects of its creation were a joy. In addition voicing the fantasy beast ‘Behemoth’ was a ton of fun; particularly as the final processing on voice sounds demonic and nothing like my own!
I always see myself being heavily involved in all aspects of the filmmaking processes, particularly writing, producing, directing and composing; as those roles are very much at the heart of storytelling. Yet in the future, I will definitely be seeking out more specialists who can bring more to the project.
This was my first experience in directing, and I can say with assurance that it is the most addictive and rewarding process. There is nothing like stepping on to a filmset, finding synchronicity with your crew and living whole heartedly, in unison a moment on screen that together you all have created. It is totally and utterly thrilling. I recall, one moment; we were shooting a beautiful sunset scene where horses and guards chase our lead character Cassini across the beach. I stepped out of the car after a tracking shot and saw we had gathered a large crowd, the horses were dancing along the waters edge, we were setting up for another take, we were pushed for time; but in that moment I realised, a dream had come true. That moment will live with me forever.
Your song, Judge Me, for The Wall of Lyon is being released to support the release of the film, what can you tell us about the song?
I have been so excited about this additional project alongside the film, Judge Me is set for release in 2018 and will the first for release on The Wall of Lyon concept album. ‘Judge Me’ tells the story of The Wall of Lyon’s main character Cassini, as she runs away from the repressive clutches of the state. Set on the foundation of big, heart thundering taiko drums charging the beat of the toe-tapping melody, Judge Me is comes partly from a place of personal experience and speaks of living life to please ourselves – not the world around us.
My background is in film score, and I wanted to make something unique but true to my past – so I combined the sweeping elements of film music, took the modern pop scene and twisted it around to make something contemporary but bold.
The music video interweaves elements of The Wall of Lyon with the higher universal concept that runs throughout the course of my overall saga.
Are there any other aspects of the Film Industry that you would like to pursue?
Acting. Like writing the actors work is a staple of our industry, therefore is beneficial to both actors and the non-actor alike. Writing is the body, acting is the life blood; the two are intrinsically linked and aid each other in their similarity and their differences. Having both written and acted, the two are exceptionally similar processes with exceptionally different means of expression; and it is through the improvement of one that the other is also improved. One is expressed through the mind, the other, expressed through the body.
I am always on a path of self-improvement, particularly where my writing is concerned, and acting is the soul-food it can effectively feed from. Films are stories, stories are lessons; and lessons are truths meant for the betterment of life. What better way to understand the nature of life than studying the very practice that concerns its expression.
What are your plans for The Wall of Lyon? Do you see this as a prologue to a feature film or series of films?
There is still much to come for The Wall of Lyon, I am in the tail end of devising the novelisation, which will lay the foundations for the feature film, which I hope (fingers crossed) will hit the cinema screen in the next few years. I have such a big vision for this project, and I am so excited and so dedicated to see it come to fruition.
Other than The Wall of Lyon, what else are you working on?
The Wall of Lyon has proven to be an almighty mammoth of a project. Spanning into the concept album, the book and also the feature film – it is certainly keeping me busy!
I have huge dreams for The Wall of Lyon franchise and have developed the basis for it to be adapted into an open world video game, featuring some new technology in the video game sector. All under the umbrella of The Wall of Lyon franchise I’ve been experimenting with some VR, and developed what I believe could be a new medium of comic which will released as a taster in the new year.
In addition to all that I’ve still got my sci-fi series that I am always writing and rewriting, determined to perfect it ready for after The Wall of Lyon’s run. Basically, I’ve got projects coming out of my ears!
Fandoms are a big part of the industry, who or what are you a fan of?
I am a huge sci-fi nerd, and it has not been uncharacteristic of me to be seen at the odd Star Trek convention… In full cosplay.
And what advice do you have for someone embarking on a career in the Film Industry?
Stay true to yourself, resolute in your beliefs and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something, or your aspirations are impossible. Self-belief is key in this industry. If I had a pound every time somebody told me that creating The Wall of Lyon was impossible I would have had enough to fund the damn thing three times over! But on a serious note, opinions – everybody has one; and ultimately the only one that has any worth is your own. Do what you love, live your life, tell your story; and have faith that all will fall in to place.
Top Raindance Photo taken by Andy Barnes
THE WALL OF LYON IS RELEASED ON FACEBOOK ON DECEMBER 26