Stefano Unlayao is the grand-prize winner of this year's Bollards in My Community scholarship contest. Stefano is a recent high-school graduate looking to start his first year at Sheridan College. He's not only studious but also demonstrates ambition in both video making and computer engineering. His prize-winning video blends a fun personality and innovative presentation style with a rich presentation of bollards in his hometown of Mississauga, Ontario.
I caught up with Stefano over the phone to get a sense of his future plans—and his experience learning about bollards in his hometown.
Q: How excited are you to be our grand-prize winner?
SU: I was shaking when you guys announced, and I think my mom cried a bit. We followed the announcement on social media, looking for updates every hour.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about yourself and what you plan on studying at Sheridan College.
SU: I'm a recent graduate from Father Michael Goetz Secondary School here in Mississauga. I've pretty much spent my whole life here—although, I was actually born in the Philippines. Now that I've graduated high school, I'm off to Sheridan to study computer engineering technology on their Davis Campus. The program focuses on computer hardware and software—and how to design and implement systems and networks.
Q: Did your interest in computers come about through school or is it based on your own personal interests?
SU: It's actually a mix of both. In school, I took a bunch of computer courses. That's what got me into it, and I ended up liking it. At home, I'm very computer-oriented. I like learning about computers and programs—and I'm especially interested in hardware.
Q: How did you learn about the Bollards in My Community contest? Did you know what a bollard was before finding the contest?
SU: My mom had been asking me to help find ways to pay my tuition. I wanted to help, so I went onto the Sheridan website. They have a page dedicated to scholarships and bursaries. I found the Bollards in My Community contest, and I was like, "Oh, this is a video contest!" I'm good at making videos—or at least I've done many before—so, I decided to do it. As for bollards, I had no idea what they were before the contest. I did some research on the Reliance Foundry website, and last year's video helped me a lot too.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about Mississauga? Was it easy to find bollards in your city?
Stefano's winning video
SU: It's a smaller city than Toronto and not as populated—but not as rural as some other towns in Ontario. It's kind of a mix of both. The environment is great and there are a lot of events that get everyone together. I was really happy to find there are a lot of bollards here. When I decided to make the video, I was kind of scared because Mississauga isn't as big as Toronto. But when we went around, I was surprised at how many there were around our buildings and roads.
Q: Do you have a favorite bollard installation that you came across?
SU: I'm not sure. I guess they're all great.
Q: You say you've done a lot of video before. Can you take me behind the scenes of your video-making process? Where does your video expertise come from?
SU: For the filming, I did it with a few friends. We went in a car around Mississauga and also did some walking. For the intro, we didn't have a budget to work with. Normally when you make a video, you have a budget—whether it's a hundred dollars or a thousand or whatever. We cheaped out and used, literally, a green cloth taped to the wall—and it actually worked pretty well. For the editing, I used two programs: Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects. After Effects is for the special effects, and Premiere Pro is what brings it all together—the sound, putting things in order, that kind of stuff.
As for the video experience, it doesn't really come from anywhere. I didn't get any professional help or have a teacher. I pretty much just used a few YouTube tutorials. When I first got into video, I wasn't very good. I gave up at first, but came back to it a few months later and started to get the hang of it. Now, I've made many videos, and it's a lot of fun.
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Q: Your friends that helped you, did they get a big thank you?
SU: We all went to Swiss Chalet the night after we found out the results. I took them out as a big thank you, which they were happy about.
Q: Can you tell us how the scholarship money is going to help you out this next year?
SU: I'm not going to be living off campus, so I'll be commuting each day. The money is going to help with the heavy load of tuition, books and daily bus fare.
Q: Do you have any advice for future participants?
SU: I would encourage them to be as creative as possible. I tried to balance a mixture of comedy and seriousness. What I found in doing other videos is that if you just focus on comedy, you don't get a clear message. If you focus on being serious, it can be really boring. If you mix them up, you can grab your audience's attention and keep it for the entire video, which is great. At least it worked for me!
As for filming, I tried to get as much footage as I could, though, not the same footage over and over. When you're putting your video together, if you only have a few different shots, you're going to be repeating footage over and over again, which gets repetitive, and your viewers won't like it.
Q: Any plans for the summer?
SU: I'll be camping soon, and maybe doing more videos—maybe some video contests. My friends and I did this together. It's something fun, and there's always the possibility we'll get something out of it in the end.