10 Inspiring life hacks from BJ Pascual and Jerrold Tarog

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You don’t have to be a director-in-the-making or an aspiring photographer to find insight, determination, and encouragement in the viewpoints of the leading creatives BJ Pascual (left) and Jerrold Tarog (right), which they shared at Ayala Museum for Inspire Every Day. Photo by FRUHLEIN ECONAR

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — As a celebration of art, culture, and history, last Saturday’s Inspire Every Day event at the Ayala Museum was brimming with inspiration as two artists — the photographer BJ Pascual and the filmmaker Jerrold Tarog — expressed introspections on their passion and what inspires them in front of young, aspirational, and enthusiastic faces. More than anecdotes and advice, the talks included sweet and short yet poignant lessons about art, history, film, and photography.

Here are 10 lessons from Pascual and Tarog that both creatives and non-creatives will find useful in everyday life.

IED Photographer BJ Pascual surrounded by fans during his Inspire Every Day talk. Photo by FRUHLEIN ECONAR  

Balance is crucial.

“My objectives vary with every film I make,” says Tarog. “I don’t always set out to do ‘significant movies.’ Sometimes my only objective is to make you laugh, to make you cry, or to gross you out.” With Tarog’s slate of horror movies before “Heneral Luna,” which includes entries from the “Shake, Rattle & Roll” franchise, it used to be easy to write him off as a one-trick pony and to shove him under the genre. He shares that part of what pushed him to create his most popular and well-received film yet was born out of a desire to rise out of the stereotype, which he did successfully so. Tarog believes in combining delight and darkness, whether in a single film or his whole oeuvre.


History is closer to the present than we think.

Tarog shares how a scene from “Dead Poets Society” inspired him to become interested in history. In the scene, an English teacher (played by Robin Williams) invites his class of young boys to peruse pictures of past students of the school, now dead and gone, but nonetheless had the "same haircuts" and the same dreams. He remembers how the film opened his eyes to the belief that “the people who came before [us] aren’t really different from who [we] are.”


Combine the past with the present to make something new.

“If you’re working on a fashion editorial or any shoot [for that matter], it starts with an idea,” says Pascual. “Sobrang dami nang nangyari in the past centuries so it’s really hard to come up with something new. What’s new now is getting something from the past and [combining] it with something [else] or making it into something new.”


Photography is trial and error.

Dedication and good work ethic are the things often reiterated by Pascual both in his book “Push” and talks revolving around his art. He says, “Having talent is one part of it, but I think it’s really hard work and good work ethic. People say I made it because I have a lot of connections but in reality, I started out [na] wala akong kilala sa industry. I knew no one, literally no one. I grew up in Cavite. I went to school in Cavite. So literally, wala talaga akong kilala sa Manila. So when people say, ‘Ah, sumikat lang yan kasi marami yang connections,’ no, I just work hard and the people I met, my connections, I make sure to keep them and not sever any ties or do anything bad. It’s really just doing good work consistently.”


Films are an emotional manipulation of ideas to create agenda.

According to Tarog, the main agenda of “Heneral Luna” was to “shatter the idea of the national hero as a squeaky clean saint.” The film as a sensory spectacle was a medium for this agenda. Tarog, a self-proclaimed “science geek,” explains the phenomenon of “negativity bias,” which is a disconnect between facts about a certain thing and people’s emotions towards it. The filmmaker reiterates that sometimes, feelings can be more important than facts.

IED Director Jerrold Tarog discussed his inspiration and passion in filmmaking, and the importance of historical films for his "Inspire Every Day" talk. Photo by FRUHLEIN ECONAR  

It’s less about your tools and more about how you use it.

Hard work comes first; the tools come second. Pascual shares that his camera and lighting equipment are not top-of-the-line and lets aspiring photographers know that expensive equipment is nothing without perseverance and good ideas.


Your vision can set you apart.

“It’s really important to have a vision as a photographer,” Pascual says. “Ang dami kasing photographers na magaling mag-ilaw, alam lahat ng technical, merong mamahaling equipment, but it’s really not about that, honestly. ‘Yung camera ko is not even top-of-the-line. Kahit marami kang gamit, kahit alam mo lahat ng technical, pero wala kang vision, you will be just another photographer. It’s really about the vision and also pushing through with it. It’s one thing to have a vision and another to push through with it.”


There are no rules when it comes to inspiration.

Inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere. Pascual’s talk centered on the evolution of fashion photography as his main passion, but he shows that inspiration can also be taken from art, film, and the world around us.


“The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.”

Originally said by the poet Paul Valéry, Tarog expressed his interpretation of the quote by referring to the idea of the just world fallacy, which essentially means that the world is not fair and not all noble actions are rewarded. He ends the talk with, “You are responsible for staying true to yourself and to your art.”


Inspiration is fueled with a desire to be useful.

Tarog breaks the ice with a contortion of the event’s theme: “Curiosity got us started; resilience and a desire to be useful keep us going.” The director encourages the audience to keep asking, “What if?” and facing situations with the an attitude that says, “I don’t know, but let’s see what happens.” He also emphasizes the significance of resilience in the power of relentless storytelling: “Telling stories is a never-ending process of creating.”