Ashly Burch is no stranger to online culture.
She's been writing, starring and producing her own series, Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin', for years with her brother and co-worker, Anthony. On top of that, she's made a name for herself as a voice actress in dozens of games, written for popular series like Adventure Time and now stars in RocketJump's new mini-series, RocketJump: The Show.
But for Burch, the most important part of her career is being able to connect with the people watching her videos. One way she's made that connection is by exploring themes like anxiety and mental health and helping take away the stigma surrounding these issues.
In the second episode of RocketJump: The Show, which Burch both stars and directs, viewers see a woman with anxiety overcome her struggles to not only finish the task she's been given, but excel at it. Talking to Polygon, Burch said she knew she wanted to tackle anxiety, an issue she's faced her entire life, in an honest and open way without adding the melodrama that other series tend to do.
"We don't have any positive looks at mental health," Burch said. "Everything that comes out is ramped up and so overdramatic. I wanted to be able to give an honest look at someone with an anxiety issue in a respectful and genuine way."
Burch added that for someone with an anxiety disorder, it can feel like you're alone and that you have to suffer alone. She added that after the episode came out, she received countless emails, texts and messages from both strangers and friends about how they too suffered from the disorder, and were happy to see a positive representation of it.
"I thought I was crazy when I was a kid. And I know that a lot of people still feel that way or are beginning to feel that way," Burch said. "I just wanted them to feel like they're not alone."
For Burch, the subject matter was a perfect starting point for her directorial debut, and added that if she didn't have the safety, security and respect of the RocketJump team, she probably wouldn't have been able to do it.
I wanted to be able to give an honest look at someone with an anxiety issue in a respectful and genuine way
"I have never done this before and there was so much responsibility," Burch said when asked about how she felt stepping into the role. "I didn't want to let anyone down, especially when they put so much faith in me. But the process of making the short was one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had."
Burch hopes to continue directing with RocketJump, where she said the opportunities to explore other areas of filmmaking are endless.
"The really cool thing about RocketJump is that they value and look for people who can do more than one thing," Burch said. "I'm going to be learning a lot more about VFX and although they ask for a lot from me and it can be challenging, it's all in the right ways."
For now, Burch is happy to be a part of the team and help bring the vision of the mini-series to life. When asked if she had any big plans for the future, she laughed and said there was some work in the pipeline that was incredibly exciting, but that she couldn't talk about just yet.
RocketJump: The Show is currently playing on Hulu. Watch Burch's directorial debut episode below.