Dressed sharply in a suit and tie at six in the morning, he attempted to wait patiently for a life-changing moment. In under an hour, the cameras, the lights and the eyes of hundreds of thousands of people will be on him.
This was California State University, Northridge alum Thomas Orlina ‘11 (Cinema and Television Arts) moments before an unforgettable interview with CNN Philippines at the Worldwide Corporate Center, Metro Manila, last February.
In the interview, Orlina discussed his YouTube docuseries entitled Your Time with Thomas, which he uses as a platform to not only creatively express himself, but also to inspire others. It has also been featured on Fox 11 News, NBC News, MSN.com and Focus TV, and reaches thousands of viewers around the world.
When Orlina first started, he didn’t know just how far pursuing his passions might take him. “I got really excited when I got my first view!” he said. He has since come a long way, with all his original content now reaching about 30,000 people globally.
The series follows Orlina as he travels around his hometown of Los Angeles and — his “second home” — Las Vegas. In it he shares aspects of his life, including his love for fashion, life within a Filipino family and coming out as a member of the LGBTQ community. At the end of each of the eight episodes, he also includes a takeaway segment meant to “encourage viewers to live their best life.”
The idea to produce his own personal content began in spring 2017, when Orlina decided he “wanted to take matters into [his] own hands.” Having experience working for companies like, TMZ, Telepictures Productions, Warner Bros. Entertainment and as an entertainment host for the online network AfterBuzz TV, Orlina is constantly surrounded by creative people that inspired him to make something that will allow him to “explore [his] own creativity.”
He put together a team and started filming around Los Angeles. The first episode was uploaded on YouTube that summer.
Since Your Time with Thomas’ initial release, Orlina developed two spinoff series based on the original show, The Shuffle and The Experience, both of which are also in an eight-episode format. The new shows allow him to stretch his reach to audiences outside the continent.
In Your Time with Thomas: The Shuffle, Orlina takes advantage of his digital platform. Through social media — specifically, Snapchat and Instagram — he asks viewers to send him questions through video. After collating a number of fan videos, he answers those questions in the episodes. The project highlights Orlina’s global audience, having featured faces of fans from various parts of the United States, the Philippines, England, Sweden, Hong Kong and Jamaica.
Your Time with Thomas: The Experience gives viewers a glimpse of Orlina’s adventures around the Philippine archipelago, including the beaches of Boracay and Palawan islands, and breezy mountain ridges of Tagaytay. It’s on the fourth episode, “International News Story,” that Orlina brings viewers behind the scenes of his CNN interview as he visits Manila.
The Experience raises the bar for Orlina. Launched with Manila Up! TV Entertainment, the show has been aired on local television stations, including KXLA in Los Angeles and Asian Culture Television (ACTV) in Las Vegas. The entire season is now available on Orlina’s YouTube channel.
The shows are part of what Orlina hopes will help create his own brand — one that not only satisfies his nature as a working entrepreneur, but also a recognizable name for people who need someone to relate to.
As a person of color and a member of the LGBTQ community, Orlina aspires to represent the minority groups he is a part of. The LGBTQ news publication The Advocate wrote a feature about his advocacy within the community. On episode two of Your Time with Thomas, “Time to Come Out,” he shared his story of coming out as gay to his friends and family. He came out his parents through a letter, and they accepted him.
“I felt so relaxed and so happy that it was over,” he said. The episode was dedicated to people still struggling with sexual or gender identity. “The purpose behind the episode was to tell those people, ‘you’re not alone.'”
He especially wants to represent Filipinos in the United States through his visibility in mainstream media. “The voice [of the Filipino community] has been small. I’d love to be the one to change that,” he said.
Given the positive developments to his career over the past few months, Orlina called 2018 his best year yet, and is looking forward to what 2019 may bring.
“There are a lot of exciting things to come in 2019,” said Orlina.”I have a new show I’ve been working on that I think many different people around the world are going to connect with. It’s a new concept I created and has a brand new format.”
Orlina credited part of his success to his experience in CSUN’s Department of Cinema and Television Arts. He said working on productions within the program allowed him to make lasting connections and build trusting relationships.
“I’m still friends with the people I met at CSUN!” he said.
Orlina hopes his journey — working in media companies all the way to creating his own content — can inspire courageous artistry in others.
“Take creative risks. Trust in yourself and create what you want to create, and don’t hold back based on other people’s opinions,” he said. “Even if you get a hundred rejections, don’t give up on what you’re doing and don’t second-guess yourself. Keep doing it.”