Alumna Sapphire Sandalo on Animation, Paranormal Podcasts, and Being a One-Woman Show

“I’m a one-woman operation and have always loved doing things independently.”

Sapphire Sandalo ’10 is most known as the creator and showrunner of the animated web series “Something Scary.” However, the multi-talented animator is also an illustrator, podcaster, host, and has been teaching the course “Animated Perspectives” at SFTV for the past four years.

Tapping into her lifelong passion for paranormal storytelling, Sandalo launched the award-winning podcast, “Stories With Sapphire,” where she shares her personal exploration of paranormal and supernatural phenomena through stories, interviews, and poems. You can also catch her on the fourth season of “Paranormal Caught On Camera” (available on the Travel Channel and VOD), co-hosting the “ALTER Weekly” podcast, or walking audiences through #BreakingTheTabo, a satirical series that explores modern Filipino experiences. Recently Sandalo shared with us some insights into her journey, check out what she had to say below.

Have you always wanted a career in media and entertainment?

I always knew I wanted to tell stories for a living, I just didn’t know in what form. Considering that what I do right now literally did not exist when I was a kid (podcasting, YouTube), there’s no way I could have known that. There are so many ways to make a living as a creative right now, it’s not the antiquated idea of being a “starving artist.”

Sapphire on set 768x1024 - Alumna Sapphire Sandalo on Animation, Paranormal Podcasts, and Being a One-Woman ShowWhat made you pursue animation?

I changed my major a couple of times before settling on Animation. It was a perfect choice because it combined everything I loved: storytelling and drawing. I’m a one-woman operation and have always loved doing things independently. That’s why I prefer it over live-action since I can create something from start to finish by myself. I guess you could say I’m a bit of a control freak. Of course, on larger-scale projects, I work well in a team, but I also get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I can create short-form content on my own.

Your work includes a lot of paranormal and horror themes, how did that start?

I’ve always been obsessed with ghost stories ever since I was a kid. My grandpa had the best stories – about witches, ghosts, fairies, giants, Aswang – you name it, he’s encountered it. Filipinos have a strong connection with the paranormal/spiritual world, so it’s so mind-boggling to me that there isn’t more Filipino representation in the American paranormal and horror communities. I’m trying to change that. Since I can create content from beginning to end on my own, I’ve been able to make the content I wish I had when I was a kid. My web series and podcasts are what led TV producers to me and cast me on my first TV show “Paranormal Caught On Camera,” and I’ve since appeared on two other shows as well. I’m also currently pitching an adult animated horror series, “Nabarang.”

Sapphire Sandalo on PNS - Alumna Sapphire Sandalo on Animation, Paranormal Podcasts, and Being a One-Woman Show

The pandemic has hit the entertainment industry especially hard. What has your experience been like?

As creative artists, we are at our best when we’re faced with restrictions. This pandemic has definitely forced everyone to rethink everything, and I think we’re going to come out of this so much more aware of what is worth doing the same and what needs to change. I can’t speak for live-action, but the animation industry has been able to thrive because of the ability to work remotely. This is causing many artists to reconsider if they even need to be living in very pricey areas of Los Angeles anymore, which I think is great! I have been working from home since 2016, so I’m fortunate to have had a very easy transition into quarantine life since the pandemic started.

What are the experiences or mentors from your time at LMU that have really stuck with you?

My absolute favorite project was my ANIM 220 film! My friend Andrew Freire and I were in a band at the time, and we made an animated music video for one of our songs. It won Best Animated Film at “Film Outside The Frame” that year, and it’s still one of my favorite things to have come out of my experience at LMU. Also, Tom Klein (former Chair of Animation) has been so wonderful to me ever since I was a student. He’s the reason I’m able to teach at LMU – he’s been such a vocal supporter of mine from the start. I really want to make him proud!

What are some encouraging words that you can offer to upcoming SFTV graduates this year?

I truly believe that SFTV graduates might be in the best position as they enter the job market even in these challenging times – they’re coming into the field with well-rounded skills that can mostly be performed remotely. My advice is to be flexible, keep creating wherever you can, and use this time to reflect on what you value the most.


Top image: Sapphire Sandalo with illustration from Stories With Sapphire

Su Fang Tham is a story analyst and freelance writer specializing in filmed entertainment. Based in Los Angeles, she is also a contributing writer for Film Independent and CineMontage, Journal of the Motion Picture Editors Guild.