Welcome to the Spotlight series by TMS, where we highlight businesses and people around Hong Kong making waves. This week, we’re speaking with Jazzie Sillona, a filmmaker capturing the daily beauty of life in Hong Kong through a video lens.
The sound of soft romantic jazz plays in the background. A lazy tram crosses a random street in Sai Ying Pun. Busy citizens bustle over crosswalks, rusty iconic neon signs hanging above their heads. An array of seafood is drying by the stalls as a cat jumps on a nearby box, guarding its treasure. The visuals are so clear you can almost smell the musky air through your phone. This is a video by filmmaker Jazzie Sillona.
Originally from the Philippines, Sillona has been living in Hong Kong for the past seven years. As a videographer, his personal lens of the city is original, yet he infused his creations with a nostalgic twist. He portrays everyday life in Hong Kong with his iPhone, compiling footage to tell the audience a story of the life and times of the bustling streets, a juxtaposition to the still frame that he captures.
TMS caught up with Sillona to learn more about capturing Hong Kong through his lens in this week’s Spotlight.
Q: Describe yourself in 5 words.
Highly sensitive, perfectionist, nonconformist, indecisive, stubborn…
Q: What would you call your style of filming?
I can’t say that I found my style already. I think I’m still evolving and still in the process of exploring. Right now, I prefer filming unscripted everyday lives in a cinematic style with fewer camera movements and focus on what’s really happening. Let the subject tell the story and give the audience a chance to really watch it.
Just like myself, I have different sides. The same goes for my style. It kind of depends on how I feel at the moment.
Q: What got you started in creating content as such?
Mostly because I never saw any content made here in Hong Kong showing what I wanted and how I wanted it. And because a lot of people left and haven’t seen Hong Kong during the pandemic, I thought, “why not show them how the city is now?”
Besides Hong Kong, I also want to inspire people to create. The main reason why I use a phone for most of my reels is that expensive gears tend to intimidate people to start creating. You just need to be creative and appreciative and really see what’s happening in front of you. And nowadays, phones are just almost as good.
Q: Have you taken any kinds of photography, film or editing classes? Or would you say you are mostly self-taught? Or maybe both?
I studied business at university. But I wish I had studied film or media.
Everything was self-taught. I started editing videos in high school, filming my friends and family and making four to five-minute video highlights of everything. My motivation to self-study was the hunger to give the people who watched my video the same feeling I felt when I was still imagining it.
Q: How do you normally plan for a shoot? Do you ever do totally spontaneous shoots as well? If so, what are those like?
I don’t plan, except when the subject or topic is very specific or it’s far away. I just usually check what interesting things are there to see around. But most of the time, it is spontaneous and it totally depends on my mood or how I feel.
Q: How long does it take to create one of your Instagram videos?
I can always get it done in a few minutes. Some just get done in an hour. But as a perfectionist, I tend to get stuck with small details and before I realize it, I’ve already spent a day trying to perfect it.
Q: How do you come up with inspiration for your videos?
I find myself in a state of inspiration when I go out and when I listen to music. The most challenging part is how I can execute it as well as how I imagined it.
Q: How do you create this “story time” feeling in your videos?
I really wish I could find the words to explain it, but honestly, it’s so hard to express it in words. I’m not very good at it. That’s probably why I show it through my videos – because I’m better at expressing visually than I can explain it.
Q: You use a lot of different musical backtracks for your short videos. How do you pick these? What role do you think the music plays in the overall effect?
Music plays a huge part because it can set the tone and mood of the video. Although I don’t have a specific song, whenever I have a video in mind, I always have this feeling that I want to convey. When I’m about to choose music, I look for that emotional connection I want with the music so my audience can also feel it.
Q: You shoot a lot of films dedicated to Hong Kong storytelling. What do you love most about Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is such a unique place; it feels like you’re in a movie wherever you look. There’s just so much going on. And there’s always a story to tell wherever you look.
Q: When you’re out and about in the city, what kinds of things catch your eye that might inspire an idea?
Moments that are not curated. Hong Kong being Hong Kong. People being people.
Q: What filmmakers do you find the most inspiring?
It changed, actually. I used to be inspired by filmmakers who make those ‘cool’ snappy videos with so many camera movements, cool editing and transitions. But it changed, and now I’m more inspired by filmmakers who can convey their message well without needing to say anything.
Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of being a filmmaker?
The most challenging part, not just as a filmmaker but as an artist, is when you’re on social media and people follow you for a certain style. But as a creator with different kinds of styles, sometimes you want to express yourself in a different way, and you don’t get the same response as you would usually do, so it feels like you’re being rejected.
This is OK, though. I think this is a good opportunity to learn and grow more as a person, learn more about yourself and learn how to detach.
Q: How do you stay motivated to keep creating your videos?
By taking a break to refuel those creative juices whenever. Going out and thinking of nothing. Emptying my mind. Having a few moments of alone time helps a lot.
Q: What advice would you give someone who’s looking to make impactful content and just get started?
Start with what you really enjoy the most; start sharing and be consistent at it. Don’t even think about “I’m not good at taking videos or editing.” You don’t need expensive gear to start. Start creating things in the simplest way possible. It’s also OK to take inspiration from people who inspire you, then add your style to it until you make it your own.
Q: You also have a production company called Jazzie Films. What kind of films do you produce through that company?
Jazzie Films, established in early 2022, is a digital production company. It is focused on commercial projects, providing creative solutions to brands and helping them express themselves visually.
Most of the projects produced by Jazzie Films are lifestyle, advertorials, events, interior design and brand videos.
Q: Tell us about some of your most exciting productions.
So many new things are coming up! All I can say is – stay tuned!
Q: Where do you see your company or creations going in the future?
Our company is definitely in the process of growing. It’s really exciting! There are so many opportunities and potential, so we are hoping to have people who are open and willing to learn.