Burauen, Leyte produced a hipster who drives a motorcycle whenever she’s in town. Cha Escala also likes to wear elephant pants, carries a boho bag and loves listening to The Beatles. She taught herself how to swim, played a part in the 2007 indie film “Tribu” and co-directed the documentary film “Nick and Chai.”
This 2014 film won Best Picture at the QCinema International Film Festival and earned nominations in film fests abroad such as Busan International Film Festival and International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Cha described her lucky days as flying off to another film fest, to a workshop or to a pitching forum abroad. For Cha, work means rushing to an editing gig, to a shoot or to a meeting.
Work and leisure have taken Cha to places. She went scuba diving in the oceans of Kota Kinabalu and Australia. She ate gelatos in Italy, slept through an earthquake in Japan, caught pneumonia after a winter in Germany and enamored a number of foreign men.
Her life certainly looks fancy, but Cha claims that making documentary films presents “an endless series of challenges.” You have to look for a story, come up with a creative treatment for that story, get that story funded, shoot and finish the film and then find an audience for it. It also doesn’t make money at all. She considers it her “vice.”
“Unless you get really lucky and your film gets acquired by, example, a big international TV network and they pay you millions for your film,” said Cha. “That seldom happens especially to a newbie like me. So, life is a struggle. You have to do odd jobs to support this ‘vice.’ Most documentary filmmakers I am friends with are financially unstable.”
So Cha takes on freelance jobs such as editing or shooting TV shows, commercials and AVPs. When she doesn’t have any editing or shooting projects, Cha could spend an entire day on her couch sleeping, watching films or Netflix series, daydreaming, fantasizing and trying to come up with a concept for a film.
It was Ditsi Carolino’s documentary film “Bunso” that lured her into the craft of docu filmmaking. Then Ditsi took her in as an apprentice and that sealed her fate. Despite the struggles and financial uncertainties, Cha digs what she’s doing. “I enjoy the creative process of making a documentary,” she said, spoken like a girl with kaleidoscope eyes and cellophane flowers over her head.