I had the great pleasure of meeting Ashleigh Nichols and Aubrey Duclos on set for a short film of theirs that I starred in. I have been on a lot of sets before, and I have to say that my experience working with them was just incredible. These two women are the brains and brawn behind Minerva Pictures, and after interviewing them I realized why filming with them was just so darn special: they truly care about the success and happiness of every person on the set. They are both mothers and they carry this mothering mentality into their work: sometimes strict, sometimes goofy, but always with an overarching feel of genuine care and love for the story and the people bringing the story to life.
Where did this whole dream partnership start?
Ash: We used to work together and after we both left the company we caught up for coffee and realized that we had the same goal.
A: Revolved around how motherhood changed how we looked at our careers, and we both felt like there was no reason we couldn’t go after our professional aspirations, but we had to be in an environment that supported those changes in our lives. We didn’t initially plan on starting a production company, but rather just wanted to support each other. After a few projects we realized that we worked really well together and were really good at lifting each other up because we were going through similar experiences.
Ash: What is crucial for us, is that I trust Aubrey 100%. I can have successes with, around, and for Aubrey, but more importantly I can make a mistake around her, and still want to go back and work with her again.
A: Over this time, we have also figured out each other’s strengths and weaknesses and so we are super comfortable and happy to let the other person take the wheel and highlight each other’s best parts.
Mission of the company?
A: Our mission is to tell stories that we connect to and are honest, truthful stories, with a point of view. We also make sure to create a positive work environment for families. Whenever we do a project together, we hire a lot of parents, and make sure to schedule and budget to support other families.
Ash: A long term goal is not just family friendly sets, but quality of life friendly. Whether you are a parent or not, it’s important to support a good quality of life.
How did your life change when you became parents?
Ash: I was one of those women who always thought work first and everything else second. It was like a cold glass of water that hit me, when my daughter was born.
A: I was very purposeful around starting a family. At the time I was working from home for a production company and so it seemed like the perfect time to start a family and still continue to work. And then that job went away and everything changed. I had to get back into the office and I suddenly felt out of place. I was looking around, and so many parents stopped working when they had kids, and I remember thinking “am I not supposed to be here?”
Yes, as a parent I am responsible for the wellbeing of these humans, but I also didn’t want to sacrifice who I was, because I had spent a lot of time investing in myself, and I knew I couldn’t walk away from that.
Ash: Yes, just cause you’re a mother doesn’t mean you stop being interested in your career. There are multiple parts of yourself.
A: But also, its ok, if someone decides to be a stay at home parents and devote their lives to their kids 100%. That is just as hard and fulfilling and worthwhile. But I know for myself, that I am a better parent because I found a way to get back to work. I am better for my kids because I have found time to devote to myself.
How do you find the stories you want to tell?
Ash: I spend a lot of time meeting with people. I am very very motivated because I don’t know how much longer I will be able to make content like this without the income to support myself. I always feel like I am racing, and I know that I might have to stop this at some point, but having this theoretical deadline or goal keeps me very focused and motivated.
Do you have a specific goal in mind?
Ash: I don’t have a number or anything, but I if I get to a point where I know my family needs me to contribute more financially, I will have to lean into that.
A: Yeah, it will either be an energy burnout or a financial burnout.
Ash: But even if we had to go back to being line producers for other companies just for money, it won’t stop us from creating together. We will always continue to work together as a team.
Goal for the company?
Ash: End goal is to have a production company that works year-round creating content and specifically supporting people who may have taken a step back from the industry to support their family and now wants to come back into the industry.
Something that really united us was the desire to support women who may not realize that they CAN do this again.
A: All the examples that we see of leadership are people without families. Yes, this is changing, but we still feel like there is a real need for mentors.
Do you have any last words of advice for women with children?
Ash: It is important to have people. Find people to support you because you can’t do it alone. We are both incredibly lucky to have supportive spouses, and to have found each other as supportive business partners. Finding your community is the most important thing you can do not only when you’re a parent, but just a filmmaker in general.
A: On the same note, don’t cut yourself out of your past community. I know that is something I did because I thought my old friends might not get my new life with motherhood, but whether they get it or not isn’t important. You are all still filmmakers so keep those meetings.
Ash: Also, you will find new inspiration in yourself when you have children. Lean into that.
A: Oh yes, there is a strength that you discover when you are a parent.
Ash: I realized when I had a daughter that she needed to see me happy. When I first had her, I struggled with depression, and I thought I was a terrible parent, but when I realized that I had to model to her the sort of life I want her to have, I started putting more focus on going after what I actually want in life.
A: Yes, they watch everything. If I am self-deprecating or unmotivated they see that. If I can give them any gift, it is to go after their dreams and find a job that they are passionate about. So, I have to model that.
Final words of advice?
Ash: If you had motivation before you had kids, then your work ethic will still be there, and you will find that motivation again after you have kids.
A: We are all juggling. Some of the balls are made of rubber and some are made of glass. You’re going to drop something. Just make sure you drop the rubber balls, not the glass ones. Prioritize what is important. Pat yourself on the back because it IS hard but understand that you will find yourself again.