Reel Career Profile: Jhurmel Pascua

Jhurmel Pascua is a Filipino-Canadian Assistant Director and emerging Writer. Originally from the Philippines, Jhurmel is a first gen immigrant who moved in 2006 to Winnipeg–the city where he discovered his desire to pursue a career in the Film & TV industry. Jhurmel is also a hobbyist photographer with a primary focus on street photography. The candid nature of capturing the everyday world and everyday person aligns with his writing style of telling stories about people experiencing humorous scenarios within the day-to-day banalities of life. 

Nowadays, he continues to pursue his goal of being a writer while working as an Assistant Director (& member of the Director’s Guild of Canada) on the many productions that shoot in Manitoba.

When and how did you start in the media production industry? 
I quit my day job at a kiosk selling phone plans in May 2019. In terms of how I got my start, it was because of my good friend Sydney Sabiston (funnily enough, the one who brought me on to do this article). She used to be an AD, and she brought me on as a Daily on a few Hallmark shows which got the ball rolling for me back then. 

What area of the film industry do you work in now and why? 
I still work in the Assistant Directing department usually as a Production Assistant or as a 3rd AD. As to why I’m an AD, I believe it’s a position that I sort of fell into and decided I was half decent at doing when compared to the various positions that I got to try when I was starting out. I think 2 other reasons I’ve stuck with it though is A: I enjoy the social aspect of my job, and B: I get to be part of the department that directs the extras on screen. It’s an underrated and somewhat unknown part of what we do (I had no idea extras were directed by the ADs until I became one). Where we tell them to go, where we place them on screen, and what their actions should be all end up on camera and, ultimately, the show/movie itself which I think is pretty cool! 

What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started?
The new crop of people that have recently broken into the industry. There’s more and more new faces as the different shows go by and it’s nice to see the growing nature of our field in real time! 

What is advice you would give to someone starting off in the media production industry?
The cliche advice that a lot of others give to newcomers is to build your network and I 100% agree with that advice. Most of this business is about who you know and who will pick you out of a sea of unknown faces which will help you land your gigs or lead you to the next step you need. That said, trying to genuinely build rapport with people and not simply coming across as someone who just wants to use somebody for personal gain is a fine balancing act. It’s something that even I’m still trying to get a better hang of ’cause I’m always afraid that if I overstep or don’t make a good first impression, I’ll come across as a huge sleaze despite my intentions being genuine. 
Anyway, in short, you’ve gotta make friends who can be there for you and who you can be there for

Why is learning and training important?
Because you have to know and understand the fundamentals of whatever aspect of the industry you’re getting into before you can start making progress. 

When I was starting out, I had no idea how to do anything on set. I remember being handed a Fed-Ex bag full of callsheets & sides on one of my first shows ever as a Daily Set PA and having no idea what to do with it. I thought it was the most important thing ever so I hung on to that Fed-Ex bag like my life depended on it. The 3rd AD approached me 2 hours later and wondered why I was white-knuckling a Fed-Ex bag, and that people have been looking for sides for some time but nobody could find the bag that held them. I have never white-knuckled a Fed-Ex bag since (okay maybe one other time for a whole other reason). But I bet if I had prior training, I wouldn’t have done that! I had to learn a lot of things by being thrown into the fire without any real context as to what the expectations are of me nor an “instruction manual” of sorts to go by so I was definitely burnt several times as my first year went on. 

In other words: you’ve gotta build a foundation and then build up from there–a foundation that starts with learning the basics. If you build too high too fast, it could all just topple over. Or if you try to start at the top without a solid bottom, then it can all fall from under you. I’ve run out of construction metaphors so I hope you get the gist. 

What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you?
I’ve got to give credit to a show I watched during my 1st year in university: Doctor Who. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in high school but for a while, I was sort of lost as to what kind of writing practice I should dive into. Journalist? Novelist? Nothing seemed to really have that “it” factor. I then stumbled upon said show thanks to its hype during the tumblr blogging era of the early 2010s (was that really over 10 years ago?). It’s campy, it’s silly, but the concept and science fiction world the show was set in fascinated me. I managed to catch up on the episodes within one winter break. It soon dawned on me that at the start of every episode, there’s text that said “WRITTEN BY (INSERT WRITER’S NAME HERE)” on the screen below the episode title. It was right there and then that I knew what type of writer I wanted to be. I then focused my whole major into filmmaking to learn more about that world, and I’m currently still building toward my goals. 

Is there someone within the film industry you would like to work with and why?
Yes, plenty. If I ever get a chance to produce my own written stuff, there’s actors from all over the US / Canada that I’ve had the pleasure of working with as an AD who I would love to cast to create something cool with! There’s too many to name, however, so I’ll have to leave it as a more general answer.

Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
It’s either I have made it working as a writer, or I have pivoted away from Film/TV entirely. The industry is not an easy path to walk but it could lead you to places you want to go if you stick with it, or wear you down before you get to where you want. I don’t really know which will happen first. (I realize that that’s a bit more of a nihilistic answer than most people probably give. I feel I should crack a joke here or something now?)

FTM is a non-for-profit charity and member of the Province of Manitoba’s sector council program (through the Department of Economic Development and Jobs). FTM conducts workforce development and training to build a highly skilled and adaptable film industry to support the activities of Manitoba production companies. FTM collaborates with members of the film and television industry to identify the training needs within the community.