Friday ∗ 01 Jul 2011

on class, the indie film divide, and what unity must mean

the breakdown and aftermath of the Rafael Santos debacle is interesting to me mostly for what’s still unsaid.

1. the fact of Santos’ class, and i use that word not just to point to his lack of social skills (for goodness why would he think a joke like that funny?) and bad manners (he was asked about actors he himself worked with for his film, yes?), but also his social class. that humor, if we’d like to call it that, is one that we know exists, that we might have heard before from rowdy boys in some sosy Starbucks, or kids we’ve taught in our time as teachers, and it’s a humor that isn’t surprising in its existence. what is surprising is that Santos did not turn it off for television, that he actually thought this was an interview that would be so comfortable, his humor would be fine. which bring us back to the fact that he might be a rich kid — a konyo kid in our context who feeds his cat catfood and thinks lowly of skyflakes (equals 1 cup of rice kaya and isang pack no’n!) — but apparently rich doesn’t mean classy.

2. which is what that show Cityscape is, more pang-mayaman than anything. Sir Anton Juan is so correct about pointing out how that host is at fault as well, though there’s the mere existence of lifestyle shows for the elite like this one that’s just wrong in third world Philippines. that show, as is David Celdran’s ANC show, is a bubble that allows the ones who are in it to believe that everyone speaks the same language, thinks the same, live the same, i.e., we’re all rich, you’ll get my humor. is this to defend Santos? of course not. it’s to point out that other than this articulation, there’s a fundamental problem in a media system that creates a venue for him to speak this way, and think that it’s ok. it’s telling of a crisis in media, isn’t it, when the rich can be shameless about their lives and lifestyles, as if they were not in impoverished philippines?

3. some critics of Santos are angry because he draws a divide between film and theater. i say it’s a reminder: despite Eugene Domingo, John Lapus moving from theater to film, and despite numerous mainstream actors moving from mainstream and finding more credibility in theater, that divide still exists. and it’s one that’s painfully and obviously about money, i.e., who will make money for TV and movie executives and therefore will get better pay, and not at all about who does the better job at acting or entertaining.

now that divide gets a little more complex when we talk about the indie film industry of which Santos is part. the indie in fact is theater in light of commercial film; it’s where the more artistic, more creative filmmaking happens, where the better actors are found. i always thought the indie employing theater actors meant a team effort of sorts, one that spoke of both industries’ struggle to prove creativity on the most flimsy of budgets, on a dire lack of support. Santos’ articulation pointed to the fact that the indie film industry has it’s own divide to deal with, and it’s one that’s becoming more and more stark as they go about this business of being “independent.” while it’s true that there are countless writers and directors who financially struggle to get a hold of a camera and finish a film, it’s also difficult to ignore this fact: there are also these kids who go to some sosyal film school, are given cameras on a silver platter and think the struggle is just like wow pare, it’s so hard to make the film i want, coz i want to do a tarantino film or like a kubrick? and the philippines is so not prepared for me.

wow pare, ang tindi ng struggle mo.

4. and lastly, Tanghalang Pilipino’s artistic director Nanding Josef wonders:

And it also makes me wonder what the outsiders, the ‘uzis’ (mga usisera), the non-artists and the critics of the artists make out of this free-for-all, uncensored and free-flowing downpour of expletives, name-calling by the artists against another artist, albeit a beginning artist.

here’s what i think, Sir: while i’ve got a brother and sister-in-law who were part of theater in the Philippines before they left for Holland, and while i’d like to think myself a theater critic at times (though i cringe at that label half the time, especially with gibbs cadiz and exie abola around), as outsider to philippine theater, i think this emotional outpouring of anger and disgust at the issues that underlie Santos’ articulations is the perfect reason to start talking about a theater actors’ union.*

of course in this country insisting on a union is a red flag up for the powers-that-be. but seeing the theater industry’s united stand against this articulation (even those who have forgiven Santos admit to his fault here), i think the theater world’s 100 steps ahead of the fight for what every creative industry worker deserves: a spanking-new union.

the writers among us can only be envious.


*and i mean a real one, not like the UMPIL for writers, which doesn’t really function to protect writers or standardize how much we might get paid, but seems more like a fraternity of writers. i mean a real artists’ union, much like the Philippine Models Association of the Philippines (yes, they are smarter than us all), that standardizes pay based on seniority and skill of their members, and is responsible for any of its members not performing their jobs well.

Posted in: aktibismo, arts and culture, bayan, entablado, kapitalista, komentaryo, kultura, media, paying debt, pulahan, pulitika, teatro, the elite

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12 Comments/Pingbacks

    • ina
      July 2, 2011 at 4:50 am

      there are no real functioning unions for the creative industries i think, one that unites everyone in an industry? even movie directors are divided between two organizations eh, and i don’t know that those orgs are even unions really.

      no, unions aren’t there to change the pay of actors between theater and film/tv. unions are there to standardize pay for theater actors period, across media. it isn’t in comparison with actors in the mainstream.

      no really, this wasn’t funny to me at all, not my kind of humor maybe. there was nothing in it that made it funny to me. and yes to making fun of problems, but ideally you talk about your own problems and not point to someone else’s. to do the latter will always be mean and just tasteless.

