Spotlight on our network: Cameras don’t make movies, people do.
Today we wanted to put a spotlight on one of the talented visual storytellers that we’ve worked with. Vee Salazar is a Filipino documentary filmmaker who we’ve collaborated with for multiple projects. She was the videographer for our projects with GAA/PLAN, and most recently Care. We are happy that she could squeeze some time in for us to get to know her a bit better. This is her story.
“I am what you may call a late bloomer. But it never came to my mind that it’s too late, because it never is. Yes, it took me a little while to figure things out, but I never lose hope.”
My first experience with filmmaking came about when I was in college. I took an elective course in introduction to film, but I didn’t know back then that this was the path that I wanted to pursue until I became a production intern for Rappler, an online news website in the Philippines. There I came to realize my love for making documentary films. I learned to see how important it is to tell even the simplest of stories.
With Rappler, I had this vision of being able to make the people see that there is more in the world than just the four walls of our comfort zone. I had an outlet and I made sure to use that. This opportunity gave me much more than just making a living out of it – it made me aware of the issues and struggles people are facing.
Being a newcomer in the industry can be pretty intimidating and belittling. I’m surrounded by people that have much more experience than I have and I think that is one of the factors why I always feel pressured to create. It felt like I was living a cliché. At first, I was dragged down by my mentors who constantly told me I couldn’t do it and that I’m not good enough. These experiences made me shy to share my own thoughts and I was scared not to meet other peoples’ expectations of me.
“There are much more important issues that we have to pay attention to other than our own insecurities.”
You have to remember why you do this and who you do this for: it is to tell a story, not to prove yourself. I’ve chosen this path not because I want to be relevant but because it’s the best I can do for the people – to tell their story. In my own little way, I’ve become one of the voices that has helped them say what’s needed to be said.
Each story, may it be of a person, a thing, or a place is unique. I don’t limit myself to one topic because each one has its own importance. The reason for telling stories should not be limited to that of a national concern. Your goal can be as simple as making someone smile or inspiring them today.
The stories that inspire me the most are the stories of courage and ingenuity, of how some people manage to overcome the impossibilities of life. I want my work to reflect the courage I see in the people that I create stories with. That those who did not dare to look will somehow finally pay attention.
We live in the digital age and probably three out of five videos we see on the internet have the same plot lines but just because you’ve seen this before, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth telling. If your main goal is to get the story viral then you are missing the whole point of storytelling. Yes, the views, likes, and shares mean you’re able to make the people be aware of this particular story, but were you able to get your message across?
“I’d like to think of myself as a tool for them to get their stories across. I’d like to help them raise their voices.”
So remember, this is not about you. These stories you’re telling are about the people you’re echoing. Don’t focus on how your passion can pay you, the nice portfolio, the awards or the fancy festivals, tell the story because you believe in its integrity and it’s something you really care about. What good will it do to your subject if you’re only thinking of your own benefit? These stories we tell are not ours, we’re only serving as a platform for them to get their message across. And if you fail to give them their voice, then you fail as a storyteller.
So, aspiring storytellers: listen – don’t isolate, and dig deeper.
“Our experience is what makes us as a person and if you haven’t found your fire, it’s okay. Keep on telling stories. And one day, in the montage of your life there will be spark, then you’ll ignite.”