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Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.
Jasmin Figueroa has always been a storyteller. She first dreamed of becoming an attorney and applied to Arizona State University in political science. But she soon realized that the kinds of stories she wanted to tell did not necessarily involve plaintiffs and defendants.
The Scottsdale, Arizona, native is graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in in film and media studies, and couldn’t be happier about her choice.
“I always say to friends and family that I made the best decision of my life by switching from political science to film and media,” she said.
Figueroa was definitely “all-in” when preparing for her new dream career. She took advantage of every resource and opportunity ASU has to offer an aspiring filmmaker. She interned in 2020 at both the Sundance and Sedona Film Festivals, saying that each experience brought specific training and opportunities that significantly enhanced her classroom time.
“Being at the festival and meeting new people and watching these films from around the world was so inspiring,” Figueroa said, “it made me want to create something ASAP.”
Figueroa also served as the NBC Universal Campus Representative, where she utilized social media and planned events to help promote the company’s upcoming films and television series. And she participated in ASU Film Spark weekend seminars, where she rubbed elbows with producers, directors, casting directors and film executives in small group settings.
“I learned so much at these classes and they were highly beneficial to me,” Figueroa said. “It was great to meet people in the industry in a ‘101’ environment because we got to ask behind-the-scenes questions and hear about what it takes to get to their level.”
She recalled that her favorite instructor in the seminars was Deb Aquila, the casting director for “La La Land.”
“She was straightforward,” Figueroa said, “and her advice was, ‘Do your work!!’”
Figueroa answered a few more questions about her ASU experience before turning her gaze west to Hollywood.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field?
Answer: When I was younger, I always envisioned myself doing something on the creative side, but I never really knew in what realm it would be.
When I first applied to ASU, my senior year of high school, I applied as a political science major. It’s pretty funny because since I was 9, I have been saying I was going to be a lawyer — mostly just because I was obsessed with true crime shows and movies. So then one day before high school graduation I realized I wanted to do something more creative and fulfilling and decided I wanted to work movies in some capacity. It kinda just came to me. If you ask anyone close to me, I have always been a storyteller and when I started to think more about it, it just felt right.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: Meeting all different kinds of people at ASU and hearing stories from people all across the world has really opened my eyes that there is so much more to life, so much more to be learned, and to experience. I think one of the most important things I learned while at ASU is to listen rather than to always speak, because when you listen you are learning.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I’m born and raised in Arizona, and ASU really feels like home for me. The Tempe campus is only about 20 minutes from home, so with the convenience and the opportunity that it provides, it really was a no-brainer. And the campus, resources, professors and opportunity here were not matched anywhere else, so it was a pretty easy decision.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: This is very hard, because I think every professor I have had at ASU has taught me something that I carry with me. My (film and media studies) professors, Kevin Sandler, Julia Himberg, and Aviva Dove-Viebahn, were all really essential my sophomore/junior years because it was when I was really starting to explore and understand my major better, and they were so helpful during that time. Some elective professors I had were also amazing, like Jane Legacy (from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College). I even got to take a yoga class, and (Faculty Associate) Rasoul Aminsobhani was a great teacher.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Sign up and apply for everything! Get out of your comfort zone. During my sophomore year, I started to engage more in school. Every time an email would come my way, I would go for it and apply; this led me to getting different internship and work opportunities. Along the way, I met so many different people, and the experiences have taught me so much about working in my field. There have been so many opportunities that have come to me just because I took that extra time to apply for something, so it is definitely crucial to put yourself out there.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: I have a bunch! I love the Secret Garden to hangout or to eat lunch, and it’s a great place to take pictures. When I was a freshman living in Manzanita Hall, the basement study rooms were the best for doing homework with friends, though we probably weren't the most productive down there. I also love the little area in the Memorial Union on the first floor with the fireplace and all the lounge chairs. I would love to sit there and people watch sometimes, or I would watch TV shows on my laptop.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I plan on moving to Los Angeles and finding a job there, hopefully working my way into a writer’s room or something similar.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: Well, I’ve always thought about a question like this, and I would definitely use the $40 million to build a shelter for dog and cat rescue. I love animals, and animal rescue is something I am very passionate about so I would use the money to not only build a rescue but to raise awareness about animal rescue around the globe.