Lights, camera…and Julie Paholio

Promising filmmaker Julie Paholio

Promising filmmaker Julie Paholio

By Kate Nicole Blanco

Julie Paholio, affectionately known as “Jules,” entered a profession not many Filipino American women have dared to pursue. She will soon be a professional cinematographer. She shares the story of her journey and the rewarding, albeit difficult, path she has taken.

Although she’s just starting out, Jules is already proving that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Her first foray into filmmaking started in 2009 when she spent a few weeks filming a short informational video under the Department of Justice for the United Farm Workers union highlighting and recognizing racial discrimination in the workplace. After completing her first semester in film school, she was chosen to participate in a film program abroad, and traveled with a group of 12 students to Ouagadougo in Burkina Faso to film a number of short narrative films and a documentary. There, she was immersed in the African culture and had the opportunity to collaborate on a number of documentaries with film students. The film “Le Fetisher” (The Prophetess), in which she was the head gaffer, has made it to several film festivals including the Pan African Film Festival and the Newport Beach Film Festival.

In the Spring of 2013, she was awarded a prestigious Kodak Film scholarship in recognition for her achievement in Cinematography at Dodge’s annual “Women in Focus” event attended by the likes of Diablo Cody, Anne Fletcher, Donna Langley and Maya Rudolph.

She currently works for Chapman University’s Panther Productions, and is in the preproduction phase for her second thesis, scheduled to go into principal photography in February of 2014.

Here is Jules’ narrative in her own words. We hope that her story inspires our readers to pursue their own dreams.

Growing up in a Filipino household where the traditional notions of a successful career (particularly for a Filipina) typically meant being a nurse, doctor, and/or a lawyer, I was led to believe that an occupation in the film industry was unrealistic. But I’ve learned that when you put your mind to it, you can make yourself into whatever you want, so long as you’re willing to work hard.

I’ve heard time and again about people having the passion to pursue a career in film but fail to meet their goals because of the notion of “practicality”. There is this theory that a profession in the film industry is unstable and highly risky, and I can understand where that idea can come from. But at the end of the day, if you’re doing what you love and you wake up with the drive to be better than you were the day before…isn’t that worth it? I know that may sound cliché, but I believe that the best way to have success in any career is to maintain a positive attitude, build a strong mentality, and to always remember that today, you are not as good as you will be tomorrow.

I didn’t always want to become a filmmaker. In fact, the traditional notions of femininity within the Filipino culture pushed me to believe that when I grow up, I will eventually become a nurse. Fortunately for me, my inability to sustain consciousness when it came to anything bloody or medical-related, helped me realize at an early age that the medical field was not for me. So I explored. “The sky is the limit,” my mother would always ingrain in my mind, and as a result, I luckily spent most of my adolescent years believing that there were no limitations to where I could take myself in life, and especially no restrictions on who I could become. Though my father disapproved of my resistance towards the medical field, I continued to explore other career options.

After graduating with a B.A. in Sociology from UCLA, I didn’t feel quite accomplished. I knew there was something more for me, but before I would make any rash decisions for my future, I took the time to figure out my possible career paths. I spent two years as a substitute teacher back home in Delano. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I almost entered an “accidental career” where I found myself at the beginning of an unintended career path. I highly respect educators and strongly believe they can hold the key to success for our youth, but I couldn’t see myself engaged in that career for the rest of my life.

Romancing the camera

Romancing the camera

I needed to open my eyes to other possibilities and realized I had to start over. If there is one piece of advice I could give: never be afraid to start all over. It’s the only way to realize one way didn’t work out as you had planned. I like to believe that we learn the most valuable lessons through trial and error, and maybe even perhaps experience the most life-changing circumstances.

Research and networking played the biggest roles in moving my career planning forward. In my search for possible routes into the film industry, I was able to interview individuals who shared my common goal. I searched the web and found forums geared specifically towards people looking to apply to film school and found a few spaces online (though limited) where I asked questions, shared my concerns, and discussed techniques in building my portfolio. Being proactive about your own life and taking progressive steps isn’t the easiest thing to do on your own. In fact, I can confidently tell you that it can be a bit heartbreaking sometimes. So if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, reaching out to others who can relate to you could be one of the healthiest decisions you can make.

I’ve always been aware that the film industry is run by men. In fact in 2012, women comprised only 18 percent of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films (2 percent of them cinematographers), according to Martha M. Lauzen’s “The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 250 Films of 2012” published by the Center for the Study of Women in Film and Television. This represents no change from 2011 and an increase of 1 percentage point from 1998.

The notion that I was about to enter a profession with statistics like these never really affected my drive to follow through with my plans until I started meeting people in online forums. As I began to connect with strangers, it became more evident that I stood out. I am a woman, and more specifically, a Filipino woman. I knew full well what might lie ahead of me, but I couldn’t allow my fears or insecurities to disable me. With God on my side and the strong support of close friends and family, I’d be alright regardless of what happens.

Continue to read here.

This essay is being republished with permission from Jeepney Hub.

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