They first met at lunch in high school.
“We didn’t really talk until this one time we were in the Philippines at the same time for separate reasons,” JP Quindara says. “I was like ‘yo, let’s hang,’ and that’s how Pogi started.”
“We were two Asians and we both liked cameras,” laughs Brian Almalvez. "That’s how we first linked up.”
Pogi Studios Co-Founders Brian Almalvez and JP Quindara | Pogi Studios
Today, Brian Almalvez is CEO and JP Quindara is Creative Director of Pogi Studios.
But in high school, Brian started out as a wedding videographer. JP was a photographer. When they became friends, they decided to combine their talents and shoot weddings together.
“We’re in my bedroom one night trying to figure out a name,” recounts JP, “and we’re like ‘we both look good. How about Pogi?’ Because that means handsome in Filipino.”
So, Pogi Studios was born.
The owners of Pogi Studios (from left to right: JP Quindara, Bryan Wright, Cain Camacho, Bryan Casallo, and Brian Almalvez) | Pogi Studios
Over time, JP and Brian began taking on more and more work. They transitioned out of wedding content into commercials and music videos. As a result, they recognized that they would need to expand their company.
In college, they met Bryan Wright and Bryan Casallo, who’d then introduced them to Cain Camacho. Together, these five people collectively became the owners of Pogi Studios, all united under the collective vision led by Brian Almalvez.
However, there were also growing pains. Many of the initial challenges that leadership faced when expanding were attributed to cultural factors.
“There wasn’t a lot of emotional intelligence growing up in an Asian culture,” JP observes. “You do what you’re told, you can’t talk back, and you can’t talk about how you feel.”
The company had to learn how to better understand emotional intelligence within the professional space, especially when striking the balance between friendship and business.
“Being minorities is a huge advantage in that you learn a lot of ways to be smart and resourceful,” Brian reflects. “The flip side is that we might not have the human skills that are required to run a business.”
“So, the biggest challenge,” Brian adds, “is us collectively figuring out how to wield the amount of power that we have within ourselves and how to help unlock that within each other.”
Pogi Studios on set | Pogi Studios
“It’s a feeling,” mentions JP. “That feeling of what Pogi is.”
For JP and Brian, as their roles in the company transition from filmmaking to business, they recognize more and more that Pogi is built on mutual feelings of kindness and visibility.
They hope that, whenever people interact with Pogi, people are left with a sentiment of kindness and of being taken care of.
Likewise, the company values projects that center around the human experience. JP and Brian want to introduce audiences to worlds that they might not have ever witnessed before. They hope that their work allows people to feel seen.
“There is that connection in being an outsider and being Filipino American and you're gonna be neither fully Filipino nor American,” Brian thinks. “There's this constant exploration to define who you are, who we are, and what that identity becomes.”
“So, Pogi has been this delightfully serendipitous journey of figuring all that out against the backdrop of film.”
Bryan Wright and Cain Camacho behind the scenes on set | Pogi Studios
One project that exemplifies Pogi’s principles is a music video for Mick Jenkins’s song "Truffles". The video was a Pogi project produced by Bryan Casallo and directed by Andre Muir.
“The project shares a very specific perspective from the filmmaker that invites you into a world that you may not identify with,” says Brian.
The music video explores a world where Black families historically lived in suburban neighborhoods before white people began moving in. As a result, the film takes an imaginative perspective on if historical racial inequalities were reversed.
“That's the kind of work that I want us to create,” Brian mentions. “I want us to create work that makes people think, or go: ‘I'm not the only one who has experienced that.’"
The music video screened at SXSW and became a Vimeo Staff Pick. Since then, the video has gotten over 1.5 million views on YouTube.
There’s a privilege JP has in creating, which JP himself is quick to point out: privileges like having a mother who immigrated to the United States to give her children better opportunities.
“To whoever is out there reading this, I believe that the biggest disappointment [to our immigrant parents] would be not living out the fullest potential that our parents have provided in coming to this country,” contemplates Brian. “It is the quintessential American dream to come to America and be an artist.”
The Pogi owners recognize that there’s a lot to be grateful for in their journey of filmmaking. They specifically appreciate their ability to create art together.
“It’s been [a space where] everyone has been able to learn and grow,” smiles JP.
“This is a place where I get to express what love means to me,” Brian says. “I am lucky that I get to do something I love doing with people I love being around. I get to do that every day and I stand by all of them every step of the way.”
“Period,” JP agrees.
Pogi Studios explores virtual production | Pogi Studios
Pogi Studios. Capturing the human experience, in a culture and space built on creativity.