There Once follows an isolated, aloof young woman whose past comes back to help her redirect her future. Though Rena enjoyed a happy childhood filled by the Filipino folktales and traditions of her immigrant grandmother, she begins to feel ashamed of them as she grows up and resolves to get as far away from them as possible in order to feel she is truly in control of her own life. Steeling herself against the emotions and memories that once made her feel special, she becomes a successful but lifeless young architect whose professional goals eclipse her relationship with her family and self. When her grandmother dies and Rena’s childhood imaginary friends suddenly reappear, she is forced to confront and accept her past self, learning how much value there can be in celebrating what makes you different.
Ella RomeroWhile building upon her background as an illustrator and graphic designer for print, Ella used much of her time within the Visual Narrative program to experiment with as many different materials and approaches as she could. For her thesis project, she recorded herself playing the part of her distressed protagonist, through voice memos, blog posts, and an installation that was part curiosity cabinet and part memory palace, to share both her conscious and unconscious experiences.Ella’s thesis mentor was Eric Molinsky.