Missy Maramara, Armi Millare and Antoinette Jadaone tell us how they got their starts in theater, music, and film.
Missy Maramara’s love story with the stage started in preschool but it was doing Macbeth that made her realize that she wanted to take it to the next level. “I pursued it in the academe because I don’t think it’s just a hobby. It’s something that you need to develop, study and write about,” she says. Post-college, she took up an MA in English Literature, all while balancing performing and directing on the side. She also studied in the University of Arkansas for three years with the help of the Fulbright Scholarship Program — an amazing feat in itself. Now, she’s sharing her passion for the performing arts to younger students. There’s something about how she speaks about theater that encourages them to be better actors and people as well. If theater makes people be as passionate as Missy is, then we don’t mind stepping up onstage. — Maine Manalansan
You’ve studied and performed overseas before. How different is theater in the US from the Philippines?
I think the quality of theater in Manila is very, very good. It’s comparable to New York. I watched so many shows and I think the theater scene now is booming. It’s always been developing but now it’s to prolific and so much fun. There’s always a show and everyone’s so talented, generous and relevant. Because I’m a Filipino and I’m performing for Filipinos, the pressure is so immense to exceed expectations.
Why is it that a lot of performers seek job overseas instead of booking jobs here?
It started when we were very much colonized. You know, “the grass is always greener on the other side” “the opportunities are abroad” “the money is in the west.” But we’ve developed so much and there’s so much opportunity here. Of course, the mentality doesn’t go away overnight and there is a lot to learn from travelling and being exposed to different ideologies and approaches. As long as you don’t forget who you are, as long as you give back in one way or another then it’s all good.
Is there a difference between directing an all-girls cast and a mixed cast?
I really don’t peg it as a gender thing. It’s really a values thing. When we were in high school and we were asked to play boys, we played our idea of what a boy would be. But when I directed, it’s the same din eh. When you direct students, it’s really what their values are and what their needs are. What they want to know and what you’re capable of supplying them skills-wise, emotional support-wise.
It really depends on the person. Somehow, all the gender roles blur onstage.
Yeah, even identity, and humanity. Theater is a concentrated version of life. You can’t put all of life onstage. That would be boring and not stage-worthy. You look at the things that change the life path of that character. If you want real life, live your life. If you want to grasp certain aspects of it then go to the theater.
Even after years of singing in front of people, Armi Millare still finds it challenging to face them offstage. “I was taught to never assume people know me,” she says. But if you’ve seen them live or have been to one of those Terno Inferno gigs, the amount of fans lining up to take selfies with her might say otherwise. On the days she’s not onstage, Armi tries to either get away with pretending to be someone else, blend into a wall, or somewhat dissipate. Being alone is the only way she gets to work. However, performing live is always a different musical experience — for both the audience and the performer — and it’s something that Armi always relishes in. “It’s the element of rawness that gives that moment something no other moment can offer. No moment is ever repeated no matter how much we want it to.” And that’s something a little social awkwardness can never overshadow. — Neal P. Corpus
Tell me about your earliest memory with music.
I was probably much younger hearing Hello Dolly on the radio — the AM radio and my dad would dance to that song with me in the mornings. I remember literally looking up at him so I must be really young.
What was it like when you were starting out?
It was very challenging, but I relished the fact that while I didn’t have the comforts of the life that I got used to, I got to experience something outside of my comfort zone. That was always something worth experiencing. I remember telling my parents that I just wanted to play in a band when they asked me about how I wanted to go about my plans. Besides, it’s not the kind of thing you get to plan because it involves so many people and circumstance wasn’t letting me do more than my just my part.
We also didn’t have the luxury of utilizing the Internet as much as we get to now — in that regard we got lucky having been around at exactly the right time to get acquainted with it as a tool for promotion but it’s good to see how it was when there was barely anything to rely on but word of mouth. Or when people relied on mainstream media and yet we got to weasel through it somehow and still be able to get the word out there.
Who do you look up to in music?
I often find myself looking up to the kind of people/musicians who value their work so much that they take all the time they need. When you write music, it’s a way of telling history and history is written as it happens and it isn’t fabricated or faked, it isn’t at all rushed. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule. However with singing, it’s retelling history in a deliberate fashion.
What’s the most challenging thing about your work?
Facing people onstage is one, but off stage is done with twice the effort. I was taught to never assume people know me. I still think people really know the band as a collective and are oriented with us more, due to the songs and not as personalities -which we prefer anyway. It’s kind of nice that way, but sometimes it works against me.
I often cannot identify with the singer persona when I’m not working so when people see me and ask me if I’m me — but then you can tell how people would be referring to the person they saw on stage just the week before — deep down I’m really hoping I could get away with pretending I’m someone else, or wish I could blend into a wall or just dissipate somewhat. I get a little edgy around people I don’t really know well. Like anything, it takes years of practice and experience to be good at something or to be fluid with anyone unless you are connecting on a kindred level.
