Ashley Flowersa producer, co-creator and actor in the short film First(ish) Date, now in pre-productionwears many creative hats. She also has an extensive resume working with stage and film props as well; Flowers has been working this television season on background props for the NBC drama "Chicago Med."
"That includes all the ID badges and stethoscopes, for example, that the background actors use," Flowers explained. "I also help with the directors' chairs. It's really nice, because I am used to being the propmaster, the person who's all in charge and with all the responsibilities. It's nice to be able to breathe and say, 'Okay, not all of this is on me right now.'"
But Flowers, who only recently moved to Chicago from California, has set her sights on getting some of her own projects into gear.
"I've gotten to the point in my career where I just want to make my own stuff, because I'm not seeing what I want to see," Flowers explained. "As a lesbian, I'm wanting to see those queer characters, and I'm wanting to see non-problematic queer stories. I thought, 'It's not really happening as much as I want, so I'm just going to kind of do it.'"
In early 2022, Flowers had her initial idea, a film about two women on a first date. She met Erica Romero, an actor and improvisation performer, and the two set about embellishing the storyline. Molly, whom Flowers would eventually play, is excited and anxious about her first date with Jess (Romero), whom Flowers described as "a more avoidant character, who uses sarcasm to hide her trauma."
She added, "We wanted to show how emotionally vulnerable two women can be on a first date. We have that old joke about 'U-Haul lesbians.' Why do we have that? Because our dates can be anywhere from six- to 72-hours-long."
Another character, Dirty Molly, is also there to embody Molly's anxieties, literally bringing her face-to-face with the insecurities she lives with every day.
"[Dirty Molly] is there the entire date, judging what Molly is doing," said Flowers, who is now running an online fundraiser to help pay for various production costs.
"We're scheduled to film at the beginning of March," she said. "We've got our director, our [director of photography], our sound person. We're solidifying our locations next. So far, everyone who's been hired is part of the LGBTQ community, which is amazing."
She said the costs were going towards location rental, equipment rental and paying cast and crew.
"I truly believe that you need to pay people properly," Flowers said. "There's this huge belief in the industry that, 'Oh, you can do it for free.' It's like, 'No, people have livespay them for doing this.' I'm not going to pay myself because this is a passion project, but if I'm bringing somebody on, they should be paid."
She produced two "no-budget" short films for friends in California, which gave her the confidence to launch First(ish) Date. Flowers had no inclination to direct the new film, adding, "I have such respect for people who can direct, and I know that's not where my talent lies. … I've been very blessed to work with some amazing producers and directors with my prop and acting careers, who really helped and guided me."
A native of Indiana, Flowers ended up in the Windy City because of a relationship.
"Being a typical U-Haul lesbian, love brought me here," she said. "I met my wife online through friends, and she was living in Chicago. She came out to visit mewe were just friends. And then, 'Oh you make complete sense for me.' Then, long-distance dating and I finally thought, 'You know what, there's film in Chicago, I'm just going to move and see what happens.' My best decision yet.''
She's observed that Chicago's production community is fundamentally different for Los Angeles'.
"In L.A., it's almost over-saturatedthere's a million projects, but when you try to get on one, there's somebody already there, since there are so many people," Flowers said. "Here, it's a smaller community and it's about who you know, which is nice, because I feel like we have built this little family. You always know somebody on the next shoot that you go to."
The fundraiser for First(ish) Date is at givebutter.com/firstishdate .