Not Your Usual Suspect… Ashley Laurenson
When she arrived in 2008 from New Zealand it was because her father, who had been offered an exciting employment opportunity, asked her if she wanted to go on an adventure in Canada. The then 18-year-old Ashley Laurenson packed her bags and came to Fort McMurray, a decision she regretted for the first three months, often wishing to go home. Yet in 2014, when her parents left Fort McMurray to relocate to another community in Alberta, Laurenson made the decision to stay in Fort McMurray. She says it is because while her immediate “real” family is very close and tight knit her other family, one formed of friends and colleagues, is now found in Fort McMurray.
“When I first got here I did nothing for a long time,” says the perky Laurenson, her native accent still distinct despite her many years in Canada. It was only when she began working and meeting people that she began to develop a support network, a network in which a social media application called Twitter played a crucial role. It was through Twitter that she began to connect with people like Toddske and Tito of YMM Podcast and it was these connections that began to foster her strong relationship to the community of Fort McMurray and the development of a family of friends.
Having worked at a local clothing retailer, selling condos, managing a jewelry store and working for an oil sands company, Laurenson forged strong bonds with her new friends, including appearing on YMM Podcast and then venturing into the world of filmmaking with an acclaimed film short called “Arkham Rising”. When the film short began to attract local, national and even international attention, Laurenson and her fellow filmmakers began to find themselves the focus of significant requests from other local filmmakers who were seeking assistance with their own film projects. The need they expressed led to the formation of the Fort McMurray Filmmakers Association, an organization dedicated to the promotion of film making in the region and providing assistance to aspiring filmmakers.
Since her early days in Fort McMurray of “doing nothing”, Laurenson has progressed to being a key community member, noted not only for her social media presence and contribution to local filmmaking but her participation in a variety of non-profit causes and organizations. Laurenson says it all started when she simply made the choice to get involved.
“Without the community here I would not stay,” says Laurenson, flashing a gleaming smile. “We have an awesome school system, we have great places like MacDonald Island Park, and it’s a good place to raise a family – but you have to get off the sofa and do something,” she adds.
Laurenson’s successful transition from New Zealand to her new home in Canada is definitely the narrative of someone who may have started as “not your usual suspect”, but who over time has contributed to the community in a ways that have made her not only a known figure, but a much respected member of the up and coming demographic of young community leaders.