“My dream is to be working in front of the camera or on stage with my fellow actors, creating a story that entertains and offers catharsis. People in the industry keep getting wind of my superb organizational skills, so that tends to be where I get hired and paid. It’s flattering, for sure! And organizing and caring for groups obviously comes naturally to me, after helping raise 6 kids full-time. I am very proud of the various crews I’ve supported, and make new friendships with every job. I hope to keep taking these sorts of gigs, but my primary focus now is definitely on finding a way into the storytelling side of things.”

The Frontiersman

See The Frontiersman Cast List

“My first experience in front of the camera was filming Clinton Dawson’s The Frontiersman, in a friend’s horse pasture in Southern Illinois, summer 2004. I was 16. Thankfully, my mom had gotten the idea to do a Colonial Williamsburg-style family photo that year, so I already had a couple pioneer girl dresses.

My supporting role character got to bandage up an injured soldier. I also remember sitting on the open edge of a half-barrel all afternoon, filming a long conversation scene. My butt hurt so badly! It’s fun to be able to go back and watch those early attempts at filmmaking, thanks to DVD technology.

Background Acting

“I started seriously working towards being an actor when I was living in North Carolina. I opened a Twitter account and began interacting with people in the industry on a daily basis. I didn’t know how one found acting jobs, so I scoured Facebook groups and craigslist. Each opportunity was hours away from Greensboro, but I was determined. I played a flirty dancer walking through a dimly lit bar, a bowling alley patron in a murder movie, a funeral attendee in Survivor’s Remorse, a street urchin in The Vampire Diaries.

I had a campaign for a while to play Brianna on Outlander, and leveraged live-tweeting during each episode drop to gain attention. I got as far as being invited to submit a video audition, which seemed like a big win! I think I would have made a great Brianna, and I look forward to trying this tactic again in the future.

I eventually moved to the Atlanta area to be closer to film work. My longest background gig was 3 days on Halt and Catch Fire, where I got to walk past Lee Pace himself several times at a garden party. I learned so much about the film industry from that job alone, and have many fond memories! The Blue Man group was performing at our fake garden party. It was 50 degrees at night in Georgia, but we were pretending to be in California. Between each shot we would be bundled up in coats and blankets, and when they called “Picture’s Up!” we would stuff our warm clothes under tables and behind bushes, and act like it was a balmy summer night. The caterers for that TV show were sublime: smoothies and organic cereals for breakfast, 5-course lunches in a series of tents outside, and constant healthy, interesting snacks. I would have kept that job for a long time, just for the food, but I got called to move to Montana to help produce an indie film, and that seemed like a step in the right direction.”

The Confetti

“Right before I left Georgia, I played a gun moll in a teaser for an independent TV series set during the prohibition. It was the first time I kissed someone for a j ob- what a head trip! My co-star, Joey Thurmond, knew I was super nervous to kiss someone I wasn’t dating, even though I’d agreed to the role, and he made things playful and fun. We were sitting in the model T, getting ready to drive into the shot, and he pointed to his cheek and said, “How about a kiss for good luck?” Well, I fell for it, and of course he turned and caught a kiss on the lips instead. I felt much more relaxed after a good laugh, and we were able to play a gangster couple for the show quite naturally after that.

Unfortunately, I made the choice to move to Montana before they got the funding to film the TV series, so they had to re-cast Rose.”


“I was making headway in Georgia, working in restaurants, going to casting calls and industry conferences, and working background acting jobs. It was a challenge, of course, because I needed the restaurant job to pay bills, but often couldn’t take acting jobs because I couldn’t find someone to cover my shifts at the restaurant. This cycle kept me from progressing far enough in my acting career to leave the restaurant job behind.

In the middle of all that, my friend Damon Taylor invited me to help manage his indie film in Butte Montana. They were super low budget, and couldn’t pay me to work, but would cover my housing and food. To me, this seemed like a chance to make the leap into full-time film work, even if it was on the backside of the camera. I hoped the connections I would make on that film in Montana would pay off with further film jobs. I packed whatever I could fit in my car and drove across the country, arriving in Butte on July 23rd, 2017, at 9:30pm. It was still broad daylight.

I learned a lot, and made so many great friends. Everyone on the team worked their butts off in really crazy weather, and weird circumstances. Filming a movie in Butte introduced me to the town really quickly, and I began to want to stay in Butte for longer than just that job.

My typical day on that film looked like this: wake up at 6am to texts from the director rearranging our schedule for the day; make sure the cook was in the kitchen prepping breakfast and lunch, and then start furiously sending texts to change the film location, which car we needed, which actors we needed, which equipment should be prepped; crew shows up to the production apartment for breakfast, and then I help everyone load up into the vehicles to head to whatever set we were filming that day; the deep breath once everyone was out of the building, then emails and scheduling to try to get us set up for a few days in advance; take everyone lunch or get the apartment set up for everyone to come back for lunch; run errands and make phone calls; dinner; meeting with the crew to problem solve and plan ahead; more emails and texts; send out the call time for tomorrow; maybe sleeping by midnight.”

Dabbling Around

“When I got to Montana I kept searching Facebook groups and craigslist for acting jobs, and landed a few paid gigs in interesting fields.

For one job, I was the course instructor for a HIPAA safety class. I bought business dresses and had a hair and makeup lady do me up all professional, and for three grueling days I read safety and regulatory information off a teleprompter for a company in California. I’m now one of those green screen teachers, kindly walking you through the bullet points required to take a new job.

For another job, I got paid to pretend to be horribly injured or traumatized, so that the National Guard could rescue me and several other folks from disaster zones. As a “casualty role player,” I would first draw a card telling me what my injury was, what my mood was, and how annoying I should be. Then I went to the makeup team, and they would glue or paint my injury on: a protruding arm bone, minor abrasions on my forehead, a bleeding thigh. Next, we got placed in the scene, sometimes a burned-out building, or the aftermath of a flood, and then the soldiers came and rescued us. We had to portray the designated level of stressed out or shock, anger or fear, aggressiveness or helplessness. My final injury was evisceration, so they dressed me in old clothes, tore a hole in my shirt, and wrapped fake guts around my belly, dribbling blood all the way down my front. I was told to disrupt the line waiting to be checked into the medical tent. This was fun. I crawled slowly into the scene, clutching my bleeding intestinal pile to my stomach, swearing a blue streak. I was so aggressive about getting attention for my injury and pain, that soldiers came up to me afterwards and thanked me for actually making them so angry they didn’t want to help me. Yay! In other news, the casualty role player company banned swearing after that round. I guess I used it all up.

The film commissioner of Montana, Allison Whitmer, is very involved and keen to build the film community here. When I finished Brown, I figured I would head back east to be nearer my siblings, but Allison made the case that if I stayed, I would be able to find more and more film jobs in Montana. She connected me with a Kia commercial, and a Subaru commercial. Working on a production that has money to burn is a very different experience after so much low-budget filmmaking! I got to have breakfast with famous stunt drivers, ride up the side of a snow-covered mountain hanging off a Russian arm car, create healthy snacks for the crew out of the back of my dodge pickup truck, and watch beautiful cars zip around at wild speeds.”

Short Projects

“One of the craigslist ads I responded to was looking for a wife in a short film about cheating. It’s awfully nice to work on productions that have money sometimes, but nothing beats indie filmmaking for being so gritty and intimate! I stayed in the director’s guest bedroom, made some of the meals for our crew, and helped set decorate, as well as being one of the actors.

Our sound recordist on Brown, Don Andrews, is also a director of the Covellite International Film Festival, and I volunteered for the festival for a few years. Don and his team created such an encouraging, artistic environment, that many filmmakers attend CIFF each year whether they have a film showing at the festival or not. I have dear friends all over the world from this festival, and in 2019 I acted in a short film for Troy Greenwood. I crimped my hair, put on a little black dress, and played the grim reaper in the historic Gamer’s Cafe in Butte.

