Erin Beleno

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Artist Statement

Puzzled is a project that I have been developing since late 2021 through the mediums of film, illustration, music, and writing. Viewing my own mind to be as puzzling as a Rubik’s cube, I started this project as a way to figure myself out. However, throughout my process I realized that I was coming up with an interesting story to tell. A story following a certain young man with a Rubik’s cube for a head named Roku.

What Are You Looking At?

What Are You Looking At? is a collection of nine illustrations depicting some of the key moments from the six colour coded chapters of Puzzled. They are arranged in a 3 x 3 grid to resemble a scrambled Rubik’s cube face. Each square portrays Roku’s own emotions, memories, and perception of his reality which take inspiration from my own life.

My Journey With Puzzled

The Beginning | 2021

Roku’s earliest appearance was in the form of a zine I drew that briefly depicted how lost and confused I felt at the start of my second year of university. As if the pandemic and lockdown were not enough, I was falling deeper and deeper into my depression. No matter what I tried I felt caged in my own mind and knew I needed some kind of escape.

Music Teasers | 2022

A common experience amongst people that play musical instruments is this feeling of stagnation in their development, as no matter how much they practice it feels like their skills have hit a plateau. Weirdly, it was at my lowest point during this time in my life that I felt I was finally improving in playing guitar.

Growing up I always wanted to write my own music, but I was discouraged to do so due to my aforementioned stagnant abilities. Having improved since then, I made a few attempts at composing and recording my own music. This resulted in the project progressing even more as I decided that I along with my musically inclined friends would create the soundtrack for Puzzled.

First Test Shoot | 2022

Despite not having a full script made, let alone an outline, I convinced my friends to do a test shoot with a hastily made Rubik’s cube head prop that was made out of cardboard. Along with this being my first ever shoot, this was my first ever time being a director.

Director & Writer: Erin Beleno

CO & DOP: Ethan Puchailo

Assistant Director: Yisu Li

Cast: Jacob Borbe & Ahmed Vajahath as Roku and Abby Dandoy as Mina

Production Assistant: Haru

Early Concepts | 2022

Entering my third year of university, I spent a majority of my time working on the first draft of Puzzled’s script and created concept images of scenes between course assignments. It was here that I started to get a feel for what ‘my style’ was, as my love for film and illustration would influence both aspects of my practice.

Prelude | 2022

Director, Writer, & Composer: Erin Beleno

CO, DOP, & Editor: Ethan Puchailo

Cast: Elias Shaan as Roku

To mark Puzzled’s first year of pre-production, the team and I did another test shoot where we adapted more scenes from Puzzled’s Yellow Chapter to create a trailer/proof of concept video using Puzzled’s second script draft. It was through this mini-project that the crew got a better feel for our style as a team.

It was also at this time that I started to integrate Puzzled into my university assignments which allowed my peers to see what I had been focusing my energy towards.


The Ordeal | 2022

Now that more people were aware of my project, there were a lot of questions on what form Puzzled would take on in the end. I had always envisioned Puzzled to be a live action, but with the feedback of my peers and instructors I became inspired to think of Puzzled as a mixed media short film.

I was in an awkward spot. In terms of my major, I’m an illustrator. However I also wanted to mix in my interest in animation, passion for film, and hobby of music into something grand. Truthfully, I still ask myself just how we are going to do all that.

Post Hiatus | 2023

I started 2023 off fully prepared to work solely on Puzzled, but that all changed after I received an invitation to submit a film to an online film festival. Not wanting to pass up this opportunity I thought about submitting Prelude to the festival, but opted not to as I didn’t want to just submit a trailer. I ended up deciding to develop a completely different story and shifted all of my focus towards creating my first proper short film named Ilaw (Tagalog for the word ‘light’) which was awarded ‘Best Student Short’ in the festival. After that, I resumed Puzzled’s pre-production and started writing and illustrating again.

Moving on and Letting Go | Present

Since Puzzled is inspired by my own experiences, feelings, and thoughts, the project has grown with me. On one hand, it was great for helping me process and recontextualize all sorts of events in my life. However, looking back so much has prevented from looking forwards and actually being in the present.

Just like how people can feel like their skills have hit a plateau when practicing an instrument, at times this project became stagnant in its development and for a while was in a “development hell” as I attempted to shoe-horn as many ideas in as possible. It was discouraging, but time after time my friends, instructors, and peers helped me understand that my troubles with this project stemmed from me drastically changing from who I was when I started Puzzled.

With that in mind, I was finally able to write the ending of Puzzled which I had been struggling with and putting off. While Puzzled is heavily based off of my experiences, I am no longer how I depicted the story’s protagonist, and my story is not coming to an end for a while. However Puzzled can’t go on forever, as all good things must come to an end, and I’m sure my friends have heard enough about Rubik’s cubes from me.

Please stay tuned as the team behind Puzzled continues to work on our short film. Production starts now.

Erin Beleno

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Erin Beleno is a Filipino-Canadian artist, filmmaker, illustrator, and writer based in Vancouver, BC. He aspired to be a manga artist, but found himself split between creating illustrations and films somewhere along the line. He uses his practice as a form of catharsis in order to understand his dreams, experiences, and fears.

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