By Abe Loomis
As a multiracial Black person adopted into a white family, Jasmine Elmore (B.F.A.’22) says she has long contemplated questions of identity. She has also had to overcome a sense that she might not be welcome in her chosen field. “Growing up, “I never really saw myself [working in film],” she says “I didn’t really see a lot of Black female filmmakers, or female filmmakers of color in general.”
After working at Oakwood Arts, a Richmond nonprofit dedicated to expanding access to careers in creative industries — and landing a paid internship at Apple TV+, where she worked on the forthcoming film “Raymond and Ray” which is set to release on Oct. 21, Elmore’s perspective has shifted.
“Before Oakwood, I was honestly considering dropping out,” says Elmore, who majored in photography and film studies. “And not because I don’t love it. I just felt like I can’t get this degree and then come out and not be able to get a job. But working with Oakwood and getting the Apple TV+ internship has given me a lot of hope.”
It all started in fall 2019 with a chance encounter in a hallway of the Pollak Building, where Department Chair Jon-Phillip Sheridan spotted Elmore loaded down with film equipment.
“I was working on a short film, carrying two light kits, dolly wheels, a tripod, a V-mount battery pack, a microphone…,” Elmore says. “He asked me if I needed help, and we just started talking. I told him how much I love VCU, and I think he took notice of the hard work I was putting in.”
Sheridan confirms this impression.
“Jasmine’s enthusiasm was evident from the first day she joined the department,” he says. “She always just seemed so happy to be here, making art, and she pushes herself relentlessly.”
The meeting paid dividends when Shannon Castleman, executive director of Oakwood Arts, asked Sheridan about prospective interns. Sheridan mentioned Elmore, and soon she was working at Oakwood, helping with film shoots and teaching local teenagers about recording and post-production sound. Now, Elmore hopes she can be the kind of role model she once longed for.
“When I’m working with kids,” she says, “sometimes I wonder if they’ve ever seen a Black woman—or just a woman—working sound or working a camera. When I worked at the sound camp, a lot of times, the girls would shy away from being the ones handling the camera. I would say ‘No, come on. You’ve got to try it.’”