What Arts Corps program were you involved in? What impact did the experience have on you?
I was involved in the Arts Liberation & Leadership Institute (ALLI). Being part of the ALLI cohort felt very freeing. I was able to express myself and I had the tools and guidance to do so. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity. The teaching artist, Adam Jabari, taught different photo techniques and challenged us to tell stories with intention. Additionally, I was part of a partnership Arts Corps had with Teaching Artists Guild that involved developing and facilitating virtual professional development for teaching artists. It gave me a space to teach about my passion for filmmaking and it’s how I started to pursue this passion. I even got to meet an actress who was watching the presentation that worked for one of my favorite directors — the very director that inspired me to take a chance with filmmaking — Alice Wu. Her film, “The Half of It,” is what inspired me to take a leap towards the film industry.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time at Arts Corps?
My favorite memory from my time at Arts Corps was presenting my photos from the ALLI internship at the virtual showcase. I started out by introducing the whole showcase, and my heart was pounding. But I wanted to embrace this feeling and it made me realize how much I love to chase things that challenge me. When it was my turn to talk about my photos, it felt natural and it brought me joy to express the thinking behind my creative process. One notable photo I took is called, “Drowning w/ Flames.” I remember when my teaching artist Adam reacted to my photo and said, “Well done.” It is a photo that I am proud of, especially since it was chosen to be on one of the posters promoting the showcase.
You’ve continued your journey as an artist since being an Arts Corps student. What have been some challenges, moments of growth, and opportunities for exploration you’ve been able to encounter?
In 2020, I achieved my dream job of becoming a Production Assistant for the second season of the popular teen show, Hetero. It was a miniseries about queer teens trying to save their schools GSA. One week before filming started, the show was canceled. I was crushed, but since then, I am so thankful to say that I have had many more opportunities to learn and grow.
In 2021, I became a part of the Digital Production Lab at the Vera Project. This internship was dedicated to giving mostly BIPOC & LGBTQ+ youth artists the ability to be trained by industry professionals in the filmmaking and music community. In this program, I wrote, sang, and recorded a song called, “Two Girls in Love,” that was meant to give representation to the LGBTQ+ community, from my experience as a young queer person. In addition to that, I created a short film that looks into the struggle of feeling like I have to be the model minority as an Asian American and the struggle of accepting my own identity as a queer person.
My most recent internship was with Youth in Focus and I was part of the Creative Career Cohort. In this program we learned about uplifting our own voices and telling our own stories. I created a self-portrait named, “my garden” that highlighted my Filipino culture through a necklace and embraced different aspects of my identity. This program was dedicated to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students, so I learned so much just from interacting with the other interns in my cohort. Additionally, we were given a curriculum from BIPOC teaching artists and it was inspirational to learn from people with similar experiences to my own.
Lastly, I have been working for Ascendance Pole & Aerial Arts since May 2022. It is the only nonprofit pole studio in the region and the goal is to empower a diverse community through a safe artistic place. The energy and mission of the studio is what brought me to work there. I am part of the front desk team and I am in charge of social media. In our social media, I strive to post pictures of a wide variety of people and I create graphics that help bring awareness to what we do. We have programs for scholarships to help low-income prospective students take classes at our dance studio and we have community classes that are on a pay-what-you-can basis. This gives a wider variety of people the opportunity to engage in pole and aerial fitness and to build confidence.
I am dedicated to supporting and being a part of organizations that give BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth like myself a voice. I have learned tons from these experiences, as I continue my art journey.
Recently, you’ve been producing and working as cinematographer for “The Astute Observations of Samuel J.R. Wellington.” Tell us about it! What has the project been like?
I have spent over 70+ hours putting my passion into this project. There are so many twists and turns to a production that I would not have expected. It’s difficult to manage and communicate with a variety of people to get things done, but we just wrapped our final shoot and I couldn’t be more proud of my team. I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. The project included interviewing people for our crew, watching auditions, getting gear, securing locations, and more. We are on to post production work, and we accomplished so much filming, huge learning lessons, understanding what we can fix, and the things that we can’t fix. I got to work with my good friend Ruby Lee who I had met in 2021 in an internship with the Vera Project. The last thing I told her when the internship ended was that I hoped we would work together some day and we did! It feels amazing to be part of something that I put my all into and to know that one day, in the near future, we will watch the finished product.
Besides the film, what is something you are currently excited about?
Currently, I am working on a podcast at TeenTix. It is a medium that I haven’t explored before, so I am extremely excited to see the endless possibilities. Additionally, I would like to explore what it takes to be a pole instructor and I plan to find an apprenticeship program that will allow me to learn more. Another part of my pole dance future is my goal to be a part of a competition. I am excited to train as best as I can and build strength and eventually compete someday! Lastly, I am excited to go to college to study filmmaking. College has been something so terrifying for me, yet it is also something that motivates me to learn more. Since I am passionate about filmmaking, I believe that going to film school will be very beneficial and will bring me a lot of happy experiences.
How can people support your work?
People can support my work by checking out my website, booking me for photography & video work, following me on my socials, and donating to my Paypal to help me fund new projects and go to college! Please reach out to me anytime! I love to hear words of wisdom and support.
Website with short films & art I have created: xandrayugto.com
Socials & Paypal: @xandrayugto
Is there any other project or anything else you would like to share?
I am truly grateful for the opportunity to share my work. I never thought I would be here and it makes me super emotional to think that I was even asked to be spotlighted for this. Thank you so much to everyone who reads this through and for the opportunities brought to me. I am infinitely grateful.
Thank you for sharing your many talents with us, Xandra. We’re eagerly awaiting your next moves! Check out her photography work below: