I wish people would stop calling me a sell out just because I’ve chosen to go the corporate route in film. For most parts I own it, but of course we all know they say it as a derogatory remark.
It’s a path I chose and I didn’t choose it just because of the “money” – which most people assume. I enjoy it, I enjoy looking for a middleground between entertainment and substance in content. I want to push for stories in mainstream that have meat in it and not just fallacies piled on fallacies – all the while making it entertaining still. Despite what haters say, it’s possible. South Korea’s TV shows are proof of that. Sure, they still have daily dramas that deal with lost sons, amnesia, and revenge (so does US by the way), but they also produce shows like Misaeng and Cheongdamdong Alice. Misaeng being a reflection of Korean work culture, politics, sexism – the challenges of every day life in the office. Cheongdamdong being a commentary on social mobility (while still being in the form of a romcom drama.) And if every bright, idealistic mind avoided mainstream – who’ll be left fighting from the inside? I’ll try.
I don’t believe in being a starving artist either. I don’t have the privilege of pursuing my art without worrying about where the money comes from. I’d like to earn that capital so I can fund my stories. Mounting production requires money, so I don’t get why there’s this pervading shadiness over money when we need money. I’m also the kind of learner who needs structure when I’m starting out. Working for an established company gives you that training. My mom gives the best advice when I told her it hurt me to hear it from friends. She said “Do all the good you can wherever you are. You need to learn the trade too.”
I’ve been out of the academe for long, I’ve worked in different jobs, blue collar jobs- jobs my peers may have never experienced. And I think this is why it can be so easy for them to say that (even when they say they’re one with the masses.) Have they ever felt that feeling of being at the bottom of the food chain and wanting to climb the top? Have they ever felt feeling so little, and feeling your credentials won’t get you anywhere? That you really just wish someone could take that chance on you and prove them right? It was so hard for me to get a film industry related job in Canada. My prospects were so bleak I had to work menial jobs to survive. And I knew that I could experience working in the industry and learning the ropes fast had I been in the Philippines. Social mobility is possible in the Philippines when you’re in the right university and have just a bit of money. So yes, I am taking advantage of that because I’ve been in a system where I felt completely oppressed. This may sound privileged but I know I’m not. I sucked it up and I’m here now. That was the decision I made. So for anyone to dismiss me as a sell out- it’s hurtful and really, hateful.
And lastly- I find it fallacious for anyone to think that you cannot make art even while you’re working in the industry because you’ll be eaten up by the system. Maybe I’ll bite my tongue in the future but Wong Kar Wai, probably my favourite film director, started out in mainstream. Film students seem to forget that too. He first learned the media production process at a television network and soon started a career in screenwriting and while he had no passion for the earlier projects he’s done, he still continued to write. Now we know him as the genius behind Chungking Express, In the Mood for Love etc.
So while I don’t prophesy myself to be the next Wong Kar Wai, I’m taking my cue from a successful life story rather than from naysayers and haters. If I listened and stopped now, I’d regret it. Whose life am I living anyway? I have my stories, write your own.