A Letter to Fans from Another Fan

You are a fan and you don’t own your idols.

I am not addressing this to the entirety of the population of fans out there, but just to those who seem to be confused about what being a true fan really means.

The Cambridge Dictionary says a fan is someone who admires and supports a person, sport, sports team, etc. The Oxford Dictionaries defines it as a person who has a strong interest in or admiration for a particular person or thing. None of these definitions says a fan can dictate what his or her idol should do and who that idol should be.

You don’t have the right to because you don’t own them; like how you don’t own Taylor Swift, the favourite love-and-hate talk of the town. If you’re a real fan, you’re not one of those people telling her to stop dating men she likes, stop writing what she feels and what she thinks and just stay being America’s sweetheart when clearly she’s done being your good little girl. Recently, Swift released her long-anticipated and most biting album yet, Reputation, and along with it is a note to the fans talking about how it has been being in the public eye and mentioning how ‘her mistakes have been used against her, her heartbreaks have been used as entertainment, and her songwriting has been trivialised as oversharing.’ She has been in our lives since she was 15 that some of us may feel like we own part of hers. But then again, we don’t. No one can control any other people’s lives but themselves; like how Finn Wolfhard has the control over his life on his own and his alone. The 14-year-old Stranger Things actor was recently called out by fans for not greeting them outside his hotel. As Game of Thrones actress Sophie Turner puts it, it does not matter if he’s an actor, he’s a kid first before that and he should be able to ‘grow without feeling like he owes anyone anything for living his childhood dreams.’

Every one of us, whether you are an actor or not, feel like we need space at some point and we should all be understanding enough if that’s what the person wants. We all have our own selfishness and actors are not an exemption to that. They would want to be away from the screaming and flashing cameras from time to time and no one should ever criticize them for wanting that just because they are public figures. Yes, fans put them to where they are right now and are the reason why they are able to do what they want and earn money at the same time. We as fans buy their albums, concert tickets, stream their shows online and or pay for other merchandises that they put out. However, we should be reminded that it is their art/work, which they have invested in so much, that we are buying and not them nor their lives. We should not act like we can demand to interfere in their personal lives, and if not allowed, we criticize them until they are emotionally drained and are in ruins. If you want some of their time, then go to their fan meetings, shows, and or other official guestings instead of waiting in front of their hotels to invade their privacy. If you are arguing that you don’t have money to buy tickets to shows, matches or what, then that’s your problem. That’s reality and you should work hard to earn some money and see them in their official public appearances if you really want to.

It is time for fans to stop caring too much about the personal lives of their idols. I understand that it is unavoidable for their personal lives to be before the public eye but fans should start it in themselves to realize it should be something we can muse about but not interfere with. We do not know them personally and so we should not bash them for things we may be ill-informed about. Sometimes, I even think it is much better for fans to just care about nothing more than their idols’ work or art. It will be better not only for your idol’s peace of mind but for yours as well. Think before you say or do something that could eventually affect these public figures and most especially do not start a fight and hurt other fans. Before being celebrities and fans, we all are humans first, and as humans, we should always try not to hurt one another.

We should shatter the idea that these are the consequences of being famous and that it comes with their jobs because it isn’t and it shouldn’t. This issue has been around for a long time already and this is definitely not the fault of the advent of the internet, but this problem has obviously been magnified by the social media age. This is bullying and you are not a bully, you are a fan, and that should be enough reason for you to use the power of the internet in reverse to call for a change.

In my own definition, being a fan means supporting your idol in their public endeavours. The key word is support and not bring them down. The word public draws the line between your relationship with your idols. If you want to be beyond that line, then go earn yourself a spot as their friend or what. But if not, then again for those people in the back I will repeat, these public figures’ private lives are something you can muse and be happy or sad about as a fan, but it should never be something you can interfere with. If you still cannot understand this boundary, then maybe you should reassess yourself as a fan and or eventually stop calling yourself as one, if you aren’t really one in the first place.

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Chapter Two: Ready, Set, Cut

35mm movie reel and scissors for the final cut

Sometime early August 2017, I decided to shell out money for something I knew I wanted but I was scared of. I don’t know how that mix of feelings exists or why it does. But I just did it. I faced this because at a certain point I know I will regret not doing so, and regret is something I hate more than fear.

