Kiana: Behind The Scenes

This is story 9 of 10 of LoveYourzStory’s Creatives Series. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of getting to know 11 individuals who are passionate about creating. It was interesting to learn where each individual drew their inspiration from. I wanted to shift the attention on other Creatives and tell their stories on what motivates and excites them in their respective field. Thank you to everyone who participated in this series! – Marinelle Cabillo, LoveYourzStory

Kiana credits her love for film and documenting memories to her father. Growing up, her dad would always have an action film playing in the background. He was always behind the camcorder documenting whatever the family was doing. There are countless family home videos of Kiana throughout the years. He mostly recorded for the family to have home videos to look back on, but also because he was into photography as well. As his daughter, Kiana feels as though she got his creative gene.

When Kiana was about 10 years old, her dad bought her her first camcorder. She was fully immersed in capturing moments visually. Just like her dad, Kiana was always behind the camera. Kiana and her cousins would come up with random skits, and she would always be the one recording it. But it didn’t just stop at recording the footage – Kiana would take it a step further and edit the videos as well. She laughs at the idea of editing her family content through Windows Movie Maker, but a girl gotta start somewhere!

“When I used to film stuff when I was younger, it was more for fun on the spot skits with my cousins,” Kiana explained. “I think that’s where my love for documentaries came from because when you’re filming a documentary you’re literally getting footage on the spot. Nothing is scripted.”

Kiana always had a gut feeling that she wanted to turn her love for documenting, editing, and being behind the camera into a career pretty early on. She remembers a school project her senior year of high school that stuck with her. Her and 4 other classmates had to make a video about domestic violence in Polynesia, and that’s when she upgraded from Windows Movie Maker to iMovie! Her contribution was shooting all the of the videos and editing the footage. In the end, they didn’t even do the project correctly, but Kiana was very proud of the final video.

Even though Kiana knew she wanted to pursue film, she still ended up taking classes for a major she had no business being in. She chose occupational therapy. How the hell did she end up with that? When it was time to try to figure out what she was going to study in college, her mom and cousin threw out the idea of occupational therapy. This is partly due to the the fact that her cousin was an occupational therapist. The game plan was simple – the goal was to study to become an occupational therapist, work as an occupational therapist for a couple of years so she could pay for film school. Looking back, she admits that idea was nowhere near practical.

When it came down to it, Kiana just couldn’t be in those classes. Her heart wasn’t in it, and she knew that occupational therapy wasn’t a road she wanted to take – or never really wanted to take from the get. She had a talk with her parents and decided to drop community college and go to Academy of Art the next fall. The talk with her parents was really difficult to have, but it was so relieving at the same time. Her parents were iffy at first and needed some convincing – they had no idea how she could possibly make a career in film or TV. Kiana had to explain that there are so many different career paths that she can take in the industry – it’s not just directing, screenwriting, and all the roles people first think of when they think of film. Even though her parents were hesitant with the switch, they couldn’t deny how much Kiana was struggling trying to pursue occupational therapy. They knew their daughter’s heart wasn’t in it, so they supported her decision to make the switch.

Kiana’s glad that she made the switch because it changed the direction of her whole career and future. She graduated from Academy of Art University with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Motion Pictures & Television with an emphasis in editing. Now, she’s a Studio Technician for NBC Sports Bay Area, and freelancing on the side! There’s many different tasks as a studio technician, but she mostly works as a tape operator, working on live pre and post-game shows for the Warriors, Giants, and A’s.

To build her portfolio to be qualified for NBC Sports Bay Area, Kiana just kept creating and collaborating with others. One of the most important things that’s a must in this industry is networking. She kept creating, kept networking, and kept putting herself out there, and that’s how she landed her role in the industry. At first, seeing all the professional equipment was really intimidating for Kiana. She’s seen the equipment in some of her classes at the Academy of Art, but actually operating it without the help of her professor was definitely something she had to get used to.

“I personally prefer editing,” Kiana said when asked what role she prefers. “I love editing because it allows me to create and shape the story that the director and cinematographer envisioned. It’s kinda like I have the last say on how I want the film to be seen.”

Being an Asian woman in the sports industry can be pretty intimidating, but Kiana finds solace in the fact that she gets to represent. For her, it’s so much more than just her having a job, it’s letting the generations after her know that someone that looks like them did it as well. Everyone relies on the media for entertainment, so it’s important to Kiana to be that representation for them, it’s something that she wishes she had. Kiana didn’t grow up seeing too many Asians in sports or on TV, and even though it’s currently headed in the right direction, media still has a ways to go to make things diverse.

Creating and documenting is equivalent to Kiana writing in a journal. It’s her way of expressing herself, from whatever she’s thinking or going through in life. Majority of her work and projects are somehow related to her own journey and personal experiences. If she’s working on someone else’s project, Kiana would have to resonate with their story or relate to it in some way. It’s hard for her to put her all into something if she doesn’t feel connected to it, that’s why she’s so passionate about what she does. She takes pride in knowing that what she produces will only come from her and nobody else.

In fact, her film, “Love, Kiana,” started off as a journal entry. Kiana always wanted to create a film focusing on mental health. During that time, she was really diving into mental health in Asian families, more specifically, Filipino families. She wanted to create something where people who look like her could relate. She is well aware that the Filipino community is still very dated when it comes to talking about, accepting, and dealing with mental health. It was really important for Kiana to explain her own journey with mental health because the film also acted as an explanation to those around her. It was different for her to be in front of the camera rather than behind it, but she felt compelled to do so.

“…Whenever I tried to find visual examples I could show my parents, or my cousins, or anyone actually, the content was very limited,” She said when asked why she chose to make the film about her own personal experience. “So I wanted to put the spotlight on it. I needed it to be real, raw, and authentic because I wanted to show people how I’ve been really feeling deep inside.”

Kiana’s work is inspired by the people she’s met, the places she’s been, and the things that she has seen. When creating, her goal is to make something she hasn’t seen on the screen before. She loves watching other people’s work. The different styles of writing, directing, or editing always inspires her to think outside of the box for her own projects. It’s a crucial part of growth – to take everything in around you and find a way to make it your own.

Aside from her sports editing job, Kiana makes sure to feed her creative side whenever she has the chance. Most of her personal side projects start off as just for fun. But there are times where she gets emails announcing film festivals that are open for submissions, and when she sees one that aligns with what she’s working on, she’ll submit it. Currently, she’s working on a “Stop AAIP Hate” campaign and a personal project focusing on San Francisco State’s women’s basketball players’ work ethic and journeys. One of her favorite projects that she’s worked on is a project called “The Crossover” for MYX Global. The Crossover highlights popular artists crossing over to new international markets for the first time like Inigo Pascual, Kiana V, KZ Tandingan, Moira Dela Torre, and more.

Most of the jobs and gigs that Kiana has gotten are through networking and referrals. Kiana tries to capitalize on all of the events and sets she attends where there are a lot of people that are in the same industry. She scopes out the place and tries to make out the individuals that she would want to work with in the future or get to know more. She is one that respects people’s time, so she always tries to think of what she’ll talk about with them before approaching. Kiana’s advice is to try to leave a lasting impression with whoever you’re connecting with because you don’t want to waste their time. Don’t be afraid to follow up with the conversation in the future. Kiana has found that networking casually in person is a lot less intimidating than a formal interview. It allows her to be herself and make natural conversation.

“I feel like as a creative, the most important thing you can do is collab and network with other creatives/filmmakers,” She said. “I love surrounding myself with people who are open-minded and also like-minded when it comes collaborating.”

Even someone like Kiana, who has successfully found her niche in her profession, still has doubts from time to time. With all of her success, there are still moments when she doubts herself as an artist. Kiana tends to compare her work to other people’s and will overthink her own ability, accomplishments, and talents. “Do people even like my art?” “They’ll probably hire someone else,” are some of the thoughts that cross her mind. When those thoughts of self-doubt creep up, Kiana tries to remind herself that her art will reach the audience it’s supposed to and everyone has their own different style when creating. She is aware that she’s her own worst critic. Another thing she likes to do is take a social media cleanse and draw inspiration from reading, watching movies, and just hanging out with family and friends. Her family and friends have been her biggest supporters throughout her whole journey. They’ve been there through it all – her burnouts, her long days, the times she’s sitting for hours on end at the computer editing. The love and support they give her does not go unnoticed.

Kiana doesn’t let her own negative self-talk sabotage her art, so she practices every time she gets the chance to. There are times she goes out and films random things to edit when she gets back home. Other times, she goes into old project files and messes around with them to see how different her cuts and style is now. It’s the perfect way for her to see her progression as an editor, to look back on her old content and edit again with more experience and different techniques. Those old pieces that she dibble dabbles in every once in a while is a constant reminder of where she started, and it truly humbles her.

It usually takes Kiana about 1-2 weeks to complete a short doc. But she admits that she gets very picky with her cuts, so she’ll watch something over and over again until she’s satisfied with it – and she’s completely okay with that. Her goal in film is to finally make her short narrative film come to life. She feels as though her whole film career has been focused on making documentaries, so she really wants to tap into the inventive and imaginative side of storytelling.

Kiana’s advice to other creatives is to keep creating what you want. It doesn’t matter if others think your idea is dumb – you are allowed to create what you want to create. She tries to remind herself that the best part of working in a creative industry is meeting new people and building connections and relationships with them. Somewhere out there will resonate with your work.

“It’s gonna sound hella cliché, but I would tell younger Kiana to never give up,” She said when asked what she would like to tell her younger self. “It’s gonna take some time, there’s gonna be people who doubt you – especially being a woman of color in this industry. You have to work 10x harder than some other people but it’ll be worth it.”