      • GabbyD
        July 2, 2011 at 5:13 am

        standardize across media? i dont think thats a good idea. there’s a reason why tv/movies pay more, its coz they make more money.

        it cant be that the different media pay the same. it violates math laws: howmuch money you make (>=) how much you spend.

        this is true everywhere, including theater/movies abroad. for ex, english actors move from westend/broadway to movies all the time, and to be sure, they never get paid the same.

        creative unions standardize pay for its members for a particular media. ex. all TV extras paid the same, etc. i learned alot about this after following the US writers strike of 2007 (or 2008?).

        also, “but ideally you talk about your own problems and not point to someone else’s. ”

        thats a strange condition that no one follows ina. for example. i just listened to some songs from “the book of mormon”, the new musical from the creators of south park and avenue Q. they take shots at the beliefs of mormons, and yet, none of the writers, actors, etc are mormon.

        • ina
          July 2, 2011 at 5:20 am

          Gabby D:

          yes, i meant that unions standardize pay for creative workers across media, which is to say it depends on which media, the workers’ skills, seniority, etc. etc. and i think it’s pretty clear what i meant about unions and how it will protect creative workers given that footnote in the blog entry itself.

          you said:
          “thats a strange condition that no one follows ina. for example. i just listened to some songs from “the book of mormon”, the new musical from the creators of south park and avenue Q. they take shots at the beliefs of mormons, and yet, none of the writers, actors, etc are mormon.”

          obviously this is a TOTALLY DIFFERENT CASE from someone from the elite talking about the mass theater worker, Gabby D. and really, baka ikaw natawa with Avenue Q, but you can’t presume that for those they make fun of.

          i’m surprised you validate Santos’ joke by saying it was funny to you. good for him.

        • GabbyD
          July 2, 2011 at 5:50 am

          ah, depends on media. that makes sense. (“depends on media” isnt in the footnote, btw)

          “obviously this is a TOTALLY DIFFERENT CASE from someone from the elite talking about the mass theater worker”

          why is it different? its a joke. a joke is a joke is a joke.

          i’m not saying you should laugh at anything u dont find funny.

          i’m only saying that jokes ARE LIKE THAT. to criticize jokes for what they are, what they are supposed to be, doesnt make sense.

          • ina
            July 2, 2011 at 6:05 am

            you said: “why is it different? its a joke. a joke is a joke is a joke.”

            yes, you’re right, and everyone else is wrong about Rafael Santos’ articulation about Pinoy theater actors, gabby d. lucky him he’s got you around.

          • GabbyD
            July 2, 2011 at 6:38 am

            i’m trying to understand this point of view. why do some people feel insulted by some jokes, and not others?

            everyone who has written about knows its a joke. they KNOW it. you know it.

            its weird, because by definition, a joke is something not to be taken seriously.

            yet people do. why?

            the only thing thats clear 2 me is that people dont liked to be mocked, even if they know its a joke.

            dont u find that, interesting?

            some people, like the mormons in the case of the musical, know its mockery, yet they are largely ok with it.

            i’m on board with the notion that comedians/people shouldnt make fun of true tragedy… of victims. i.e. its not good to make sex jokes of rape victims. remember about that comedian that made fun of the japanese tsunami victims? not good.

            but theater actors arent a tragedy, nor are they victims. they are some of the most intelligent people around. so why act as if they are victims?

  1. ina
    July 2, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    @Gabby D. you live in a simple world when you think a joke only has one description, and that description applies to everything and everyone.

    no, there is nothing interesting to me about jokes and mockery that offend their objects, because objectification is necessarily painful to those victimized by it.

    you’re also ill-informed and totally wrong about philippine theater and theater in general if you think that there are no victims there, or that its state is not tragic.

    and no matter that you might think some theater actors are NOT victims, you have no right to question the offense that they as objects of this non-joke take. you’re not them, you don’t know where they’re coming from, and ultimately, you reveal only that you are of the same weave as Rafael Santos. congratulations!

    • GabbyD
      July 2, 2011 at 5:29 pm

      so take a moment to educate.

      do the theater people who say they were offended claim they were offended coz they were victims? victims of.. what? that they literally live in dire straights, and that being fed skyflakes and cat food daily is the norm?

      in what sense are they victims? what crime has been visited upon them? please, i’d love to know.

      also, what other description for joke is there? are there jokes to be taken at face value, seriously?

      again, i understand they dont find it funny. i understand being offended — thats an emotional response.

      we have emotions, but we need not be ruled by them.

  2. theaterbator blog by walter ang
    July 19, 2011 at 7:53 am

    thank you for the link! kekeke. keep on theaterbatoring!

    • ina
      July 19, 2011 at 8:03 am

      theaterbator? i don’t even know what that means! parang that’s all you and yours! :-)

      PS: you wanna watch Rizal X on Saturday? the matinee. let’s?

      • theaterbator blog by walter ang
        July 26, 2011 at 11:06 am

        i don’t know what it means din e. but yes, i think it’s all me and mine or sumthin.

        naku i cannot watch yet, i’m super busy pa, fully booked sa dayjob, magbubukas kami ng baong carinderia soon kasi! gotta buy the tiles for the bathroom pa …

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