This made me basically stop buying fries, burgers, pizzas, shakes and other comfort food just to cut on my spending and make up for the money I spent paying the registration fee for the first Rebelde Non-linear Editing Class. Because you see, I’m an adult who doesn’t want to ask money from my parents and who insists on relying solely on my humble entry-level job pay. But hey guess what, I don’t care about it. All I can think about that time was my love for film. Film was taking over my life and I don’t care whatever it takes just to get to know it better. I was in love.

That sounds foolish, right? Just like any other love, it’s hard. But it’s beautiful.

I’ve been making short films since college and the part of it that I like so much but didn’t have the courage to take on yet was film editing. I love everything about it; the way it looks like a puzzle, the quiet environment while you work on it, the way music complements it and many more aspects of it. Sometimes I even think I love it more than writing because the fulfilment of seeing its end product is different from just reading a finished script.

I do direct, write, shoot, but when it comes to editing, I always pass it on to others because I always thought I’m not good at it. But I figured out that learning film editing is something that will complete me as a filmmaker. So why not step up my game now?

It was a month-long getting to know stage with film editing and with the people who love it as much as I do. There was Angela, Carlo, Rolls, Alyanna, the Rebelde peeps and most especially Direc Thop Nazareno, who was our instructor for the class. Thop has been an editor and director for indie films such as the 2013 Cinemalaya short film Eyeball and the 2017 Cinemalaya full-length feature Kiko Boksingero.

I think it was especially easy and comfortable for me to learn film editing because it was Thop who taught me. He was this small dude sitting quietly at the end of the table when I first entered the lecture room and it was difficult to read him. We were sitting far from him and the first thing he told us was to come closer because he said he was this ‘shy person,’ and just with that, I identified with him already which then continued on throughout the course. I especially saw a great deal of his love for filmmaking which was totally cool. He knows the struggles of an aspiring filmmaker and it felt like he really understands someone like me and so it was especially interesting to learn from someone like him.

I hope he knows he’s a great teacher. I wish someone told him.

Because I didn’t, so….yeah

But nevertheless, everything he imparted to us will stay with me.

The first thing he taught us was that every cut should have a meaning behind it. The Kuleshov effect shows the movie magic in which partnering a shot with different other shots can create many different meanings. I firmly believe that films should be created not just for the sake of creating one and making money. Every part of it should tell a story and should give out a message one way or the other.

He also said that time and tempo are important. You should know when to go fast, normal, and or when to take it slow. You can’t always be too fast. Give the story time to breathe. You can take it slow but be sure you know when to peak. But whatever it is, let the story and feeling guide your pace.

He stressed out that an editor should cut and put pieces together based on logic. Even if you don’t have the script as a guide, or maybe you don’t know the whole story yet or the director hasn’t given any directions, you as an editor should tell the story in your own way first, in the way you perceive it. You may not know, the director may like your take on it. If he doesn’t, then that’s when you change it the way he wants. Anyway, directors always have the last say. But at least you tried to have your own input. You have a vision of your own. Remember, you are an editor, not a clicker or a robot who just follows everything the director says without contributing any creative ideas.

The last part of Thop’s editing lecture was about continuity. An edit should be fluid. Every cut should connect well with the next one. It is advisable to cut on action to avoid awkward or very eye-stealing cuts or transitions. But really, there are many ways to connect one shot or scene from another and some of them are like magic to me.

I really believe that film editing is like magic. It gives life to the story. It can make you see impossible things happen. It can show you wonders you’ve never imagined.

I’m glad to have learned how to make this magic and I want to be a master of it.

Thop made me want to be a master of it and stop hesitating doing things I want to do. I have always waited for things to happen to me because I always thought I’m still not ready. But I remember him telling me I will never be ready and so all there’s left to do is to keep going no matter what. Just shoot. Just make more films. Just do it. That’s the best thing I learned from him and from this wonderful class.

My First Baby

Hi there! This is a short film I made with my college friends for fun three years ago. I never got the chance to put this out and now I figured out I should just post it on YouTube for people to see. This film is my very first baby in college and so I’ve been very protective of it for years. But now I’m ready to let it go. I hope you like it.

