Interview Series: Jade Holmes

I’ve been on Jade about this interview for a while.  She’s an ambitious individual, and like many of us trying to rise-up.  I didn’t know her at Wake Forest too well, and only reconnected over the last two years.  Since then though, she has continuously impressed and inspired me.

I present Jade Holmes.


My parents always stressed the value and importance of a work-life balance. They worked hard while seeing us off to school everyday, attending all of our extracurricular activities, and eating family dinner every night.  Not a day went by where I wasn’t told that I was loved and capable of achieving anything.  My family is my biggest support system, and it’s huge!

I grew up very close to most of my family in Prince George’s County, MD, which in addition to being a suburb of Washington, DC, is also the home of a large concentration of upper middle to upper class black families.  Because of this, from an early age, I was always very in tune with the diversity within the Black community.

I saw the spectrum of careers and incomes and complexions, so I didn’t allow the media to define for me what black was; I saw it firsthand.  I’ve also lived in Philadelphia, Winston-Salem, Atlanta and Boston.

While I didn’t appreciate going to private schools at the time; looking back, my mix of public and private school education was a rich experience that allowed me to befriend people from different backgrounds while also developing a greater appreciation for my culture.  I remember actually teaching black history to my middle school classmates, and in high school choreographing dances and writing plays for Black History month.  I loved expressing this aspect of myself artistically.

I think it goes without say that being black is a major part of my identity, but I don’t see this as something that limits me. Instead it motivates me to portray in the media, the multi- facetedness that I know exists.

I’m a believer in God, love, service, optimism and change.

When did you become interested in film?

I’ve always been an artist.  From dancing to piano to photography, almost every hobby of mine did, and still does involve art.

When I first went to Wake Forest, I wanted to get into advertising field, specifically commercials. I think somewhere between the exciting lifestyle portrayed in movies and the lack of varied images I witnessed on TV, I thought I could find a career there.

During junior year, Eric Watts, my advisor, suggested that I think about a film studies minor so I could learn all of the aspects behind making commercials. I took one class and immediately fell in love.

There was something special about stories and events that could be captured, lived and retold through the medium of film and that attracted me.  Making films, which is essentially storytelling, for me is very similar to choreography.  In both I weave different aspects together which come out as one varied experience for each viewer— my idea of universal.

What led you to Boston University’s Film School?

After graduating from Wake Forest with a new passion for film,  I wanted to learn everything I could about the film-making industry.  I moved to Atlanta to intern at Rainforest Films (Stomp The Yard, This Christmas, Obsessed).  Throughout my time at the company, I was able to work closely with everyone at the company which taught me everything about the creative side of film.

During my year in Atlanta I applied to multiple programs, but most wanted me to make more films before accepting me. I needed to learn, not hone and BU embraced my infancy.  I wanted to go to a school that taught me how to make films so I could learn trial and error with the support and resources to immediately pick up and try again.

I really liked the freedom their Master of Fine Arts program, its community atmosphere and Alumni base at the College of Communication, and Boston.  There were so many places to photograph! Also, with one of its nicknames being the ”City of Academia, ” I knew the city would provide opportunities to learn from, and network and with a lot of brilliant minds.

How was working for Tyler Perry?

Working at Tyler Perry Studios was a great learning experience.  I was in Atlanta, which is now a mecca for black film.  I worked with a lot of creative media makers and I learned the technical aspects of how a major studio ran.

Working at both Tyler Perry Studios, and Rainforest Films, I learned that film-making is 75% passion.  Both companies began from the ground up and devoted to telling stories involving underrepresented groups.

I would later learn that the other is 25% is who you know. (Some may argue this percentage).

It’s difficult, even in a good economy, to break into the film industry.  What has been your experience in current economic downtown?

Well film-making is definitely not for the weak at heart, so as an emerging filmmaker, I can’t really tell if it’s the recession or the hazing process that is making funding so difficult!

For my thesis (most recent) film, I sent out a fundraising letter to EVERYONE I knew and asked for a minimum donation.  The love poured!  Being a student with 501c(3) status didn’t hurt.

For my next film, I don’t think I will be so lucky.  Everyday I look for investors, you really have to be creative with how you seek funding. While a lot of organizations have suspended their programs there are still a ton out there looking for a project to support.

And you want direct?

Yes.  I just finished my thesis film, required for the Master of Fine Arts degree designed to demonstrate my professional competence as a filmmaker.

Tell me about the film you just wrapped.

My short film (it’s about 25 minutes long), Three Blind Mice, is an original story I wrote, set in Washington, DC.  The story is about three Black men who literally and figuratively travel the same path during the course of one day and deals with individuality in the midst of stereotypes.

I always wanted to tell this story so I really enjoyed watching it come to life. I love working with actors and the leads, Dorian Missick, Al Thompson and Gavin-Keith Umeh made my job so much fun.  It premieres this February in DC and will hopefully screen nationally at different festivals.

I like the creative aspect of writing and directing and the technical aspect of producing.  I always considered myself a producer-director, but making this film made me realize that I cannot devote myself 100% to each position.  So for now, while I’m still open development and producing opportunities, I’ve decided to focus on directing.

How important has networking been for you? Can you elaborate on specific moments?

Networking is incredibly important in film-making.  As I mentioned earlier, the industry is at least 25% who you know. Each stepping stone in my career has been because of networking.  My last film entirely built on networking.  However, because I move around so much, networking has been difficult. Film-making is sort of out of sight/out of mind, so if you don’t keep up, you will be left out.

My goal for 2010, now that the film is done, is reconnecting with school contacts that I have neglected.

Who inspires you?

Being a woman inspires me. Being a young adult inspires me. Being from DC inspires me.  The faith others have in me inspires me.  The faith I have in myself inspires me.  In terms of who, other than my family, my inspiration is constantly changing. Recently, I was inspired by all of the little girls in tiaras and dresses at Disney’s premiere of  “The Princess and The Frog”.  This film experience, like the films I hope to make, was a simple story, with a simple message, but what it meant/represented was priceless.  Some of those little girls left dreaming bigger because they saw someone who looked like them in a positive major role, similar to the Obama effect, and it reminded me of why I make films. I just watched “March of the Penguins”, so who knows how I will be inspired tomorrow!

Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, and 20 years?

I always fear this question because for me things usually happen at a different time than what I plan, so here are my goals.

In 5 years, being married with at least one child would be a blessing!  I would also love to have made two feature films, one narrative and one documentary, and have a major role in both a recognizable non-profit and production company.

In 10 years,  an (any) award for filmmaking, more movies, more causes, more kids.

20: I’m not sure if I will ever retire but I would love to go back and teach filmmaking at Wake, Howard and BU. I also plan to never stop dancing.

What keeps you hungry to get there?

”The love of the game!” I really enjoy what I do and knowing that I am a few steps away makes me want to get to a level of national recognition so my stories can be told.

Also, I would really like to give back to my parents in some form for everything they do for me. They never questioned my dream or my talent, but always worked we me to figure out how to get where I wanted to be.  They are always proud but I know they would love to go on a few all expense paid vacations and an awards show or two!

Lastly, what is the Jade Holmes Brand?  What is the authentic Jade?

Authentic Jade tells stories that are diverse, socially relevant and content driven. I’m not married to a specific type of media, but I want to teach, inspire and/or foster dialogue with every film. A Jade Holmes project is one that takes creative risks to tell simple stories in a different way: vital stories, artfully told.  After studying film in Sydney, Australia, I learned that film is a universal bridge among cultures and I would love for my work to be apart of that bridge.

Thanks for sharing!

Read more about what Jade’s up to here.