Music

CA in LA

How We Turned What We Love Into A Career.

Full-Time Creators
December 21, 2019
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Who are you and what kind of content do you create?

Heyo! Courtney & Ashleigh here. We’re best friends, filmmakers and musicians. As filmmakers & musicians professionally, we have our responsibilities divided between the two of us. For films, typically Ashleigh will write, cast, direct, do the cinematography, produce, fine cut, audio mix and publish our films. Courtney will act, produce, fine cut, color grade and design all the art assets for each film. Music wise, we both sing and play the guitar. We’ll collaborate to come up with our arrangements, but have been playing music together professionally for 3 years, we’re pretty familiar with each other’s style and can adapt on the fly pretty quickly.

e’re originally from Howard County, Maryland but in 2017, packed up Courtney’s car and drove across the country to Los Angeles. We came up with CA in LA back in 2017 when we first moved to Los Angeles. We wanted to incorporate the surroundings of a new city and location with this rebirth of who we wanted to be. Naturally, some people still see our name and think, California in Los Angeles, that doesn’t make sense. But once people get to know us, they get it.

We brainstormed names for a couple of days, but came up with CA in LA fairly quickly and ran with it.

We do identify as full time content creators as between music, Twitch and film, that is our life. We do have a serving job to pay the bills, but only work 2-3 days a week for a total of 10-15 hours to make sure we have the financial security to take risks artistically.

All of the links to our socials are here!

Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory!

This video is pretty much sums us up in 5 minutes.

Courtney and Ashleigh both grew up in Maryland. Ashleigh was focused on being a psychologist and owning her practice. Courtney was focused on being an artist, pursuing being a wedding photographer.

Our worlds collided when we were working at the same Ruby Tuesday and Courtney overheard Ashleigh talking about making 13 short films in 2013. Courtney messaged Ashleigh in the middle of the night on Facebook to put her in a movie. The rest of our story is pretty much history. We attempted to make 2 feature films, unsuccessfully, in 2013. With our production company Miss Ash Productions, we have since created over 120 short films and a feature film. We’ve had over 30 short films in film festivals internationally. We’ve won Grand Jury, Best Cinematography, Best Acting and Best Directing Awards. We’ve traveled the world making films. In 2017, we moved to California with just a car filled of our belongings. In 2018, we started streaming together on Twitch via our channel, CA_in_LA. We made Partner on Twitch at the beginning of 2019 and have been creating content together since 2013.

Particularly with films, we just knew telling stories was what we wanted to do. We’ve never wanted to be rich or famous from filmmaking, we've always just been passionate about telling stories that mattered to us and have worked towards sustaining a living from filmmaking. For both of us, we wanted the freedom to explore our truth and a 9-5 didn’t hold that life for us. We’ve definitely had to work odd films jobs and crazy hours at various restaurants to make this something sustainable for us.

All of our film work is on Vimeo. We initially had a conversation about where our work should live and we decided Vimeo had a more professional look to it.

“Keep moving forward” from Meet The Robinsons is a huge inspiration for Ashleigh. The movie as a whole is about embracing your differences and learning from your mistakes to be a better creator.

“Why don’t peoples hearts tell them to continue following their dreams?” The boy asked the alchemist. “Because that’s what makes a heart suffer most, and hearts don’t like to suffer.” This book has gotten Courtney through a lot of difficult times. It is a constant reminder to follow your heart so that you may one day fulfill your purpose.

We’re motivated to keep pushing forward and push the boundaries of storytelling because we think our stories are important and we want to encourage a dialogue, especially when addressing taboo topics such as mental health, religion, sexuality and race.

How do you brainstorm ideas for your content and your advice in getting the creative juice flowing.

Since we create content on Twitch, create concepts for films and perform music together, we need to constantly be inspired.

We’re fortunate that we can draw inspiration from everywhere. We constantly listen to music and watch content, both long form and short form. We read often. We see shows and look for beauty and abnormalities in the world. However, the best thing we do for ourselves is stay in the moment. When we’re out, we aren’t on our phones. We’ve trained ourselves to stay present so we can enjoy and fully experience moments.

Another thing Ashleigh does that may be of interest is she almost always has headphones, a mini notebook and a pen to be able to quickly scribble down ideas and brainstorm the moment inspiration strikes. She lets her mind actively wander until she’s developed a concept enough to be able to come back to it later on. Give yourself permission to brainstorm and develop a concept or idea. Really go there and try to develop a framework without giving yourself any constraints. Dream big at first and when you have something you’re happy with, scale down and figure out how to make it happen.

As far as mental block, we’ve come to the point of understanding sometimes our brains need a break. We push ourselves to create content constantly and the push back is that sometimes we need to step back and do something - like go see a movie or get lost in a good book. Forcing our brains to develop excessive content earlier this year resulted in an extreme burnout that lasted for months. It’s just as important to know when to take a step back than push through a block. Don’t force your process!