Synopsis: A struggling writer overhears a conversation in a cafe that would eventually inspire her to write something.

Directed by: Kimberly Ilaya and Joanna Reyes
Written by: Kimberly Ilaya
Edited by: Angelica Fae Redita
Starring: Ralyn Belay, Cholo Damian, RM Miclat and Trisha Perez
Music: Rosie by Janica De Castro, Taste by Cholo Damian, and Ragtime by Paul Casiano
Cinematographers: Angelica Fae Redita, Louise Litonjua, Pam Asis and Ann Margaret Miguel
Production Manager: Adele Oqueriza
Special thanks to: Macky Macarayan and Florence Rosini

My First Music Video

Sharing to you the first music video I directed and edited. Hope you like it. If you do, please like and follow Janica De Castro on all of her social media pages. Here’s to more good music!

Director: Kimberly Ilaya
Editor: Kimberly Ilaya
Camera Operators: Kimberly Ilaya and Adele Oqueriza
Production Designer: Adele Oqueriza

Chapter One: Ready, Set, Write

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Sunday afternoon in the company of sunshine in my room, I sit there listening to different kinds of music from old to new, from classical to rock. I’ve got my pen and notebook on my lap. I let the music get into me, into my mind, heart and soul. Then I create a short story based on what I feel right then and there. This simple writing activity has been a routine for me since joining Sir Clodualdo Del Mundo’s script development and writing workshop organized by the Film Development Council in an attempt to nurture the talent of current and aspiring screenwriters.

Sir Doy, as what we call him, is a well-known Filipino screenwriter, director, and author. Some of his famous screenplays are the classics such as Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag, Itim, Kisapmata, and Batch ‘81.

We were required to send a resume for pre-selection of the participants and I swear to God I didn’t actually expect to be chosen. Up to 20 participants was the limit and I told myself there are a lot of good writers out there who already have more advanced experience than me, I’d probably be lucky enough if I even get in the top 50. I heard nothing from FDCP for ten days after I signed up but I kept waiting with a bit of desperate prayers. You just don’t give up your dream that easy. You just don’t.

And then there it was, 10 days before the workshop, I got that congratulatory email saying “You’ve been selected blah blah blah!” Imagine me jumping up and down on my bed!

Now fast forward to August 18, the first day of the two-day workshop, I pretty much entered Cinematheque Manila thinking if I should really be there. You know that self-doubt moments just before important events, well, that happens to me. A lot. Sure thing. But one thing I never do is back out when I’m already there.

Who will be my classmates? Will they be super good? Will I look pathetic? Will I be able to impress them? Is Sir Doy a good teacher? Is he too strict and hard to deal with?

These were the questions filling my mind while biting my lip and patiently waiting for the class to start because apparently, I was too early. Those were nonsense questions that I shouldn’t have bothered myself with because thank God, I realized they were actually nothing to worry about.

Listening to Sir Doy was like listening to my grandpa on the balcony telling old stories. I felt very comfortable learning from him. The first thing he taught us was to write stories that bring out humanity. Stories that affect people, move people, and make them counter things like the prevalent violence and killings everywhere in the world right now. He also pointed out that films should create and not destroy.

Right at that moment I missed being a student. Terribly. Everything felt the same. It’s just that my classmates were not of my age. There were different types of people in that class. A screenwriting professor, a news writer, a founder of a film camp, a television show writer, a simple girl who just writes stories in her bedroom, and many more who have the same writing passion as me. This was actually my first professional writing workshop and it felt surreal being in the same room with people who could understand that writing weirdness others may not.

I’ve always believed that if you have real passion, you don’t need much for other people to like you. That’s why I was already in awe of those people around me despite just meeting them for the first time. I was in awe to learn that screenwriting really has no definite format, you just need to make it easy for the people involved in the film to understand how the story should go, how it should look like and how it should feel like. I was in awe to learn the limitations of a writer; that sometimes you do not have to give too much detail; just let the cast and crew have the creative freedom to interpret the screenplay on their own. I was in awe to realize that you will write and put your heart and soul into every story but not all of them will be turned into film.

That’s okay.

That’s reality.

What’s important is that you are creating something you love and you never know, maybe the right time for it is just yet to come. Stories never grow old anyway.

