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Angel Cruz

#MayBukas sa Filmmaking: Janelle Basallo


Bukas.ph x Janelle Basallo

"What's your dream?"

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

At some point in our lives, we've been asked these questions. Or at least, something along those lines. Chances are, you've tried answering them–or drawing them. A stickman version of yourself wearing a lab coat, a hard hat, or a magician's hat. A child can dream!

The truth is no two people are the same. Likewise, no two dreams are also alike. Finding and pursuing yours is a personal quest, and often a hard one. Unlike school projects, there is no formula to follow nor a map to show the way you should go. If there were a crash course for that, we would have told you already.

But once in a while, we see a light at the end of the tunnel.

We get clues and signposts leading us to take the next right step. People we trust. Hobbies we enjoy. Role models we admire. Experiences we encounter. Opportunities we take. All of which shape our decisions and, ultimately, our direction in life. As a student, you make small and big decisions every day. But the question is, where is it leading you?

We won't ask you to write a 300-word essay on your life's one true calling. No one has it all figured out, and we don't expect you to. We are all making it along the way, learning from each other at best. But what we can do is talk about them and figure it out together! After all, life is best shared. And there are real people with real stories to share.

We sat down with some students who experience and have experienced the same struggles you're facing. From the million-dollar question of what career path to take, down to the everyday challenges of being a student in a pandemic-stricken world.

Who knows, maybe their stories can lead you to take the next step for your future.

Meeting Janelle

People love stories. We are naturally drawn to narratives. Just think of the movies that did well in the box office! Rags to riches. Boy meets girl. Underdog to superhero. You get the point. Stories are powerful. It can influence, shape, and impact people, regardless if they are true or not. But the question is, what stories are you listening to?

For Janelle Basallo, a freshman film student at Mapúa University, it’s the stories of real people in communities often missed out by the mainstream media that she enjoys the most. Growing up in Infanta, Quezon, she has her fair share of stories she wants to tell, too. And thanks to her stint as a member of her high school’s local documentation team, it’s something she has since been pointing her heart and camera lens towards. Fun fact: this opportunity played a big part in sparking her interest in filmmaking! What’s yours?

When asked more about what excites her about documentaries, Janelle eagerly shares, “Kapag nakakapanood ako ng documentaries, tulad ng iWitness, namamangha talaga ako kung paano nila naipapakita yung mga ganung istorya ng mga iba’t-ibang tao sa malayong communities. Kaya parang ako rin, gusto ko magawa yun someday.”

While she’s still equipping herself in college with the tools and techniques she needs to produce the documentary of her dreams, having an end goal in mind is a good start. After all, that’s what cameras and future directors share in common: a good focus.

Want to be a filmmaker, too? Learn more about Janelle’s student life, dreams and aspirations in our quick conversation!

Life as a Film student

School and course in college

Bachelor of Arts in Digital Filmmaking, Mapúa University

Why did you choose your course?

"Simula pa dati, mahilig na akong manood ng mga movies and K-Dramas pero nagsimula talaga yung interest ko sa film nung nasa Senior High ako. As part of the student council, nakasama ako sa Department of Cultural Affairs - Technical. Kami yung department na in charge sa documentation and video editing, usually sa mga school events. Doon talaga ako nahilig sa pagkuha [shooting] at video editing."

What are your favorite learnings so far?

"So far, cinematography! Naturuan na kami ng ilang mga camera shots and movements. Nakwento rin ng professor namin kung ano yung mga roles na meron sa likod ng camera like director and producer. Pati yung mga nangyayari behind the scenes! Specifically, kung gaano karaming tao pala ang kailangan, halimbawa, for a single commercial.

Gusto ko rin yung "History of World Cinema" subject namin kasi napag-aralan namin kung saan at paano nagsimula ang film. Pinakita sa amin yung evolution ng film industry from using a simple camera hanggang sa mga maliit at advanced cameras na meron ngayon."

How do you cope with learning in the pandemic?

“Mas mahirap ngayon kasi online lang kami nagkikita ng mga classmates ko. Hindi katulad dati na kapag may shoot, masaya kahit pagod kasi may bonding kami kahit papano. Nakakawala ng stress bago mag-aral for an exam.

Bukod dun, challenge rin para sa akin ang online classes kasi wala akong sariling laptop na ginagamit. Kapag may kailangan akong gawin na mga short films, pumupunta pa ako sa office ni mama para lang makigamit ng computer. Mahirap pero naitatawid naman kahit papano. Dasal lang talaga! Para hindi rin kami masyadong mastress sa school work, naglalaro kami ng mga classmates ko ng online games at saka movie marathon.”

What’s the most challenging part about being a student? How do you overcome it?

“Aside from marami talagang kailangan tapusin na mga requirements, nahihirapan din ako ngayon kasi palagi kong iniisip yung finances namin as a family. Lalo na ngayon na may pandemic. Makakapag-aral pa ba ako? Dalawa pa kami ni ate na sabay sa college tapos graduating student pa siya. Minsan hindi ako nakakapagbayad ng tuition.

Sinabi ko kay mama na willing naman ako tumigil muna para maka graduate si ate pero sabi niya ipagpatuloy ko lang ang pag-aaral at kakayanin na lang daw. Kaya malaking bagay talaga na nakapag apply ako [ng tuition installment plan] sa Bukas. So far, dalawang semesters na yung approved. Kasama yung pagpasok ko ngayong first year fourth term! Bukod dun, nagdadasal lang ako palagi. Para sa akin, yun talaga ang pinakaimportante sa lahat.”

What motivates you to study?

“Nag-aaral akong mabuti kasi gusto kong mapasalamatan ang mga magulang ko, para hindi masayang ang lahat ng effort na ibinigay nila mama. Sabi nga nila [parents], yung makatapos lang kami ni ate okay na raw yun para sa kanila. Pero kahit papano gusto ko rin na makapag patayo kami ng sariling bahay someday kapag nakapag ipon na ako!”

Why is education important for you?

"Para sa akin, yung edukasyon talaga yung yaman na hindi mananakaw.”

From one dreamer to another

What is your dream career?

“To be a documentary director!”

What is your career goal? Why?

“Bilang director, gusto ko gumawa ng mga documentaries. Doon kasi naipapakita ang reyalidad. Sa pamamagitan ng paraan namin ng storytelling, through filmmaking, hopefully makatulong yung mga gagawin namin sa maraming tao. Para malaman nila na may iba rin na nakakaintindi sa kanila–na hindi lang sila yung may pinagdadaanan sa buhay or nakaka experience ng ganung mga struggles in life.”

How do you see yourself five or ten years from now?

"Siguro sa ngayon mahirap ma imagine yung sarili ko kasi karamihan ng mga nawawalan ng trabaho dahil sa pandemic ay yung mga nasa film industry. Pero in the future, siguro gumagawa na ako ng mga documentaries tungkol sa Pilipinas. Yung parang kay Kara David! Siya kasi yung paborito kong documentarist. Hopefully, sana makatrabaho ko rin siya balang araw!”

What is your message to aspiring filmmakers like you?

"Sundin niyo lang yung gusto niyo! Since marami rin kasi kami [mga estudyante] sa filmmaking, palagi talagang meron na mas magaling. Huwag kayong ma insecure sa iba at gawin niyo lang palagi yung best niyo kasi hindi naman competition yung filmmaking. Masaya rin siya as an experience since you will work with a team sa production.”

What is your message to your future self?

Don’t compare yourself with others kasi iba-iba naman kayo ng way of storytelling. Kaya huwag ka ma insecure sa mga kaklase mo kung mas magaling sila sa’yo! Huwag mo rin masyadong damdamin yung mga criticisms na natatanggap mo kasi makakatulong yun para ma improve mo pa yung mga gagawin mo in the future.”

Are you inspired or motivated by Janelle’s story? We surely hope so!

We know talking about an uncertain future can be quite overwhelming, even a bit scary. And that’s normal! The good news is you don’t have to do it alone. With stories like Vien’s as well as other students who continue to take small steps toward their dreams, we hope you are reminded that a brighter and better future for you is also within reach–just waiting to unfold, one decision at a time.

Now all it takes is for you to take the next right step. And together with Bukas, you can! The question is, what path are you taking?

Learn more about Bukas and how we make education affordable for thousands of Filipino students like you. Apply for a tuition installment plan in your upcoming intake, and join our growing community for more tips and advice about all things student life. A better tomorrow awaits. Sa'yo ang Bukas!

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Written By

Angel Cruz

A caffeinated storyteller making a difference in education and for the youth, one article at a time.