We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashton Lunceford and Mia Hansen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashton and Mia, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Ashton: I always dreamt of having my own business and when the opportunity presented itself to partner with Mia it just made sense! She was my original mentor in the PR world (I was her assistant years ago) and it was really a no-brainer to join forces as partners once the timing was right.
What’s one piece of conventional advice that you disagree with?
Mia: Before Ashton and I started Portrait, I had another PR company called Aquarius PR and that is how Ashton and I originally met, she was my part time assistant while she was in college. The reason I started that one is basically the ones that existed at that time were just not doing business the way I wanted to. Most of the companies in the early 2000’s were very corporate and that just isn’t me at all so I wanted to go about things in a different way. Now there are a bunch of smaller more boutique type companies but that wasn’t the case when I first started. When we started Portrait it was still kind of the same thing, and the ones that were smaller were really trying to be bigger and again, that is not what we have ever been about. The one piece of conventional advice I disagree with? To be very honest, a lot of young and up and coming actors seem to be given the advice that bigger is better, agencies, management companies, PR companies. In my experience, I have not found that to be true. Of course it definitely works for some people, but I just feel like if you are being represented by someone who represents 30, 40, 50 other people at the same time as they are trying to help you, their time is obviously spread much thinner or the client may be put off onto an assistant. We very much pride ourselves at Portrait on keeping or client lists smaller so we, Ashton and I ourselves, can do the work for all of our clients. We don’t work with assistants, so we are doing all the pitching, we are the ones answering the phone, we are the ones at the shoots, at the big events with our clients. It is set up that way very purposefully.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Ashton: Portrait PR is a boutique firm specializing in publicity for actors, musicians, screenwriters and more. I said it last time we spoke, but the time we put in face to face with our clients is very important to us and I think sets us apart from other firms that might have more clients but less personal attention. I’m constantly excited about our clients’ projects which makes my job, although challenging, really enjoyable. Press is really the icing on the cake for a project and there’s no better feeling than seeing a client at their premiere looking and feeling their best and just so excited for the world to finally see something they worked so hard on. It’s the celebration phase in many ways!
Mia: I truly, truly love what I do and I think my clients can really feel that from me. It is not just a job for me, it is my passion and I think that has served me really well. When I started Aquarius it was just me and it was just me for a very long time. I had interns here and there but I have never wanted a full time assistant and I hired Ashton back in the day to be a part time assistant basically because a client asked me to but I am so very glad I did. I just wish, looking back that when she had wanted to come on full time that I had done that because we would’ve probably started Portrait all that much sooner but I also think it was good that we went our separate ways for a bit and so really made the decision to come back together. My passion has gotten me in trouble at times, meaning I’m not at all a yes person, but that is who I am and I wouldn’t have it any other way. What do I want people to know about Portrait. We really, truly LOVE what we do and I think our clients can see that and I think the editors that we work with can see that and I think it has served us really well.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Ashton: Things are a little different in LA right now but let’s talk pre-Covid! I would probably hang out more Eastside LA … so Los Feliz, Silverlake, Eagle Rock. I always love to take visitors to the Griffith Observatory for the beautiful views and a quick planetarium show. Hiking is also great around there and a very quintessential LA experience. I’m big into brunch and would likely choose Little Dom’s in Los Feliz, everything there is always amazing (and they have great cocktails too). Seeing live music outdoors in LA is one of my favorite things so I would probably have a show at the Greek or Hollywood Bowl on the itinerary as well! Other favorite spots of mine are Little Beast in Eagle Rock and Descanso Gardens.
Mia: Oh gosh, I am the wrong person to ask this question. : ) I just went to Griffith Park (not counting the zoo) for the first time the other day and I have lived in here since 1992. I have still never been to the Observatory, which is just crazy. I would take them to the beach, but not necessarily one of the big popular ones, my favorite one is one that even I have a hard time finding. I’m much more about supporting smaller local restaurants vs. big fancy ones, so I would take them to have the sweet and spicy bacon at Harvest Moon, and the fresh sushi at the hole in the wall place right down the street and Mexican food at La Fogota. Definitely would have them get desert at Susie Cakes and try to make sure I could get an order of pretzels from Shappy Pretzel Co. while they were in town. We also love the cornbread at 4&20 but sadly Covid has caused that one to close down. I really love the train ride to San Diego, so would probably do that. I have a pool in the backyard and a movie screen so would probably do a night or to of at home hangout/bbq too. Now that I have been to Griffith Park hiking trails, would definitely want to do that a day or two.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Ashton: I’d like to dedicate my “Shoutout” to my mom, Jan. She really taught me growing up to create my own path, take risks and pursue my dreams with confidence. I think it’s that confidence she instilled in me that has allowed me to continue to take risks in my career to get me where I am today.
Mia: Yes, I would like to shout out Scott Barton who I worked with when I interned at “General Hospital” back in the late 90’s. He was just a really exception mentor and an all around great person. It was my second internship in the industry and though my first one was a great experience too it was working with Scott that really cemented to me that PR was what I wanted to do as a career.