On our second day, August 25, we read and discussed the short screenplays we developed during the workshop. There were different kinds of stories. There was drama. Comedy. Action. Experimental. Some were deep. Some were just above the surface. Mine was in between. It was the first time I allowed my screenplay to be projected on a white screen for people to read at the same time. I felt kind of naked for a while, but proud afterwards. It was nice to see people talk about your story, your characters, your made-up world and you. I thought it would hurt. But it did not. So you, who’s still afraid to let people see your masterpiece, stop keeping your greatness to yourself and go take the pleasure of learning from the praises and criticisms of your readers. Because why not.

It also helps to think you are great. It makes you open yourself to possibilities. And when your idea of greatness gets shattered afterwards, which has a hundred percent probability by the way, get back up. Find another view of greatness, or maybe, make people see another view of greatness. Writing takes a lot of twist and turns, but it’s very rewarding when you get there.

I’m still on the road and is not yet at my destination. As I get drained, an experience like this is a station stop to get me filled up again. What a nice fuel fill indeed.

Thank you FDCP for initiatives like this that nurture aspiring filmmakers like us. Lastly, thank you Sir Doy for your films, passion and experiences. Thank you for your writing. Thank you for sharing it. I hope to do it as well in time. Again. Thank you.

VIRGIN LABFEST 13 Review: Set B

It’s that time of the year again folks! Our favorite play fest, Virgin Labfest, is on again at the Cultural Centre of the Philippines. VLF is now 13 years old, and this year, it features 12 plays which were carefully chosen among the 192 scripts submitted.

I decided to watch Set B last Friday night and I was just astounded to see what VLF has become now compared to what it was when I started watching three years ago. There’s undeniably more people and longer lines outside the theater waiting enthusiastically for the shows this year. It has a new home as well in Aurelio Tolentino Theater, which was converted into an intimate venue. It is much bigger than the usual home of VLF at Huseng Batute Huseng Batute is now reserved for the Revisited Set E shows.

The festival has truly grown from its humble beginnings in 2005!

Boses ng Masa
Playwright: Joshua Lim So
Director: Guelan Luarca

The first thing you will notice in this play are the monitors set up on and beside the stage. These monitors started the performance and quickly grabbed the curiosity of the audience with a quote from Umberto Eco’s essay, How to Recognize a Porn Film. The play is set in 1994 and revolves around two members of an election campaign team and their moral conscience. Their candidate is lagging behind the polls but they have uncovered a sex abuse video involving their political rival’s son. Chris (Jerome Dawis) is hesitant to use the video for the election and rub salt to the wound of the victim’s family, however, Hector (Renan Bustamante) is feeling otherwise.

The first to middle part of the play was a little dragging. The script was smart and wanted to tell a lot of things and I really do not know what went wrong. Maybe it was the directing or the acting but it sure was less than what it should feel. Bustamante gave a powerful performance, but for Dawis, I think he can work more on his acting because there were times when it felt like his movements were so calculated and he didn’t look natural on stage.

Things got better towards the end. The end, specifically, was the most show stealing moment and would really make the audience think about their own morality if they were the characters themselves. Boses ng Masa is your common political play, but its message will never get old. It paralleled the rape of a woman to the rape of our country and the question is, until when can we tolerate this?

Ang Mga Puyong
Playwright: Ryan Machado
Director: Ricardo Magno

With a story setting I’ve seen a couple of times before in other plays, I initially had low expectation from this performance. On the contrary, it turned out to be my favorite among the performances that night!

It started with a charming rural scene in which Andoy (Reynald Santos) was on a rice field listening to romantic radio dramas and writing stories on his notebook when Pido (Ahmed Maulana) came; and their conversations turned from just merely deciding if they will get circumcised, to darker confessions about their past.

This play reminded me of VLF 10’s Sa Lilim, written by Reya Laplana. Both plays involve two young people in a rural setting having awkward confrontations. However, Ang Mga Puyong was undeniably more well-written and fun than Sa Lilim. The strength of plays like these most often lies within the performance of the actors, and that’s exactly where Ang Mga Puyong hits the jackpot. Santos and Maulana had a really good rapport. Santos, specifically, had a radiating charm on stage. It is worth noting how the play successfully portrayed the real life banter between normal kids. Even the darker topic of the play was treated like how real kids would treat it; which is something that they will quarrel about but something that would also fade out a little while until they become friends again. The directing choices did not disappoint as well. Every blocking and movement was consistent with the context of the play.

With all the complexities and wide range of emotions, Ang Mga Puyong truly felt like a wonderful wild ride.

Hindi Ako Si Darna
Playwrights: U.Z. Eliserio and Maynard Manansala
Director: Andoy Ranay

The most publicized and star-studded play this year is about the iconic superhero, Darna (Tetchie Agabayani), in her sixties wearing a conservative white sleeping gown. In addition to that, it is also about a perky waitress (Kim Molina), an old Kapitan Barbell (Jay Gonzaga), a still petulant Ding (Ricci Chan), a drug addict (Ekis Jimenez), and a flamboyant Valentina (John Lapus).

Honestly, the first part of the play was confusing. I mean I was like, what is going on with these pointless conversations? Until those pointless conversations turned into seemingly commentaries which have current social and political relevance. The writer gave a slap on topics such as the war on drugs and women empowerment in a very loud and resounding way. Even if it features a person dealing with old age, the play still had this very young and pop vibe. It was also the most animated among the three plays of that set.

Gonzaga, Chan, Jimenez and Lapus were the ones who really kept the momentum of laughter. Nevertheless, I give credit to Agabayani for showing the different and more fun side of her. Let’s also not forget about the outstanding singing parts of Molina. She really has it!

The only problem I have with this play is that it seems to have no solid story at all. It felt like a series of social commentaries and funny banters that were put together. But still, whatever it turned out to be, it was still entertaining.

VLF is truly one of a kind experience. Go catch these performances and the other plays as well until July 16! See you folks at the theaters!

Paradise and My Wandering Soul

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Hi reader. I’m going to take you back four months ago when I was still a bum with some serious self-esteem problem. It’s good that I can actually write about it now since anyway time had passed already. Well, I can say that I am that kind of writer, I let a story develop and go through time first before I share it with anyone.

So going back, as I said, I had no job and I was in a state where I wanted to get away. I was burnt out for four years in college and I felt I needed to find inspiration first before I go through another few years of stress and hard work.

Honestly I did not know what I wanted to find and then I thought maybe I did not really want to find anything but instead, I wanted to get lost. The right opportunity came and there I went leaving everything behind.

A high school friend of my mom suddenly visited her and after a few conversations, I was already set to go with her to Polillo Island in Quezon province where she lives. Mom can’t go because of work and my siblings were too busy with some other things. It was a hasty decision but it was something I’m glad I did.

We departed the night after her visit and we rode a rented van to Real Port in Quezon where we rode a wooden passenger boat, “Lantsa,” to Polillo Island. It took us 3 hours to reach the port and during that time I can’t get to sleep with all the thoughts running in my mind. I felt nervous at first because it was the first time that I didn’t have a mother who will prepare all my travel needs for me or look after me. I also doubted if I will have fun since I didn’t have sisters or friends who I can share beautiful experiences. But I was still determined to be anywhere far from the busy life of the city.

We arrived at Real Port at 3 am but had to wait because the first travel of the boat to Polillo was at 5:30 am. On the boat, the film Around the World in 80 Days was being shown. It is about a London inventor who circumnavigated the world and engaged in an adventure that discovered the most exotic places in the world. The film brought up the exciting and adventurous vibe to my trip. I finally started to relax at that moment. The beautiful sunrise and the morning air that wildly blew my hair as our motorized boat went farther to the sea calmed my mind. That was more than enough to feel good.

After an hour, we were already in Polillo Island. Tita Myrna, my mom’s friend, is the cousin of the mayor of Polillo and so I had the privilege to live inside the house of the mayor for a week. Tita Myrna wants what’s best for me obviously. The mayor, Tita Cristina, has a resort and that’s also where her house is. I had the most comfortable and fun time there with all the fishing, kayaking, and seaside dinners that I had.

Tita Cristina and her family are really simple and down to earth. Their house looks like every normal house that you would see in Manila and they dress up like every normal resident of the island. I hope every politician in the country and their families could learn from the simplicity of the ones in small provinces and probably avoid using the people’s money on unnecessary things.

The islands in Polillo are mostly untouched which makes it a paradise for beach bums. White sands, large coral reefs, and the clear water are just some of the things you should expect when you get there. The allure of the island triggers a lot of story ideas for a writer like me. I was in awe to witness these heaven made places that it’s such a shame not to tell stories about it and share it with people. I hope modernization will never find out about places like this and will forever be a place for escape.

Burdeos, the town next to Polillo where we went island hopping, is just as pristine. Other than white sand beaches, there are also spectacular caves, underdeveloped waterfalls, mangrove forests, fish and bird sanctuaries and pearl farms resting on its islands.

Burdeos is an hour drive away from Polillo. It could have been shorter if the roads aren’t rough and bumpy. Anyway, we then arrived to Sabang Pier where island hoppers get boats and boatmen for their travel.

So our boat finally sailed to the islands of Burdeos. I imagined it like I will sail around the world and the islands will be like the continents. It was surreal. Our first destination was Pulong Buhangin. From a far, you would immediately recognize it with the coconut leaves that were put up to look like a resting area for visitors, though you could hardly rest under it. The islet disappears during high tide and looks really isolated from the others. I kind of felt at home at that small piece of land because just like it, I felt isolated from everyone at that time.

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Pulong Buhangin

The next destination is the famous Anilon Island. This island is a must for island hoppers in Burdeos because of the scenic tunnel-like cave that has a natural beauty of a panoramic perfect arch view. It also has a long coastline of golden beach sand and a wide plain of sea bed rocks that is home to rich aquatic life. We walked through a small forest before reaching the cave and I was quite surprised to see inhabitants and a few wooden houses in an isolated island like that. If the world gets really cruel, I think I would just live there too.

Anilon Island

We had lunch at a nearby island, Anawan. It’s just 30 minutes away from Anilon and you could actually still see the famous cave from there. Anawan is famous for its very fine white sand and it’s actually considered as the “Boracay of Burdeos.” But better be extra careful here because it is also believed to have snake inhabitants.

Anawan Island

After Anawan, it was a long boat ride to Malaguinoan Island Grotto. I took pleasure in watching the sea bed as the boat run through it. It is such an unbelievable thought that I was actually above a world where amazing species are living and along with a classical tune by Joe Hisaishi for one of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, I felt life was so magical right there and then. Did you ever felt grateful just to be able to open your eyes and marvel at such wonders?

Going back, Malaguinoan Island Grotto features the rock formation (stalagmite) that resembles the face of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is the most visited site in the town during Lenten season. I just felt sad because some of its rock formations have vandalism. My name, “Kimberly,” was also written as a vandalism but I swear I had nothing to do with it. Why do people even touch things they do not own? Nature was never ours and it will never be ours.

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Malaguinoan Island

The last island is Binunbunan Island or what they also call, “The Burger Island.” It is a round shape island surrounded by golden sand. They say that it has the best swimming spot among the islands around. I took a walk on its long sandbar and took pleasure as the incoming high tide swallow it and at that moment, I wanted to swallow me as well, as I fear that my travel will end soon and I had to finally leave that place.

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Binunbunan Island

Anyway, island hopping was a success!

The night before I went back to Manila, Mayor Cristina was invited to a wedding and she tagged me along with her. It was really cool to see that this kind of wedding is still held today. It was like a fiesta. The festivity went with me to sleep until I woke up to pack my bags and head to the port.

The boat ride away from Polillo was more beautiful than the one going there. I stood on the deck at the back of the wooden passenger boat where you could see the whole Polillo and Burdeos Island while the sun is rising behind it. It was one of the most handsome sunrise I have ever seen in my life. It felt like a new beginning for me. Finally, the start of my adult life. The whole view was as if telling me, “Goodbye for now, I hope I made you happy. I hope I’ve given you joy and memories that could fuel you whenever life gets hard from now on. You’ve rested well, now go and do what you have to do, but come back the next time you have the chance. I’ll be here. Just forever here.”

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I send my love to that paradise and to all the other paradise I will discover next. I’ll work hard I promise until I have enough money to stay there forever.