For video editing, we use Final Cut Pro X. For audio engineering, we use Pro Tools. For design work, we use the Adobe Creative suite, mostly Illustrator. Ashleigh learned to use FCPX & ProTools in college, but really got her experience from creating all of our films and music.

Courtney went to school for art and learned how to use the Creative Suite in college, but again, really learned the programs from frequently tackling challenges with our work over the last 6 years. After our workload started piling up, Courtney learned FCPX from the 50+ films we had created from that point and a lot of googling. She’s a genius self teacher. Courtney develops all the art assets for Twitch and posters for Miss Ash Productions films.

We are currently developing our Youtube channel to include covers and various other content to launch formally in 2020. All of our films live on Vimeo. We frequently update our Instagram and Twitter, as well as have profiles on Facebook & Soundcloud.

We were experimenting with a few scheduling apps, but mostly just schedule posts on Facebook through their site. Typically, we will plan out all our content on Sunday and spend a few hours curating the content for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. In 2020, we plan on using a social media calendar to help streamline exactly what content to push for each platform.

What are the tools and platform you use to help with your brand?

For video editing, we use Final Cut Pro X. For audio engineering, we use Pro Tools. For design work, we use the Adobe Creative suite, mostly Illustrator. Ashleigh learned to use FCPX & ProTools in college, but really got her experience from creating all of our films and music.

Courtney went to school for art and learned how to use the Creative Suite in college, but again, really learned the programs from frequently tackling challenges with our work over the last 6 years. After our workload started piling up, Courtney learned FCPX from the 50+ films we had created from that point and a lot of googling. She’s a genius self teacher. Courtney develops all the art assets for Twitch and posters for Miss Ash Productions films.

We are currently developing our Youtube channel to include covers and various other content to launch formally in 2020. All of our films live on Vimeo. We frequently update our Instagram and Twitter, as well as have profiles on Facebook & Soundcloud.

We were experimenting with a few scheduling apps, but mostly just schedule posts on Facebook through their site. Typically, we will plan out all our content on Sunday and spend a few hours curating the content for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. In 2020, we plan on using a social media calendar to help streamline exactly what content to push for each platform.

What were your fears starting out? How did you handle it?

Its scary being a content creator! You’re putting your heart and soul into something you believe in, sometimes don’t believe in, love, hate, bleed over, lose sleep over…etc. Sometimes, its hard enough for you to trust yourself that your art is worth someone’s time - especially when they watch or listen to anything in the world. So while that in itself is a barrier of entry for you to create, it’s all rooted in fear.

Not everyone is going to understand you or “get” your art. But when someone does, oh my, does that feeling make you feel like you did something good. When someone is able to identify with a story you put out there or song you wrote, when people are able to detract from their daily life and connect or resonate with something you created - it makes everything worth it. Slowly, you’ll start instantly overcoming those fears to create - it just takes time!

I wish we could say that we’ve always taken comments with a grain of salt, but there were times we took words to heart. We’ve been able to overcome a lot of our fears by constantly creating all different types of content. It’s helped us diversify ourselves and grow into better artists and people because of it. Additionally, you won’t always make the best projects. It’s from the shortcomings you learn how to be better and tell better stories. We’ve really figured out our workflow and the stories we’re passionate about telling through creating so many different types of films and stories.

Also, a lot of our fear stems from not feeling prepared enough. To combat that, we both have taken numerous classes in different areas of film production. We’ve dedicated time to learning about the areas of film that terrify us and practice our skills to get better. You have to confront your fears dead on and see that it was just you holding yourself back. SOAR, HONEY!

Best piece of advice we’ve ever received - don’t read the comments on Youtube videos. Ever.

How did you build your brand to where it is now, take us through your process.

In the first few years of our content creation, we were focused on making films. It took us being workaholics, upset in the corner of a bar for someone’s birthday party that a producer came up to us and told us it didn’t matter how hard we worked or how many films we had made, it mattered who knew us and no one knew us. THAT was a big smack in the face.

Overnight from that, we created a more mature logo and we started building our online presence. We started entering festivals, attending networking events and prioritized developing relationships with individuals to collaborate.

Our hardest challenge is that we have a large body of work and are pretty unknown in the world of film, so it’s been difficult for people to take us seriously when they find out we are handling everything ourselves. Especially in a world where you are being told you have to know how to do everything yourself but then if its found out you work as a duo to do everything, its both impressive and a red flag. We’re still overcoming this challenge.

Everything in the beginning was out of pocket. We didn’t have money to hire anyone to do anything for us so we were (and still are) curating our content for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. When we were first starting out, Instagram wasn’t a big platform so we didn’t start prioritizing that until recently. We’ve spent a lot of time researching the most effective measures to gain traction instead of investing in someone to handle that for us.

hile we mostly paid for everything film and music wise ourselves we were fortunate to have a few amazing patrons (Bob, Ed, Holli, Grandmom - we're looking at you!) who believed in our work and skills early on invest in some of our films as well as volunteer to work for free on our films. They were really the first people to advocate for us with their time and money. Twitch has been extremely beneficial for us to connect with a new audience and likewise, a new group of supporters. In the last year, our Twitch community has helped fund new film equipment and funding for films to allow us to take new creative risks and push our storytelling to the next level. We wouldn’t be where we are right now without everyone believing in us and supporting us in the many ways they have - financially, with their time and sharing our work on social media.

Our operation today is hectic. At the beginning of each year, we make a roadmap of things we wish to accomplish. Monthly, we amend and adapt the overall goals. We break those monthly goals into weekly bullet points. At the top of each week, we split up tasks and break them down by day. This includes all our Twitch work, music work, film work and personal tasks to be accomplished. Finally, we take notes on things that are working, not working and discuss what our priorities are for the day and week.

We spend the first couple hours awake responding to emails and messages. We then take our vitamins and hit the gym. Come home, grab lunch, jump into a meeting or phone call. We’ll head to work if we’re scheduled or continue working on a blend of Twitch, music and film work. If it’s a stream night, we’ll stream. If not, we’ll usually catch up on a few episodes of television. Before bed, we’ll read, journal and discuss our upcoming day plans. One or both of us are almost always working, finding the best opportunities to get tasks accomplished before moving onto the next thing, but also multitasking to accomplish the most we can from each day.

s far as traction, Twitch has been our game changer. Many of the members of our Twitch community have followed our social accounts, advocate for and push our content. They are also our primary supporters on Patreon. We just hit 6000 followers on Twitch and its taken us a year and a half to reach that benchmark. There aren’t enough positive things to say about our Twitch community. They have been the most supportive group of humans we have ever been blessed to know. Their support drives us, especially on our toughest days. On that note - HUGE SHOUTOUT TO OUR QUEENS & BILLYNAIRES! We love you. Thank you for changing our lives.

We’ve been actively creating films since 2013, having created over 120 short films and a feature film since then. We’ve been streaming on Twitch since July 2018. We’ve been playing music together since 2016.

For someone who wants to get into content creation, what is your advice?

I don’t know that we would have necessarily done things differently if we had the knowledge we have now. Everything from the successes to the failures have been pivotal thus far in our journey. We had to navigate our own path through making indie films, creating our Twitch channel and making music. Not everything has been glamorous and trust me, we’ve cried and questioned our decisions on a daily basis sometimes, but the highs have been the most extreme achievements I never would have dreamed of.

Challenges and obstacles that we have faced have almost always stemmed from not knowing enough about what we committed to, not standing up for ourselves and not having a contract in place. ALWAYS HAVE A CONTRACT. ALWAYS. Spell out the expectations on paper. Standing up for yourself is also something that we’ve really struggled with because we never wanted to be known as the people that were too difficult to work with. However, there is a huge difference between being difficult and knowing your worth. Don’t let people walk over you because you are afraid to speak up.

As far as advice, I feel like everyone says this, but BE YOURSELF. Do you look at your content and like it? Are you enjoying the process? Do you have a long term and short term plan?

You have to constantly reassess and find what works for you and doesn’t work for you. Be ready to abandon ideas that you love if they aren’t working.

The golden rule to success though is perseverance and dedication. Even on the days you aren’t super passionate about what you’re doing, keep going. Keep creating. Stay consistent. Power through the failures and keep picking yourself up off the ground. Connect with like minded people to provide encouragement and suggestions. Keep pushing your own boundaries. Keep moving forward! Not everyone is going to love your work, but its those couple people who really connect with you that will support you and uplift you in your roughest times. Find that community and you will SOAR.

How did you finally commit to X platform rather than your regular day job?

The place we’ve found the most traction so far has been Twitch. We worked our streaming into our schedule with working in hospitality and working on films. Even now, a year and a half after being on Twitch, we still have a serving job for the stability of knowing we have a means of paying our bills. A serving job allows us the flexibility to take creative risks without the crippling financial risk that typically has held us back in the past. Because we work night shifts, we typically sleep in a bit later than most people because 2 / 4 the nights we stream, we walk in the door from serving tables for 5 hours to streaming for 4-5 hours into the early morning. It has taken its toll on us, but we’ve learned how to budget and balance our time accordingly to be the most productive versions of ourselves.  

As for working film into the equation, we do still actively work on set for others as well as work on our own films. Honestly, its just a matter of balancing and making sure we are investing time constantly into growing on Twitch, with music and with our films.

