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Meet Jasmine Espy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jasmine Espy.

Jasmine, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan to Muriel and Jerome Espy on August 3, 1993. My mother worked in retail and was an aspiring fashion designer while my father was a radio disc jockey and personality. My brother was a year and a half when I was born. My family later moved to Detroit, Michigan so my father could continue his work in media.

Fast forward to high school, I followed in my father’s footsteps and became a radio personality, producer and disc jockey my sophomore year. I was bullied heavily at the time so, I was looking for an outlet and radio was the perfect medium. I joined my high school’s radio station WSHJ 88.3 FM and was made the production manager after about a year. I managed about 5 to 6 producers, personalities, and disc jockeys. I hosted two Christian radio shows focusing on exposing audiences to underground and indie Christian rappers and musicians and touching on topics teens face like dating, friendships, family, peer pressure, church, etc.

As a junior/ senior, I landed an internship at a radio station in downtown Detroit called 1440 WDRJ, now known as 1440 WMKM, as a production intern. I wanted to be the producer on the radio who made the commercials, PSAs, liners, openers, and closers for the station. So, my boss at the time, Caleb Foster, gave me a script and told me to go into the basement of the radio station where the audio booth was stationed and create something amazing. I didn’t know how to use any of the equipment but I figured it out through YouTube. I created a commercial that blew him away. He was convinced I would have a great career on the radio if I pursued one. As I learned many of the radio personalities and stations I loved and respected were either consolidating, letting people go or closing down altogether, I decided to think about pursuing another career path.

I focused on audio engineering but didn’t know there were schools designed to train you in the field like Full Sail and Berklee College. I attended Western Michigan University to study communications in hopes I could somehow continue pursuing a career in radio. Kalamazoo didn’t have much of a media or entertainment market to begin with and when I expressed my frustrations to my father, he reminded me about a scholarship program at Wayne State University in Detroit for journalists. I didn’t see journalism in my future but I figured it would get me closer to radio than a communications degree would. So, I applied to the Journalism Institute for Media Diversity and was awarded a partial scholarship to study journalism at Wayne State University. Before the new semester began, I landed my first radio internship at WDET 101.9 FM as a production intern.

For the first time, engineering for music and radio intersected in the same space. I was completely intimidated by the process because it was highly technical. It was a step above my previous experience in radio. So, I studied broadcast journalism at WSU and landed more internships in radio. I started feeling like radio might not be the move for me career-wise because I was more interested in audio engineering for musicians.

Around my junior year, I pursued music engineering full time and landed an internship with an up and coming studio, licensing and publishing house called Assemble Sound where I was a studio intern. I learned audio tracking, mixing, and mastering from some local producers and engineers in Detroit. I also landed an internship with Cullen Brooks who worked with Eminem and Dr. Dre. He introduced me to engineering for film and exposed me to the professional side of working with artists in the studio. By my senior year, I had internships in radio, music engineering, and print journalism. I’ve always been one to spread my wings and chase my dreams. So, one day I also decided I wanted a byline which launched my career as a freelance writer for magazines and digital publications across the country.

By the time I graduated in Dec. 2017, I was unsure of the direction I wanted to go with my career but had an idea to produce a documentary on a skin condition called Hidradenitis Suppurativa that I’ve dealt with for over a decade of my life. I knew I loved storytelling. So, I wanted to see how far I could go branding myself as such. I didn’t know how I was going to get the money to produce and direct a documentary but I started looking for jobs, fellowships, and grants that aligned with the goal. I stumbled across a fellowship at the University of Southern California with Sony Pictures Entertainment to study film criticism.

At WSU, I hosted a film criticism podcast called Above The Line bringing professional film critics and movie buffs together to discuss the latest films. This work along with the print film criticism pieces I produced helped me to land the fellowship with USC and Sony. As a specialized journalism master’s student I decided to study film while making a film of my own in the journalism department.

Taking the GRE was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my college career, but I passed and was able to attend USC. I was afraid to take this step in my journey because I didn’t know if it was the right move especially because the scholarships I received to attend USC only covered a portion of my graduate school bill. Grad school is incredibly expensive and especially at a prestigious institution like USC. I took the leap and invested in my future which is what landed me in Los Angeles.

From this moment on, I set my mind on leveraging my master’s thesis as the channel to produce the documentary I set out to create. I produced and directed the documentary on Hidradenitis Suppurativa which is a skin condition that affects 1% to 4% of the population. It presents as boils and cysts in places where skin touches skin like the armpits, groin, chest, buttocks, thighs, etc. The process of creating this film was emotionally taxing because I had to relive my own medical and personal trauma. However, it was worth it for the betterment of the HS community. This is where I also discovered my talent for directing and producing. I realized I could take all of my experience in journalism both technically and within storytelling to craft a new career in the film industry where I could tell stories in unscripted and eventually scripted television and feature film.

While I pursued my degree at USC, I also got an internship at Sony Pictures Entertainment in the Physical Production department at Columbia Pictures. This is where my career in objective storytelling turned for the better. Being exposed to film at Sony inspired me to take my newfound role as a producer and director seriously. So, I began building relationships and studying the movers and shakers in the industry.