The Picture Hoarder

As a kid, I was never into video games like my sisters were. They had their own Nintendo DS, but I never cared for one. I was more into TV shows, talking on the house phone with my friends, drawing fake Myspace’s for my Bratz dolls (yes, you read that right), and taking pictures. Back in the day it was a ritual to bring a disposable camera (holy shit, that makes me feel old. Haha) to school events. It was especially a must to bring a camera to the last day of school. I brought a disposable camera every last day of school since the third grade. The last day of school always gave me mixed emotions. I was happy to be out of school and on summer break, but at the same time I was sad that I wouldn’t be seeing my friends as often, because some even moved away. Also, the next school year didn’t guarantee that my friend group would be put in the same class. I was happy to have my camera to take pictures in the present moment of all the fun, friends, and memories.

I loved to document all of my last days of school, family parties, field trips, and special events. Getting my pictures developed at Costco was one of my highlights for the summer. Especially with the disposable cameras – you just never know how the pictures are going to turn out. Then in the 7th or 8th grade, I invested in a digital camera. I saved up all of my money for this purchase, and was so excited to take it to school and family events. I’ve always been a photo hoarder, but getting the camera really stepped up my game. It gave me the opportunity to not only have the pictures as hard copies, but digital copies as well. I was so hyped to buy SD cards for my camera to make sure that I always had them backed up online, and on a chip. Deleting photos was really hard for me, and on an 8th grader salary, buying SD cards got pricey. But I did it anyways because I refused to delete memories even if they were uploaded online.

Now as an adult, my obsession with saving pictures is basically the same – but grew as technology got better. My partner doesn’t get why I feel the need to keep pictures of basically the same thing from different angles. I’m that friend that wants more than 1 picture from different angles and heights, but will still keep them all regardless. I’ve gone to the extent of getting a 200 GB SD card for my phone, but also backing everything up on the computer and on my phone that I pay for yearly for storage. That’s basically thousands of photos and videos saved on 3 different platforms – and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. I have had my fair share of files being deleted, phone being stolen, and XYZ that has resulted in me losing my pictures. When it’s time to get a new phone, I always try to make sure that nothing will get deleted. That’s honestly one of my worst fears because my photos mean so much to me.

I love pictures – even if I’m not in them. I’m an extremely sentimental person, and even at a young age I’ve felt the need to preserve and remember memories and certain points in my life. Subconsciously, I am keeping all of my pictures because I know that there will be a time where I look back and some people won’t be with me anymore, or times have changed, or people have moved away. Pictures make me super happy to look back on, but can also give me an overwhelming feeling of sadness, knowing I can never go back to those moments and relive it with the people in the pictures. It’s like reliving parts of my life, or seeing my life from my point of view. When moments pass, all we have are memories and pictures.

I guess in a way, I fear that I will forget. That’s why I find it hard to delete pictures that ultimately have no importance. Like a picture of the sky, or a sign, or my food, all of these things that I can do without on my backup system that would clear a lot of room on my $29.99 a year for 200 GB. But I love getting little notifications letting me see what I did on that day 4 years ago, and so forth, even if it is random everyday mundane things. I’m so busy pushing forward, trying to get to the next goal, next stage in my life, that looking back on what was is comforting. It’s nice to live in the moment, but also have something to look back on, like a little souvenir from that occasion.

Especially with my 97 year old Tatay, pictures are important. Pre-COVID, my extended family would visit and have dinner at Tatay’s every other Sunday. But since COVID, we have yet to have another family gathering in his house, especially since he is high risk. Stopping these visits really took a toll on his memory and health. When my family and I stop by to say hi for less than 5 minutes, he doesn’t remember us with masks on. Recently, we’ve been showing him photos of him and us, or him and his other grandchildren, in hopes that it will trigger some memory. I’m happy to dig through my collection and hope to find something that will get him to remember us.

I’m notorious for saving close to every picture I take on my camera roll to my SD card and then backing them up to my cloud. I am fully aware and admit that I am a memory hoarder. It’s such a mix of emotions, knowing that you’re living in the moment and documenting what is happening right then and there. And then weeks, months, years down the road you forget about that memory until you come across those photos again. And you relive those moments, remembering the little things, down to your outfit, how those shoes were bothering you because you were just breaking them in, what food you were eating, how you got there because you took a picture in your Uber, and all these little details that would’ve been forgotten. And for a moment, you’re taken back to that time. I love getting those little reminders like, “8 years ago on this day you were doing this…” It gives me a second to pause, and appreciate the memories I made and documented with the people I was closest to at the time. I’m very sentimental in that way. And sometimes I picture myself as an old woman, when I’m about Tatay’s age, looking through all the pictures that I’ve backed up over the years, remembering all the good times, all the people that were a part of my life, reminiscing and trying to remember the life I lived.