Telum Talks To... Jayson Bernard Santos, Freelance Senior Producer (Philippines)

Telum Talks To... Jayson Bernard Santos, Freelance Senior Producer (Philippines)
George Putong

Jayson Bernard Santos is a Philippines-based Freelance Senior Producer who has previously worked for Mediacorp and GMA Network. We sat down with him to learn what projects he's currently working on.

You recently worked on a feature for CNA's Undercover Asia, can you tell us more about it, what was the motivation behind it?
I just finished wrapping up a documentary for CNA's Undercover Asia which tackles the looming problem of a pandemic baby boom in the Philippines, particularly as a result of unwanted pregnancies. It took me six months to finish the episode in Manila.

What motivated me to do this episode is my sense of duty to tell the story of the women and the families affected by the lockdowns and had no access to proper family planning programs. In doing the documentary, I experienced something that needed society’s attention, the activist in me was called to action, and the artist in me couldn’t be left behind.

While doing the episode, I realised that I will probably never be as prepared or as knowledgeable as I feel I need to be, but that’s okay. I just jumped in the water to make something.

You've been writing and producing for media outlets in both the Philippines and Singapore, what has it been like to produce remotely? Any tips for young journalists aspiring to write or create remotely?
As someone who has worked remotely for nearly three years, I have learned some techniques are born of necessity.

For aspiring journalists or producers, what I can advise is first, work when inspiration strikes. If you wake up with a great idea, pop out of bed or sofa and write it down. Weekends are fair game for writing stories. Second, find joy in hard work. Get to work on time, stay on task, be smart, run a tight ship, produce good material, do more than expected and be a good employee. Do all this, and you will enjoy what you do and enjoy your free time with impunity. Third, do your research and prepare as much as possible. There’s no excuse for not doing research about your subject and your topic prior to shoot or interviews. And lastly, stick to ethical guidelines in journalism even if you are doing remote work. Apply the best ideals of journalist excellence. This includes the principles of free speech and the press.

What stories do you think Filipinos need to see more of?
I think we need to craft more stories that deal with climate change. Despite the Philippines’ small part in worsening the climate crisis, the threat to the country is huge. The Philippine government romanticises the suffering of the affected communities to conceal inefficiency and inaction with its “Filipinos are resilient” rhetoric. Despite years of disasters, natural defences have not been protected. Dams have been built on ecologically important rivers, quarrying continues, and new coal-powered plants are being built. We need more reports demanding accountability from local and global leaders and strengthening the country’s defences.

In our Telum Media APAC Journalism Survey, we found that audience engagement is the most desired skill that journalists in the Philippines want to have in the next 3-5 years. What do you think this means?
The current state of journalism demands a unique skill set. News organisations now use multiple media platforms to publish their content online. These platforms allow everyone to tell stories that foster empathy, education, experience and exploration. They need as much proficiency in digital media as they do in the foundations of journalism. This means that in order to capture audience engagement, they must remain prolific with interviewing, reporting, writing, investigative reporting, social media, video journalism and ethical practice.

What kinds of pitches would you be open to receiving from the PR community?
Probably human interest stories that will make a good documentary topic.

Who or what are some of your inspirations when it comes to storytelling?
I derive inspiration from watching the documentaries of many other good filmmakers, not just anybody. I began watching documentaries when I was a young child and since then I have wanted to do the same. The first Filipino filmmaker that I watched was Ditsi Carolino, who made a film about child labourers called Minsan Lang Sila Bata. She then followed it up with another thought-provoking film called Bunso.

I'm also a fan of Michael Moore's documentaries, who typically focus on themes like globalisation and capitalism, Joshua Oppenheimer, Errol Moris, and Werner Herzog.

Lastly, what does your dream documentary feature look like? What message would you like for it to say?
I wish to finish my projects that are still in progress. One of them is about a war hero who helped the guerrilla movement in the Philippines during World War 2. Another project that is now in the rough cut stage was filmed in Singapore when I was living there, is about my subject who has been fighting for the repeal of an abusive law in his country criminalizing homosexual activities for ages. The other project that I wish to finish is a short film that tells the story of migrant workers in Singapore who were victims of abuse and maltreatment.

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