Angelina Sereno, the force behind Skybox Creative, seeks to create a balanced lifestyle that includes making projects that “light me up” and do good in — and for — the world. With the help of her filmmaking, she’s doing just that.
Filmmaking is your second career but first passion. Tell us about your journey into advertising and on to filmmaking.
I started my career as an intern at a boutique ad agency while studying at the Art Institute. I was the coffee runner and backup queen for a while, willing to do whatever it took to earn my spot as a designer.
Six years later, after laying a solid foundation and building my freelance business on the side, I gained the confidence to start my own agency. In 2006, Skybox Creative was born. Without any startup capital, I moved back to my dad’s house and used the spare bedroom as my office.
After the typical startup hardships, things began to take off. I grew the company to a team of 15 people, with increasing success for seven years, working on various campaigns and projects, including some film toward the end.
This is what prompted the big shift for me. I had SO much fun creating the film pieces. I couldn’t get my mind off it. My journal was filled with video ideas and concepts. This excitement, combined with the challenges of running the agency, made me realize my heart was taking a turn. One night, inspired by the great Alan Watts, I asked myself, “If money were no object, what would I do with my life?”
The answer was clear: Travel and create film projects that will change the world.
With that clarity, I knew what I had to do. Within three months, I had shut down the agency, sold nearly everything I owned, packed a backpack, grabbed a camera, and hit the road.
What is it about filmmaking that lured you?
I’ve always been in love with film — it is by far the most compelling art form. It’s the only form of art that captivates the visual and auditory senses in a way that touch you deep within your soul. The blend of stunning visuals with good music and poetic narration can transport you to another place, make you see life in a different way. It provides a way to bring to life the beauty that exists in each moment, which we often overlook.
How does your experience as an advertising art director inform your filmmaking?
I’ve been studying photography, lighting, camera angles, and story flow for the last 15 years, so I see everything through my own unique lens.
From the beginning, art directing was something that came naturally. I could always look at a layout or frame and see how it could be better — this helped a lot when I was shooting. A few adjustments here and there and you have an entirely different shot.
You describe yourself as a philanthropist and environmentalist — how do those influence your filmmaking?
I’ve always asked myself how I can give back to the world in a greater way. We can do that through film (or any career of choice), through volunteer work, or through financial contributions … sometimes we can do it through a conversation with someone who needs a listening ear. My definition of giving back has changed a lot over the years, but I believe it’s a question we should all ask ourselves each day: “How can I contribute more to the world and help protect it?”
Film offers such a great opportunity, whether local or abroad, to share stories of hope, inspiration, and triumph. For instance, when I traveled throughout Southeast Asia, I witnessed poverty on a level I had never seen before in my admittedly cozy US life. Although I was never wealthy growing up, the contrast between their world and mine showed me how fortunate I was.
Even more fascinating though, was the authentic abundant happiness and sense of resiliency I saw in these people — a true testament to the strength of the human spirit. I wanted to bring their stories to life, to show others things they may never get a chance to see with their own eyes.
What has been your most memorable shoot?
Working on the documentary It’s Raining, So What was one of the best experiences I’ve had in film. I traveled to Montana and Wyoming to shoot in the mountains, surrounded by nature, and conducted interviews with some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met.
The interviews were filled with tears and laughs as I learned the tragedy-turned-triumph story of Joe Stone. A speed-flying accident left him paralyzed just below the neck — a C7 quadriplegic — but that didn’t stop him from taking life on in a big way. He was one of the first quads to compete in an Ironman triathlon and went on to create the Joe Stone Foundation, helping other challenged athletes get out in nature to play together.
What are your three shoot must-haves?
- My Manfrotto monopod
- Lots of extra cards/batteries (just in case)
- My 50mm 1.4 lens (the depth of field is epic, the low light capability is incredible, and it’s so lightweight — definitely a must-have!)