Bailen "Baiflix" Estrada: a director and photographer from Roscoe, IL working to make his dream come true in the City of Angels


Photo: Bailen Estrada

This story originally appeared in the Valley Forge. Rockton-Roscoe News previously reported on Bailen Estrada in February 2022. 

Almost a year ago, Bailen Estrada was a senior at Hononegah High School who mainly filmed and photographed for fellow classmates and local businesses in the Roscoe-Rockton area. Now, he’s working towards his dream in Los Angeles, CA.

Bailen has worked with various models, musicians and brands since coming to L.A. That includes six-time Grammy award-winning songwriter and spoken word artist Malik Yusef, Superbowl 50 Champion, running back Kapri Bibbs, Asics, Care Bears, Compartes Chocolate and Culprit Underwear.

Long before Bailen moved to L.A., he was a seven-year-old kid discovering the magic of a camera.

The first camera Bailen picked up was an old digital camcorder he initially used to film his brother skateboarding.

“I just remember that I was like fascinated by what I was doing with it,” Bailen said.

Two years later, in 4th grade, Bailen owned his first camera: a GoPro.

“I used that for everything,” Bailen said.

With his GoPro, Bailen recorded as much as he could. One summer, on a family vacation, Bailen made a compilation of the trip by putting the film he recorded on his GoPro to music.

“It was absolutely incredible,” Laurie Estrada, Bailen’s mother, said. “He did a great job at it. I was just impressed that he even knew how to do any editing and add music.”

Bailen continued to use the GoPro until 7th grade, when he pitched in to pay for his first digital camera, a Canon EOS Rebel T6. He continued his interest in film and photography, but things ramped up during his sophomore year of high school.

The spring break during Bailen’s sophomore year was longer than expected. Forced to stay home due to COVID, Bailen took advantage of all the free time during quarantine and improved his craft.

“While everyone took COVID as a break and played video games, I thought it was a good time to learn,” Bailen said.

This learning time was mainly spent in a cleared-out basement room he and his mom turned into an editing suite.

“I’m not kidding you when I tell you he was in that room for about 14 hours a day, and he was reading,” Laurie said. “I asked him what he was doing, and he said, ‘I’m going to be a photographer.’ I said, ‘Okay,’ and that was it. He literally just read, read, read, and would come up and tell me things he was doing.”

Once Bailen could leave the house, he began putting his newfound knowledge to the test. He started to release his work under the name “Baiflix.” At 16, he directed his first commercial for Dairy Haus.

“All of a sudden, he started entering all of these contests,” Laurie said. “He just started doing all these little things, and there was such a spark in his eyes, there was such a light in his eye, and I just knew that was it. I knew the kid was going to be behind a camera.”

Bailen was able to put his talents as a filmmaker on full display during his senior year. He directed and produced music videos, a hype video for the football team and a short titled “The First Stage.” The short follows a couple on their first date at Rockford’s Skateland. Bailen also made a directing/cinematography reel that plays various shots from his best work at the time.

Throughout his senior year, Bailen also showcased his talent as a photographer. He took many senior pictures and frequently photographed food for Mary’s Market. He also expanded his creativity by experimenting with different shot types, lenses, lighting setups, and more to create eye-grabbing pictures. In March of his senior year, he was flown out to L.A. to photograph for the underwear brand Culprit.

Bailen never wanted to go to college, and as his senior year ended, Bailen felt he had to get out of Roscoe.

“I just knew that this town was too small for him,” Laurie said.

L.A. wasn’t the first or only option. Bailen considered going to Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona. He often wondered if he was good enough to make it in L.A.

“Coming here while all of your friends are going to college, you’re like, ‘Is this really it? Should I do this?’” Bailen said. “Your friends go away, and they will succeed no matter what considering they get a degree, and I’m just free balling it.”

However, after much consideration and networking, Bailen decided to move to L.A. to pursue his career as a director and photographer.

“I wanted to be creative. That’s why I pushed for L.A.,” Bailen said.

At first, some friends and family didn’t believe Bailen would move to L.A. One of his best friends Leo Galluzzo, was shocked when Bailen told him he was moving to L.A.

“I was like, ‘This guy’s crazy. I’m sure that’s not going to happen,’” Leo said. “I was hoping the best for him, but I didn’t think that was going to happen.”

Bailen even shocked his brother, Silas Estrada, when he told him he was moving to L.A.

“I didn’t think he was actually going to do it. I thought it was an up-in-the-air kind of thing, but no, he kept talking about it and did it,” Silas said.

After all the graduation parties and a one-month break, Bailen moved to L.A. in August and immediately got to work.

“It’s crazy out here,” Bailen said. “It’s like every day is a grind. You wake up and are like, ‘I have to work hard.’ There are no breaks. Well, there are breaks, but those come with a cost. Compared to Illinois, where I could hang out with people and not feel like sh*t, but now it’s like, ‘Oh, I got to lose some sleep to hang out with this person.’”

Despite the jam-packed schedule and fierce competition, Bailen says time is going by so fast because he’s having so much fun, and his current schedule shows that the fun isn’t going anywhere.

“Right now, I’m doing a new collab with a chocolate company called Compartes and Velveeta,” Bailen said. “I have photography studio sessions with fashion brands. One of them being Kayne West’s writer’s fashion brand, Jean Baptiste, with the model being Super Bowl champion Kapri Bibbs.”

When Bailen isn’t working with big names in L.A., he may be back in the Roscoe-Rockton area doing the same jobs he did before he left. Recently Bailen produced a campaign advertisement for the political party that won the Roscoe-Rockton elections. He also was a guest speaker for Hononegah’s AP videography, video production, photography and business classes.

Bailen’s work ethic, dedication, and early success inspire those close to him.

“It’s like watching your favorite sports team when they’re bad at the beginning. Not saying he was bad at the beginning, but it’s like then they’re first created. You keep on going with them until they get better and better and better, and then they win the championship,” Leo said. “It feels like, ‘finally, after all that time.’ It’s inspiring.”

Bailen plans to keep building up Baiflix and his network to achieve his dream of one day making his own films and telling his own stories.

“I want to build the Baiflix brand as well as work on my own bigger-budget productions,” Bailen said. “Whether that’s commercial or narrative, I want to bring the Baiflix vision to other aspects of the world.”

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