At the end of my internship, I was able to screen my documentary, My Gold Lining: A Documentary on Hidradenitis Suppurativa, at Sony Pictures and I also screened it in Detroit, Michigan in front of a sold-out audience.Currently, I am continuing to screen the documentary across the country. I am raising money to fund a social impact screening tour/ campaign where the documentary can be screened all over the world.

In addition to this, I am currently working on my second book centering on reducing the shame associated with HS and showcasing the scars I’ve received along the way. My full time job currently is as an assistant to Jay Gilbert in Physical Production at APA Agency.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
No, not at all. I think one of the hardest struggles along the way was battling my skin condition, Hidradenitis Suppurativa, and pursuing a career at the same time. I was in and out of the hospital for check-ups, surgeries, and treatment. It got extremely exhausting. I remember two weeks after surgery in 2016, I attended the North American International Auto Show as a General Motors journalism fellow. It was tough being present because I was in so much pain and hadn’t fully understood how the condition was affecting me mentally and emotionally. I wanted to honor the commitments I made previously, so I pushed through which may or may not have been the best thing to do.

The journey was long and I often used my accomplishments to escape the reality of my disease. I worked hard in my career to distract myself from my personal life. However, once I started getting a hold of my emotions through therapy I was able to balance my career and personal life.

The other difficulty came with getting adjusted to LA. Housing is very difficult to find, especially affordable housing. I was lucky with all of my housing finds to be honest. I lived in an apartment complex owned by USC specifically for Annenberg students while attending USC, after graduation I stayed a few months in another dorm until I could find more stable housing, then I found a space on Crenshaw Blvd. in a house with eight other people, and then I made a move to the valley’s where I was able to room with a friend of mind from my hometown Detroit. I thank God I have the privilege to afford the space I’m in because not everyone who comes or lives in LA has access to the resources to live in clean and affordable spaces. A huge emphasis on clean!

I was privileged enough to save money over my college career so I had a cushion and great credit to work with. This, however, doesn’t take away from the difficulties. Even in my privilege, I had hurdles, mountains and pitfalls.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am a freelance journalist, artist, and filmmaker. My specialty is objective and narrative storytelling. Currently, I am focused on telling stories from marginalized and underreported communities to increase representation and diversity in media, film, and entertainment.

I have a large vision for the future extending beyond the film industry into health and wellness for women and people with chronic illness. It’s my goal to create educational programming for young adults battling HS, physicians who aren’t specializing in the disease, as well as families with loved ones suffering. In addition to this, I am producing a second book of poetry I am hoping will be released this year also centering on HS.

I’ve expanded my directing chops beyond documentary into scripted for a short film produced by a friend of mine. He asked me to direct Christmas in Crenshaw for him which premiered online at the end of last year. I plan on expanding what I am doing with the social impact campaign for My Gold Lining. I am also collaborating with more writers and producers to direct short and feature-length films as well as webisodes. Eventually, I want to work in television as well. It’s my goal to work with the likes Ava DuVernay and Lena Waithe in the future.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I’ve had tons of mentors along the way who’ve contributed to my success from Caleb Foster who gave me my first radio internship to Cullen Brooks who was my first mentor in music engineering to Alicia Nails who is the director of the Journalism Institute for Media Diversity program at WSU to Maya Sugerman who was one of the mentors of the Asian American Journalists Association VOICES program to Paul Martin at Sony Pictures Entertainment who helped me to land an internship at Sony to my parents who’ve been my emotional support through my whole career and personal life. There are so many others in between that have had a major influence on my path but these are the main individuals who’ve contributed to helping me at major turning points in my career.

Caleb Foster gave me my first official internship in radio production. Cullen Brooks was my first music engineering mentor where I was able to go into real recording studios and learn how to track and mix artists from all over Detroit. Alicia Nails is the woman who gave me the fellowship to study journalism at WSU/ Maya Sugerman was the mentor who helped pay for my admission into USC and for my GRE test when I couldn’t afford either. She believed USC would help to further my career and she was right. Paul Martin helped me to land an internship at Sony Pictures Entertainment and was also pivotal in me being able to screen my documentary at Sony.

Others along my path have offered advice, given me opportunities, and have offered their ears as I ranted about the struggles of crafting and further a career in entertainment. My career and life wouldn’t be what it is without their help and sacrifices. I also want to mention Dr. Iltefat Hamzavi who is the dermatologist who helped to diagnose and treat my Hidradenitis Suppurativa. He was instrumental in my physical healing. Last, but certainly not least are my parents who were the emotional support I needed to get through my entire existence in this world. Without their support I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I have. My father constantly tells me to dream bigger and because of that, I continue to expand.

Pricing:

  • I charge $1 per word for my writing gigs.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

The film poster was created by a talented graphic artist in New York who goes by the name of RaFia. The photo for the film poster was taken by a talented director of photography Desmond Love. The photos for the screening at Sony Pictures Entertainment in the theatre were photographed by Bob Flowers. The photo of me with the video camera with the crowd of people around was taken by the producer of the film I directed, Teddy Johnson. The photo with me sitting next to the camera was taken by myself.

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