Dancing Frames: How Rising Filmmaker Elena Virata Found Her Creative Calling

Watch out for this talented creative.

From the dance floor to the director’s chair, Elena Virata’s journey shows that what is meant for you will find you.

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Life has a funny way of working sometimes. One day, you can be killing it on the dance floor as a professional dancer, the next, you’re a rising filmmaker lensing a fresh and female perspective in a male-dominated industry. Such is the case for Elena Virata. She started out as a member of award-winning dance crew A-Team for over ten years. But her love for filmmaking started to come to the surface when she filmed her travels with the team on a GoPro and used her downtime to edit the footage. 

As Elena recalls on the moment, “I was so thrilled that I could relive and recreate the best moments and feelings in my life through a video.” From that creative spark, she honed her skills in the filmmaking space, which eventually led her to being signed to Arcade Film Factory as a full-time director in 2023. 


There are no boundaries when it comes to creativity, only endless possibilities waiting to be explored. Through the minds of visionaries like Elena Viarata, the art of filmmaking creates not just representation through frames and pixels, but it tells stories of emotions and life itself. Elena carved her path, telling different tales that resonate not just locally but globally. It’s no wonder her relentless vision has been celebrated as a go-to director for various global brands and artists from around the world. Below, get to know more about Elena in our chat with the creative as she opens up about her work, experiences, and more. 

How did you start as a director? 

I didn’t become a director right away, actually; I really worked my way, starting off as an assistant, then as an editor, then as a videographer, then as a one-woman band, being a producer, director, and editor all at once. Ultimately, after four years of honing my skills and gaining experience, brands noticed my work. Eventually, my work was recognized by award-winning production house, Arcade Film Factory, and I was signed as a full-time director.

What inspired you to be a director?

Many things inspire me as a director. Mostly though, I am inspired by life and the lessons I learn. I have a strong passion to share stories and lessons I’ve learned in the rollercoaster of my life and films have been the best way to express myself. I have a very intricate way of thinking and my mind needs a proper outlet. Filmmaking is such a powerful medium and it involves many things I am passionate about – movement, music, philosophy, dance. There are just so many things you can incorporate in a film.

Could you talk about your transition from being a professional dancer to being a full-time director? 

I was a professional dancer for about 10 years, training with A-Team Philippines. Within those years, I was competing and performing in different countries. I decided to bring a GoPro to document my travels with the team, and when I would edit videos of my experiences, my burning passion for filmmaking came alive. I was so thrilled that I could relive and recreate the best moments and feelings in my life through a video.

Before I graduated, I thought about what could make me happy if I did it for the rest of my life, and filmmaking came to my mind because it had such a wide range that I could incorporate all my passions and hobbies. That’s when I started making short dance films. It really grew from then on.

As a creative, where do you get inspiration from in terms of shooting and creating?

Once again, life gives me inspiration. I am inspired by everything that happens around me and within me. I am a learner and a student of life, I notice everything that happens to me, I study it, and I apply it. I am inspired by conversations, experiences, music, travels, nature, people, and life! When you open yourself up to the world, the world has so much to offer. My angels up in heaven also inspire me heavily. They inspire me to share the stories and experiences in my life with the world one day. Their love and resilience give me so much strength and make me feel like I can do and achieve anything in the world.


What’s your creative process as a director? 

My environment is very important to me. I need to light up my incense, meditate, put some classical music on, and have my alone time to really get my mind right and focused. Being in nature also gives me the reset I need if I want my mind to come from a very peaceful place. Music really inspires me to think and imagine, but watching films, studying other directors, writers, and screenplays helps me a lot too. Studying other works, and browsing references really helps to also jumpstart my mind.

As a woman, have you ever faced challenges or hurdles in the industry just because of your gender?

Luckily, I have not had any major challenges as a woman in the industry but it is largely due to the fact that I present myself as a woman that can’t be messed around with. Yes, I am a woman, but I know what I’m doing and I’d like to think that people see that too. I’m passionate, empathetic, and driven, and that’s what makes people want to keep working with you. You need to have thick skin, confidence, and a strong front as a young woman in this industry because I’m surrounded by men and older, more experienced people. I’m proud that I come off as… “unf*ckwittable*. 

What is it like being a female director in the Philippines? 

I definitely feel I have more to prove being a young female director, but I think that applies in general and not just in the Philippines. Again, this is a male-dominant industry and I’m stepping in like I’m fresh meat. But I have prepared myself for these moments, I worked extremely hard to get to where I am and all of it is paying off with how I approach my work and the teams that I work with.

How are you bringing your talent and creativity to be seen not just in the country but also around the world?

I’m trying my best to create work and films that have a powerful impact universally. I’m passionate about sharing stories, and there’s a lot of things that I’ve been through that I’m passionate to one day share. Life could’ve really broken me… I’ve lost so many people in my life in the past few years – my grandparents, my parents, two uncles and my aunt.

Life hasn’t been easy. Sometimes I feel very much alone without them, but at the same time they give me so much inspiration. I will try my very best that in this lifetime I get to make a powerful impact through my films by resonating with universal experiences of love and loss and showing how you can still be genuinely inspired and happy in your life. 

How would you describe your aesthetic or visual style?

I have a very soft yet colorful style. I do have a more delicate side when it comes to my films, but I also have a very dynamic approach with my advertising work. I look at my work like a choreography – I think about the flow, the movement, the musicality, the way they all tie in. As an editor, the flow is very important to me and how the viewer takes the story.

 “I’m passionate about sharing stories, and there’s a lot of things that I’ve been through that I’m passionate to one day share.”

– Elena Virata

In your career, what’s the most memorable shoot you did and why? 

My most memorable shoot so far was my San Mig Light project because it was the most massive production with a huge star, Sandara Park. First of all, having so much trust by an agency and brand as huge as they are is incredibly humbling. I prepared SOOOO hard for that, and it all paid off because it was one of the smoothest projects ever. I was very proud of myself because I knew everyone in the team were proud of the job that we did together, and most of all everyone had fun doing it. Life is too short to be so serious! I try my best to let everyone enjoy the work they do.

What lessons or skills you picked up as a dancer have helped you as a director?

It’s the musicality and expression through movement that helps me as a director. Everything is a flow to me, I’m very particular about timing and pace. And I learned all of that through dancing. But most of all, it’s the discipline that I got from dancing that helped me. My coaches, Coach Angelica Arda and Coach MJ Arda really taught me discipline – to do the work no matter how hard it is. The teamwork I learned from dancing also made a huge impact for me because I always think of my projects as a team effort. Everyone has an impact.


What is your advice to women out there who are just starting in the creative industry? 

Never let anyone say you can’t do it. And even if they doubt you, just work in silence and work hard. When you’re truly skilled and talented, gender isn’t in the conversation. So stay focused, stay passionate, and work.

Photos courtesy of Elena Virata

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