07/10/2015

Creative blueprint

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You may have a passion project you’re dying to start, but might be worried that you don’t have the experience to pull it off. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to try something like photography or starting a non-profit organization, but feel like you lack the talent.

It’s true that advancements in technology make it much easier for people to think of creative ways to express themselves (social media definitely helps), but you also need a couple of other elements to get started. The formula for success isn’t something that’s easily Googleable, as much as we’d hate to admit it. Luckily, we’ve got the deets from a number of industry professionals who can help anyone make a headstart. Read on to see what they have to say about their respective careers — they might just give you the boost you need to get going.

How to find your photography niche

Ralph Mendoza – photographer

Ralph Mendoza is a fashion, and portrait photographer who’s shot for publications and companies such as Alveo Land, STATUS, Candy and Nike Basketball Philippines. Proving the age-old saying that you have to work to get to where you are, Ralph worked as a copywriter for hotels and car companies, and was Young STAR’s writer and assistant editor before fully pursuing photography.

According to him, the basic tools of the trade include taste, technique, ideas, EQ, diskarte, and trend phobia. A few personal items might help too — his are a Vicks Menthol stick, his Grand Prix camp, and two bottles of Pocari Sweat.

When asked to cite some challenges that come with the job, he says that “overthinking is one. Mostly it’s your ego you have to keep in check, too. Then there are clients who apply all sorts of filters to your film scans. I bet they love the Instagram filter Kelvin. It’s stupid but it’s all part of the game. I wouldn’t trade highly flexible hours, the variety of work, and a job I like for exile from clients you disagree with. It’s not so bad.” While the journey to getting to a job that he enjoys might’ve seemed daunting at first, Ralph says that getting to this point in his life is like the feeling when you try on a shirt that fits you perfectly. His secret? “I just trust my gut and do my thing.” — Gaby Gloria

How to start a non-profit organization

Raffy Tanpho – executive director, One Million Lights Philippines

The One Million Lights Philippines chapter is a non-profit youth organization founded by Mark Lozano. Together with executive director Raffy Tanpho and the team, rechargeable solar lights are distributed to rural Filipino communities. This not only improves the lives of the local children and adults by providing safe light, it also promotes productivity within these communities. An important thing to note about this organization is that when the Philippines chapter was put up, Mark and Raffy were only high school students.

Joining a non-profit organization to help the community is commendable, but how about starting your own? According to Raffy, there are three essentials. A realistic and unique idea is what comes first. It needs to be thought out for the long run. In other words, it needs to be sustainable. Second, you need to believe in your own idea and be committed to pursue it. Without this drive, the idea is destined to fail. Lastly, the ability to learn from your mistakes and address issues at hand is essential. It goes without saying that putting up your own non-profit org is a challenging task — it’s difficult to receive funding, gain credibility, and start specific projects from the ground up.

If you have a strong sense of purpose, though, starting your own non-profit org might be right up your alley. That was what got Raffy interested: youth initiative and sustainable impact were both reasons why he joined OML Philippines in the first place. In the last four years working with the organization, he’s learned many things. But when asked about the most valuable lesson he’s learned, he says, “I learned never to underestimate yourself. It’s always difficult to step outside your comfort zone but when you do the results are usually surprising.” — Elle Shivers

How to make a film

Whammy Alcazaren – filmmaker

Love, hard work, and a capable and trustworthy crew are some things that Whammy Alcazaren thinks every filmmaker needs to have. “All the rest follows if you love what you do,” he says.

We wouldn’t question this advice, especially since Whammy has got a couple of acclaimed films under his belt (Colossal was one of Cinemanila’s top Filipino films of 2012, and Islands got rave reviews from some of the best film critics in the country). His interest in the medium was sparked in high school, after he attended photography and cinematography workshops, with the latter in the Mowelfund Film Institute.

Making a movie doesn’t come without its challenges, which, in the case of Whammy’s first feature film, included academic and peer pressure, budget concerns and time issues. In spite of this, he remains positive about things. He doesn’t like it when people assign labels like “independent” or “mainstream” to films, because he says that they only hinder an aspiring filmmaker. According to him, “At the end of the day, a good film is good.”

One of the most valuable skills, he says, is the ability to make crucial choices from the start. His advice? “Make the right decisions. The process of creating a film is long and arduous. Best to devote oneself to something worthwhile and for a product you will be proud of.” — Gaby Gloria

How to start a magazine

Paolo Lorenzana – EIC of TEAM magazine

Being a well-seasoned writer in the industry for quite some time, editor Paolo Lorenzana has had the chance to work with a variety of mediums and titles — New York magazine, GQ, Status magazine and Philippine STAR, among others. TEAM magazine, a Filipino gay man’s magazine, is his brainchild. Putting up the magazine was timely: the economy was picking up, giving more opportunity for independent magazines to be published because of the thriving industry.

Conceptualizing a new magazine is daunting, both on the creative and technical side. The title TEAM is “an allusion to ‘playing for the other team’ and a call for gay camaraderie and community. Also, images of dudes in locker rooms played a part,” according to Paolo. The lack of proper representation and visibility of the Filipino gay community was what got the ball rolling. Keyword: “proper.” He wanted more “real talk” on what the identity of the present Filipino gay man actually is.

“Distribution has been difficult,” he says when asked about challenges encountered. To actually get the magazine on shelves, he’s encountered a myriad of requirements, certifications and, of course, ignorance. TEAM magazine was no exception — it was put on the topmost shelf in one bookstore, making it inconspicuous. Getting word out about your brand-new magazine is unarguably one of the most challenging parts of the whole process. But with the correct marketing and people spreading the word about it, anything is possible. Making the right connections is essential.

When asked about key skills he picked up from previous endeavors, Paolo says, “Excuse the term, but I learned to be more of a team player. I delegated tasks and asked for help, consulting people in the industry. Sometimes, you’ll be surprised by the kindness of people and their willingness to offer advice or call in favors.”

There’s always that question about “finding your niche,” especially for a creative. But Paolo puts it simply: “If you’re wondering why something doesn’t exist, then that should clue you in on the need to start it.” The idea doesn’t need to be grand or have the intention of changing the world. In fact, sometimes being relatable and real is enough. Publishing TEAM was something like that; it was something that he cared about, and it was who he was. The formula for successfully executing a magazine can sometimes be as straightforward as that. — Elle Shivers

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