During auditions for his next big project, filmmaker Bobby Ashley ’17 is interested first in seeing what the aspiring actors prepared. But then he’s going to flip the script so he can see how much credibility they can really bring.

The former screenwriting major is tucked away in Room 7, a corner cubby on the first floor of the Brooklyn Public Library’s main branch, overseeing casting calls for Single Man Problems, a web series about a young man who’s seeking a relationship by pretending to be someone he’s not.

“I’m not looking for a performance,” Ashley tells the first would-be cast member. “I’m looking for someone who can really enhance the character and bring that authentic—I’m going to use that word a lot—that authentic feeling to the scene.”

He’s not joking. Authentic is a word that is never far from the tip of Ashley’s tongue or the center of his work. It’s the bedrock of his outlook, one that propelled the success of his first big, buzzy production, The Ave, a web series he created during his junior year at Brooklyn College about the lives of a group of young people in Brownsville who try to fund their dreams through check fraud schemes.

That show now has more than 10 million streams on Amazon Prime and a nod from this summer’s Hip Hop Film Festival’s Urban Web Summit for Best Web Series.

“I never dreamed The Ave would be this successful,” says Ashley, who wrote and directed the series. “I just wanted to make a show about the community that I know.”

Ashley says he wasn’t sure if anyone would watch. What he did know were the people who lived in the buff brick buildings of Chester Street and Dumont Avenue, where he’d grown up overhearing conversations on the train, and watching people’s lives spill out on the block. He knew their slang and their swagger.

He also knew that at a time when the filmmaking industry has been under fire for its dearth of productions featuring people of color, there were opportunities for urban content on the web.

He cobbled his production together on a shoestring budget—raising $800, borrowing equipment, shooting in his mother’s apartment, and convincing the cast and crew to work for free in the precious little downtime he had while juggling a full roster that included two of the most demanding courses had taken in school.

“That was a crazy semester,” says Ashley, who worked with his fellow film student and producing partner Mical Milus ‘17 on the series. “But it was one that really helped me become a better person. It taught me that I could do anything.”

Ashley first uploaded the show to YouTube and went about promoting it through word of mouth. “I told everyone I knew and put up posters in the buildings in my neighborhood,” he said. “I wanted this to grow from folks in the community since it was made in the community.”

Grow it did. Next thing Ashley knew, he had 35,000 views on YouTube. He was approached by FUBU TV, a little-known provider of on-demand channels on cable and satellite service providers that picked up the show. From there, he got noticed by Amazon Prime.

These days Ashley is in talks with Akeem Browder, a candidate for mayor of New York City under the Green Party and the brother of Kalief Browder, a young man whose wrongful imprisonment and eventual suicide was chronicled in a documentary for Spike TV and Netflix. The two would like to collaborate on a feature film about mass incarceration.

He’s also gearing up to start shooting the second season of The Ave in December, and will begin shooting Single Man Problems next month.

Ashley says that eventually he plans to open his own studio and could imagine no better place for it than Brooklyn, preferably as close as possible to his stomping grounds.

“I want to make a mark in this industry that people will recognize,” he says. “When people see me, I want them to say, ‘That brother came from Brownsville. There’s no limit.'”