Artists Spotlight is an article series featuring the talents that thrive amongst us—spread out in different surfing communities. In this space, we give surfer-artists the avenue to share their journey, creative processes, goals and dreams, and how they aim to nurture the Philippine surf culture through their work.
Today, we talk to Shaira Olaya of the FinsandFilms project based in San Juan, La Union.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Shaira Alyssa Olaya, 25 yrs old. Growing up in Bataan, I decided to move to Metro Manila for University to pursue my dream to become a multimedia artist. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia Arts at De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.
I’m just one of those kids who had to prove to her parents that there is success in the Arts. There has always been a need to prove outdated notions wrong. So in my sophomore year in college, I formed my own video production company and began working in the industry (while still finishing my studies).
In terms of creative work, what do you specialize in? What was the journey like in finding what you love to do?
I’ve been a cinematographer and an offline editor for six years already. Mainly, my projects are TVC and digital videos. Now, I’m also a Producer. Before I entered college, I already knew what I wanted to become. Way back in high school, I always had a fascination with cameras, and I always brought my own with me so I could shoot all the moments. As I pursued this interest of becoming a magazine photographer, I fell into the process of becoming a cinematographer. The movie “Heneral Luna” was my first experience, then I entered the wedding and events industry before the commercial and digital industry.
Reaching this stage, I’m still in awe that I’ve made it. It still feels like a dream. It’s been six years since I decided to take the leap without any guaranteed path. It’s been a rough journey, but I’m grateful everything aligned.
Walk us through your current project.
It’s always been on my bucket list to capture surfers and the waves. When the pandemic struck, I hit the road with no solid plans. Being in La Union was not my intention. At that time, there were personal issues I needed to process, and I felt that choosing La Union was more than a destination; but it also marked the end of my inner turmoil.
Here, I met the 4aces Surf School, and they became my family here. They began it all. I constantly witness their potential as surfers and being in their presence; I wanted to convey that through short films, videos, and photographs. This way, they can be recognized and build a support system comprised of people who believe in their skills.
I remember I would take snippets of their surf sessions. I saw the potential of Tonet, Johng, and Echo of the 4aces Surf School family. I see them as STARS, too, who also deserve to be featured as gifted La Union surfers. Some of them would be 30-second shots, which I created a promotional video out of (my first one, ever!). This was when I had the idea to begin the project. My partner, Luis, helped me to create a name–we sat down for an hour before coming up with the name Finsnfilms. That’s the start of it all.
This project is not about me, but all about them: the surfers and people who have impactful stories. This project will mainly feature different local surfers with a story, goals, and striving to be one of the competitors in the surfing community. It perhaps goes beyond art. It’s more about capturing the true essence of who they are.
That’s beautiful! Yes, it must be so important to have a solid vision when it comes to creative pursuits. How does the local surf culture play into your work?
For me, it’s all about the uniqueness and individuality of all the surfers. They have their own game in my eyes. Having lived here for half a year, I’ve had countless opportunities to see and meet different people who surf for various reasons. They all have different goals, stories, and dreams. I think that has a significant contribution to my work. To deliver unique stories to the viewers and contribute to the Film industry in the Philippines.
Let’s talk about inspiration. How do key experiences and key characters contribute to what you do?
Everything and everybody involved in this project is impactful to my life s a person and as an artist. As I capture and edit their reels and build their story, I further realize my mission. Encountering their different personalities, surfing skills, etc., all inspire my creativity to flourish. The process is never the same each time.
What would you consider to be the most crucial aspect of your work and telling a story?
Seeing first the heart and the goals of whom I’m capturing. I’m just the tool that can shoot and build their video. But, the subject carries it all. They will always have the greatest influence and the biggest impact on the viewers. Their determination, skills, motivations, and true selves are aspects I consider whenever I capture a moment.
The artistic landscape is growing exponentially in La Union. Can I get your thoughts on that?
You know, I was actually surprised that there are a lot of artists living here today. But I was even more surprised that this isn’t just an Instagram-able place with hip spots and fancy restaurants. If only you dig a little deeper, you’ll see it’s more than that. The growing community is showing so much potential in the arts. Even surfers are all art for me, and all have stories worth telling if we give them appreciation and deep understanding. There’s so much to see, and so much to offer.
Looking ahead, how does the future look like for you?
I had too many goals and dreams when I started working in Production. But the nonstop grind changed that. I learned to slow down my life and carefully assess my environment and my crowd. I learned to trust my own pace, focus, and quit pressuring myself. Sometimes our goals and dreams change as we evolve and grow older. Sometimes this process is even necessary.
Whatever good comes my way, I should share it with others who could benefit from it. For the time being, my goal is to impart my skills to others and let them shine through them. After all, there’s a reason why I have this talent in the first place. I can see myself committed to this career direction for a while, so that’s what the near future looks like to me.