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Meet Jessica Ambuehl

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Ambuehl. 

Hi Jessica, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
I can truly say that I love what I do AND do what I love. My journey as a storyteller on both sides of the camera began many years ago and I never dreamed I’d have a career in the entertainment industry. 

As an actor, I love the challenge of bringing characters and words to life on screen. I dabbled in it as a young teenager but it didn’t stick until later on in life. And what I thought was a fun hobby surprisingly became a career choice in my thirties. Because it’s nearly impossible to make a living doing this craft in St. Louis, I have representation in seven states across the MidWest. The phrase, “will travel for work,” is something I often say and live out! My performance work can be seen at www.JessicaAmbuehl.com. 

I founded Under The Tree Designs in the mid-2000s which originally offered graphic design, website design, and portrait photography but transitioned into behind-the-camera services such as producing, directing, casting, and COVID compliance. My years organizing events of all sizes easily translated into producing stories for film and TV. I enjoy helping clients make their story idea a reality and in doing so, offers me a rounded understanding and knowledge of the teamwork and process required to storytell with excellence. 

The last component of my company . . . and passion . . . is photojournalism. I fell into this field by simply trying to meet a nonprofit’s need (long but cool story for another time) and discovered that it feeds my soul like nothing else on this earth can do. I have the honor of capturing stories through my lens for nonprofits in developing countries. I use imagery to connect the world through human experiences by evoking emotions in the audience to desire to learn more, value differences, discover beauty in brokenness and expose them to a world they didn’t know existed but now, can no longer deny. 

My behind-the-camera work can be viewed at www.UnderTheTreeDesigns.org. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
As a wife and mother of two boys, I often heard fearful comments through the years about my photojournalism travels. Some were surprised that a woman could travel so far from home and do it alone. They questioned who would care for my children when in reality my husband, family, and community were equally equipped and able to watch over them in my absence. Sometimes people were concerned about my safety and questioned if my choices were wise, all the while not knowing the extra steps taken in preparation for each trip. My heart for international photojournalism was compared to how much photography I did in the United States and instead of focusing on what I was specifically called to do with my talents, my intentions were scrutinized for not caring enough locally (yet they didn’t acknowledge or were unaware of the other nonprofit work I was doing in my hometown). 

Unfortunately, people sometimes speak in fear, are quick to judge and create falsities and miscued perceptions. But the beauty of photojournalism is that I am charged to do the opposite. To provide the world with images that expand people’s minds and break stereotypes. And to exemplify the strength of a woman to do what other’s feel are impossible. 

I wouldn’t characterize acting as having a smooth road. It’s a road with many forks, turns, potholes, and bumps that one must navigate to survive. The competition is fierce and the “nos” are many . . . but one’s passion for this craft will push them past the 120th audition, will encourage them to take classes, and will lead them to seek out new opportunities. It is at constant battle to not give up and to not put one’s self down when as an actor, every part of your being is observed, evaluated and many times criticized. But we press on to do what we love and treasure the bookings along the way! 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Like most people, I too wear many hats. I am a wife, mother, daughter, actor, producer, casting director, COVID compliance officer, and photographer to start. When asked what my favorite thing to do is, I typically answer with this . . . Photojournalism feeds my soul and acting is my passion. All the other jobs fill my time and allow me to still be in creative spaces. But, the hardest and most rewarding job is being a mother. It’s not easy to juggle all of the hats but with an amazing and supportive spouse, it is possible . . . and I am proof of that! 

I was recently told that I was described as the person in town “who does things (projects) that matter.” Although that was not a self-proclaimed goal, it definitely speaks to my heart. I’ve been told my super-power is connection. Whether in the slums of India, the dirt streets of Haiti, or on a large commercial set, I am able to quickly connect with strangers and storytellers alike. My genuine desire to see and treat others equally and with kindness enables me to establish trust and value quicker than most. That skill definitely comes in handy when telling someone to wear their mask on set or sitting in a refuge’s home in the Middle East. I choose to see humanity before circumstances. 

Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
There is power in being observant. We learn by watching, listening, and searching for opportunities to grow – from the good and the bad examples. One way to be watchful is to stay connected by networking through social media pages, offering help (even for free) to others, and attending events. I believe that what we “put in or give back” in life is not only personally rewarding but also, is eventually noticed thus creating positive branding and new opportunities. 

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