By Betty Slade
There is a famous quote by the first American man to summit Mount Everest. He stated, “If you are not living on the edge, then you are already taking up too much space.”
Those words took on new meaning when I met a 23-year-old by the name of Rebecca Baliko.
I became acquainted with her while she worked on the set of my grandson’s film, “Space Waves.” She caught my attention when I learned she studied and lived in the Canadian Arctic with polar bears, alongside a team of scientists.
Knowing what to do when meeting a bear, cougar or coyote in the wild doesn’t seem like everyday readiness. But for Rebecca, it’s not much different then wielding a Swiss army knife or lacing up hiking boots.
Had I met Rebecca in the wilderness, I would expect subsistence living as her singular approach in life. But, not so for this young woman. She is multidimensional and possesses a side I greatly admire.
Rebecca is a visual artist. She story-boarded cartoons before she could write. Her passion for film began at the age of 10 when she produced movies about her family’s travels and adventures. Armed with little more than an iPod Nano, she told stories complete with soundtracks that would evoke an array of emotion.
Her dream to be behind the camera didn’t stop as a child. She has honed her craft as a filmmaker, embracing a level of confidence developed by employing her creative eye.
In March of 2014, she had the opportunity to work as part of a father-daughter team, filming magnificent polar bears and their cubs in their natural habitat. The project took them to an Arctic region, where she and her dad, Bela, worked with a well-known Canadian research scientist, Dr. Nick Lunn. The experience gave Rebecca the opportunity to film and produce a documentary about their work, titled “Life on the Edge.”
She says her dad always told her that she could be anything she wanted to be, as long as she was willing to work for it. It couldn’t have been an easy decision to leave her family and the wilds she had known. Her pursuit of a career in California would be a whole new jungle. But, for Rebecca, pursuing her passion of filmmaking in Hollywood was a natural next step.
Before graduating from the University of Biola, School of Cinema and Media Arts, Rebecca had worked on over 130 different film sets. The experience allowed her to focus on freelance work as a first assistance camera operator (also known as a focus puller or “1st AC”).
Her film credits include the acclaimed thesis project “Caesura,” by Andy Brewster. The film won Best Picture at the Guerilla Film Festival, as well as Best Director, Best Actor and Best Cinematography.
“Caesura” was shot at various locations around Los Angeles, ending with a pull-away view of a desert flat and a burning piano.
Rebecca’s experience already includes working with a Fisher dolly and a Steadicam. She has also performed camera prep work at Panavision.
Working with different cameras builds, using different rigs and lenses, and shooting on location can present unique challenges. Rebecca’s most memorable project? One that is near and dear to my heart, “Space Waves.”
She said, “Both the camera operator and the second AC had dropped the project at the last minute. They didn’t have time to find replacements, so I ended up filling both roles.
“The month-long shoot was stressful. I found myself stretched and challenged in ways I would have never imagined. The experience really tested our metal as a film crew. However, it still remains one of my favorite film sets, despite the difficult nature of the work.”
From movies to commercials to music videos, there is no limit to the type of project Rebecca is willing and able to take on. Packed with talent and a pocket overflowing with skills, Rebecca Baliko is one to watch for, a young woman who isn’t afraid to poke the bear in a faraway land or stand behind the lens creating new worlds for others to experience.
This column includes both fiction and non-fiction, and views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN. Submissions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.