Until we are able to sustain comfortably through film, we will most likely continue with what we are doing. In our minds, having guaranteed income via film and serving helps keep Twitch fun without throwing a financial need into the mix.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

Getting Partner on Twitch within 6 months of streaming was a pretty significant milestone for us. It was about 2 months into streaming that we started to understand how powerful of a platform Twitch was. We attended our first Twitchcon 3 months into streaming and decided we were going to make a push for Partner within the next 3 months. We got really serious about our channel and were streaming 5 nights a week, 4-5 hours a night. Our community was ridiculously amazing and supportive, staying up with us until 7am in the morning PST time the final night of our Partner push!

Also through Twitch, we took on a daunting challenge of doing a live variety show, CA at the Midway, three months in a row, from March - May 2019. We would perform 4 live sketches for 10-20 mins a piece with films we created specifically for each show playing while we got ready for our next sketch. It was an especially taxing time for pushing ourselves, but there was nothing that compared to that feeling of having completed an hour and a half live show, just the two of us.

Courtney and I (Ashleigh) have been playing music together as well for for about 3 years now. It wasn’t until we started playing music on Twitch that people started asking for originals. While this was something we’ve thought about and entertained, we didn’t really sit down to create original music until August 2019. Since then, our originals have been some of the most requested songs every stream. We even just submitted our first song to be on Spotify - another huge win.

ith film, I think huge benchmarks for us have been being recognized by being accepted into film festivals and winning awards for our respective crafts. Courtney and I (Ashleigh) have only had one festival where we won respectively for Best Performance and Best Directing. That’s one moment neither of us will ever forget. There is something so magical about being recognized for all the hard work, blood, sweat and tears that something took to get completed.

With Twitch, we are reaching more people than we ever thought possible. Our music, films and personalities resonate with thousands of people across the world. How freaking cool is it that people rally behind you, love you fiercely and push you to be the best version of yourself! Film has taught us to set goals, Twitch has taught us we can crush the goals and dream of realities we never thought possible.

"You never know what’s gonna happen once you put yourself out there! "

BUT, the biggest win is being able to create and have a career with your best friend. Neither of us would trade this life for the world! We get to do what we love with our best friend. The memories and experiences we’ve gotten to have are priceless. It’s pretty magical, y’all.

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

We started streaming on Twitch in July 2018, through a suggestion from a fellow streamer, CoffeeClubTv. We started as a gaming stream, playing Dr. Mario, Mario Kart and Mario Party. On the hour, we would perform a cover. We were super fortunate that we had a large support group from several gamers who stumbled upon our 4-10 average stream. We hit affiliate within a week and continued figuring out how to make better content. Within 3 months, we started streaming in Music and Performing Arts, abandoning the gaming. That was the best decision we ever made. Our channel was growing quickly and we were scrambling to keep up.

Another great thing we did to create value for subscribers was we created a “Sub” song and wrote each sub name on a vinyl. This was PIVOTAL to our growth. After a 2 month long Partner push of streaming 4-5 hours a night for 5 nights a week, we finally hit the benchmarks for Partner and applied right before Christmas. We got the email we were accepted as Partners on Twitch just after the new year. It’s still one of the most amazing moments for both of us - standing in a Walmart return line and having strangers stare while we celebrated.

Since streaming on Twitch for a year and a half, we’ve changed stream setups numerous times, changed locations 3 times and rebranded twice. We’ve always independently handled all our marketing.

The most important part of our Twitch journey though is before ever hitting live, we researched the best times to stream whatever games we were playing and started streaming in those times. We used websites such as Twitch Strike, SullyGnome and Twitch Metrics to chart our progress and use our time and energy the most efficiently. We studied Twitch as a platform, learning what creators did bring in and keep viewers as well as what wasn’t working for creators. We brought our perspective, our personalities and skill sets together to make the most unique channel possible. We took the information that already existed and incorporated it into our growth - something that the most successful streamers on Twitch that we’ve interacted with also do.

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships?

There was definitely a period of time we were laser focused on brand deals and sponsorships. We read up on what brands wanted from creators, what they tend to lean towards and a sample of creators they already sponsored. Something else we do is research the values a company or brand stands behind and see if that aligns with who we are.

We did reach out to a few companies for sponsorships, but for us, things have been a constant back and forth of follow ups and meetings. It’s hard to stand out to brands, but you have to show them why you would bring THEM value, not the other way around.

We are in talks with a few brands for sponsorships, but nothing we can discuss publicly. A route we have taken is to go after our dream companies, the companies we’ve looked up to, the brands we’ve used for years. We want to make sure that if we are sponsored by a company or brand, we’ve been adapting those products into our lives or we can adapt them into our lives to be more efficient.

On that note, our advice is to be patient and give things time. Develop a genuine relationship with the brand manager. Research whoever you are speaking to instead of just throwing out a cold call. Be your authentic self.

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