In a strange turn of events, my husband and I happened to be the folks asked to show Wim Wenders around the Tate Hotel in Butte. I had no idea who Wim was, he seemed like a quiet and quirky older gentleman. Luckily for us, Wim likes to make movies in a more relaxed European style, and lets the universe bring elements to inspire him. He loves Butte, and had returned here to produce a film commissioned by the Fondation Beyeler near Basel Switzerland. They requested a 3D short to play at the museum before folks walk through an exhibit of Edward Hopper paintings. Wim cast Dark and me as characters in his film, tasked with bringing to life the scenes before and after iconic Hopper paintings.

Another unique short project I worked on was a photoshoot orchestrated by Scottish photographer, David Yarrow. He likes to pose gritty-looking folks and wild animals in unique scenarios with supermodels. It was a treat to work with my friend Jim Ward who was organizing the whole shoot and helping handle the trained wolves, mountain lion, and Adam the bear! I coordinated snacks for everyone, acquisitioned a beauty salon for the lovely ladies to stay warm in across the street, and got to kiss a grizzly bear on the lips. Dark played a few crusty characters in the backgrounds of the photos, and it’s fun to be traveling around and see him in Yarrow’s photographs in hotel lobbies and whisky bars.”

Art departments

In the fall of 2020, Dark and I joined the art department for a 10-part TV series called Bring On The Dancing Horses, produced by Michael Polish and starring Kate Bosworth. I helped coordinate our schedule and team goals, and Dark spent much of his time scavenger-hunting for props. It was so much less stressful to be art department coordinator, than to be organizing a whole movie, and I love setting a team up to succeed!

As soon as Dancing Horses ended, I rolled right into some emergency art department work for a film called Shit Hits The Fan, December 2020. As a person who has been rejected by loved ones for changing my beliefs, this script resonated with me. The writers conveyed the main kid’s struggle when he finds out his dad has been l ying to him about the world outside their survival cabin: either he has to double down and pretend forever that he doesn’t know his dad lied to him, or he has be crushed by the awareness that the one person he trusts let him down, and reality is nothing like he thought it was. I helped dress a fake root cellar set, and a doomsday bunker set, as well as scheduling and prop acquisition.

In April 2021, I once again joined an art department as 911 help. I really love advocating for my team, making sure they get the resources they need to do the jobs they are being asked to do. For Shattered, and Shattered Again, I coordinated a schedule for our team, and hounded the production company on a regular basis for people’s paychecks, reimbursements, and per diems. At one point, they were 3 weeks behind! I also got to help deconstruct and redecorate a lavishly expensive mountain home in Big Sky, wrapping priceless artifacts in blankets and bubble wrap, and putting it all back when we were done filming.”


“One of the friends I made while filming Brown is an enigmatic writer and world-traveler named Rob Grabow. After a few health scares, he decided to finally pursue his dream of acting, and joined our cast as a supporting character in 2017. In 2020, Rob started asking me if I would be interested in managing an independent micro-budget film he wanted to make. After actually getting paid to be a filmmaker, I wasn’t too keen on working for room and board again, but Rob eventually convinced me. His script was sweet and interesting, and he seemed to have an understanding of how meaningful it is to create something with friends and colleagues you respect.

We filmed Jan-Mar 2021, and through a lot of hiccups and typical micro-budget “problem-solving opportunities”. I loved this team! Year of the Dog had slightly more financing than Brown, and I had learned so much about filmmaking since managing my first film, that I felt far better equipped to take care of my crew. With everyone well-fed, and a reliable schedule, we had good morale, and energy to handle the little dramas and frustrations that arise during filmmaking.

Someday perhaps I’ll manage a project with proper financing, but the kind and dedicated folks working on Year of the Dog helped me enjoy being a one-man production office.”

More of Ainsley’s Projects