Graduating film student sets out to create meaningful entertainment

December 2, 2022

The editor This story is part of a series of featured profiles fall 2022 graduates.

Jayla Johnson always knew she wanted a career in the entertainment industry and filmmaking.
A photo of Jayla Johnson smiling and wearing a striped dress facing the purple side in the background
Jayla Johnson graduated this fall with a BFA in film and media production from The Sidney Poitier New America Film School. Photo by Jayla Johnson
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“I was walking around clutching my VHS tapes, ready to put them in the player,” he said.

“When I was growing up, movies were my escape from fear of the world. I suffered from severe anxiety as a child, and the only thing that helped me deal with it was to start a happy movie. My mother knew this, and she knew which movies, whether I had seen them or not, would comfort me and put a smile back on my face. Growing up and accepting those challenges helped me to appreciate the way film is made and the way those stories are made that helped me as a child.”

Johnson, who was born and raised in a small town in Wyoming, said he decided to pursue his passion early, earning an associate’s degree before graduating high school.

“I’ve always been interested in school and aiming to be successful in my life, so in my last two years of high school, I worked to get my degree at the same time.”

Johnson earned his associate’s degree in multimedia communications, saying it was the closest he could get to starting his career in filmmaking.

“I made this decision to pursue a degree in high school because I quickly learned how long a career in film/television is, and I wanted to start that journey as soon as possible to achieve my goals,” he said.

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Johnson continued his journey at Arizona State University and is graduating this fall with a BFA in film and media production from The Sidney Poitier New America Film School in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and a business minor in the WP Carey School of Business.

“My main goal in my career is to be a filmmaker or a creative director,” he said. “I came into ASU wanting to be a writer, but I quickly realized that I enjoy the creative side and the business side of film or television production. Through being a producer/executive producer, I would love to create and create stories that are not only entertaining but meaningful to both filmmakers and audiences.

“I love that such an interesting story was developed by a filmmaker who is more interested in making a difference in someone’s life, and there is nothing else I can do.”

While at ASU, Johnson also served as a leader in several student organizations and collaborated with other film students in the production of short films. He received the New American University Provost Award and Sun Devil State Award scholarships.

Q: What did you learn while at ASU – in the classroom or otherwise – that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: Besides learning about the technical process and the business process of film, I believe the most powerful lesson I learned at ASU was how to get out of your comfort zone. This is not something that is taught in the classroom, but it is an important part of making the leap in size. Before I came to ASU, I was shy, quiet and scared, but when I got to the Tempe campus, I knew I wouldn’t be successful if I stayed like that. So, I did what I had never done before and started reaching out to people and going to club meetings, and now I can say that by doing this I am on the right track to achieving my goals and I have met some wonderful, unforgettable people along the way. way. I continue to learn more about myself by taking chances and I would never be where I am today if I hadn’t stepped out of my comfort zone.

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Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I know a lot of people choose ASU because of the good weather, but personally, I didn’t consider the weather when choosing a college. I had applied to a few schools and decided to make ASU my destination since I had family in Arizona; however, when I started researching each of my options, I realized that ASU had exactly what I was looking for. Just going through the website I realized that there were many academic and professional opportunities that I was interested in. There was also news that ASU was the 50th film school in the country, which I thought was great!

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson at ASU?

A: Professor Chris LaMont was the first professor I spoke with one-on-one at ASU. I had met him about educational and career goals, but I left in tears. That meeting was the biggest lesson I had learned, and I believe it was the reason for my decision to continue. He taught me that the film industry is really hard – it’s simple. He told me I had to work for it every day and learn the industry inside and out. It was a lot of information for my new self, hence the tears, but it was a great motivation for me to continue and be a hard worker in the program.

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Q: What is the best advice you would give to those still in school?

A: Work hard and build relationships with your peers and faculty. This advice may sound straightforward, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this. Through hard work, people will begin to see and appreciate what you do professionally and personally. By building relationships you can land friends, gigs, job opportunities, and more. You don’t know how someone will make your life if you don’t build that first connection.

Q: What was your favorite place on campus, whether it was studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite place was Pringles, a stand outside the ASU Art Museum and Music Building. The place was shady, close and from time to time you could hear the music student practicing their music, it was a good ambience for learning lessons.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I am going to Los Angeles to pursue my career in the film and television industry. I am hoping to get an entry-level position at a major production company or talent agency.

Question: If someone gave you 40 million dollars to solve one problem in our world, what would you solve?

A: I would solve the big issue of garbage pollution. It’s an issue that is often overlooked by people (and causes) many health and environmental issues. To think that there is an island of garbage floating in the ocean right now is devastating. The world is a beautiful place that people take for granted and neglect, so I want to restore the beauty of our planet.


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