What’s the most fulfilling thing about it?
When I find a really deep connection with people, and that happens when they see that it’s about the music and the person singing is just a conduit of the music. I used to be such a perfectionist and would challenge myself from time to time and that’s always gratifying but I realized that when performing live, for all intents and purposes one should give their best as a given but in the advent of making a mistake or two, it’s the element of rawness that gives that moment something no other moment can offer. No moment is ever repeated no matter how much we want it to.
For you, what is the definition of a girl boss?
Someone who has started from the bottom, but can recognize the result of all that work. Someone who still sees her beginnings and goes back to it everyday. It’s the only way for a girl boss to know the values she shouldn’t let go of: humility and hard work. I love hearing success stories from people from how they started out and I love it even more when they don’t see themselves too distant from it.
Director and writer Antoinette Jadaone goes through a lot of heartbreak and they don’t necessarily involve boys. They are an inevitable part of the filmmaking process. She describes the process with two stages, the first being the birthing of ideas in pre-production. The second being compromise. “Part siya ng conceiving, bringing out the film into the world; pag walang heartbreak, ‘di siya full process.” It’s not about heartbreak all the time, though. In her films, Tonette strives to always give the audience “that feeling,” something indescribable and fuzzy that makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time. She’s pretty much achieved that. But getting there and being the #girlboss she is takes knowing what it feels to be on every level of the totem pole. “Ikaw ‘yung captain ng ship, pero alam mo [dapat] ‘yung pakiramdam na hindi ikaw ‘yung captain.” It takes starting out from the bottom — from being a production assistant, to being a script continuity supervisor, to being an actual director — to gain the wisdom to steer the so-called ship, and hey, maybe even mend a broken heart. — NPC
Tell me about your fondest memory with film.
Joyce Bernal is my mentor. When I started in film, she was my first director, tapos ako yung script continuity supervisor. Since college, sobrang idol ko si Direk Joyce, so I found a way to work under her. When I made my full-length film, four or five years after I started working with Direk Joyce, I made this mockumentary Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay. Pinapanood ko kay Direk Joyce. Yung cut na ‘yun, mahaba pa, ‘di pa siya ‘yung final cut. Sobrang hindi ako confident sa film ko kasi, wala, feeling ko ang pangit niya, hindi ko nagawa ng maayos yung script. Si Direk Joyce, sobrang supportive na mentor, in a way na gusto niya mapanood niya, magbibigay siya ng comments. Nung script pa lang, nagbigay na siya ng points. So finally, nung pinalabas ko na sa kanya ‘yung first cut ko, we were on the set of Segunda Mano, ‘yung isang film na ginagawa namin for the Metro Manila Film Festival. In between breaks, pinanood niya ‘yung film ko. Naaalala ko yung moment na parang pagkatapos niyang panoorin yung film — while she was viewing the film, minsan ipa-pause niya, tapos sasabihin niya, “Ba’t ganito? Anong nangyari dito?” tapos, “Ito, dapat wala na ‘tong eksenang to, ‘di kailangan.” “O, itong eksenang to maganda,” ganun. After niya panoorin, nung nag-roll na yung credits, pinause niya yung film, tapos nag-clap siya habang nasa set. “Maganda, Tonette, maganda.” ‘Yung moment na yun, nung nag-clap siya at sinabing maganda yung film ko, kahit na ako mismo napapangitan ako, yun yung moment na sinabi ko na gusto ko ‘tong ginagawa ko. Kahit na puro siya heartbreak while making the film, it’s nice when you make your mentor proud.
Where do you get inspiration for your films?
Usually it starts with an image, or an opening scene, or a title. Pag may image ako, ide-develop ko na lang siya to become a short film or a full-length. Minsan meron akong meet-cute na nasa utak, then it starts from there.
Is it more ideal to be both the writer and director?
Sakin, mas ideal kasi hindi ko pa nata-try na hindi [pareho]. Nandun pa rin ako sa comfort zone ko na writing and directing. Siguro in the future makakaya ko na mag-direct na iba yung nagsulat, pero sa ngayon, in love pa ko dun sa creating — kasi when you write your own film and direct it after, you get to see it [from start to finish]. Although siyempre kasama naman ‘yung director sa conception and production, pero ibang klase ‘yung heartbreak pag nagsusulat ka, and iba rin pagnagdi-direct.
Which part of the process is your favorite?
Editing. Like in writing, favorite ko ‘yung revising. Sa directing, favorite ko ‘yung editing part. Ayoko ko ng set. Hindi ko alam bakit. Feeling ko dapat editor ako, pero hindi ko na-pursue, pero love na love ko siya.
Which one would you say is most grueling?
Sa process, pinakamadugo is ‘yung mismong production stage. Sa pre-production kasi, doon ka nanganganak ng ideas, may script ka, and kung maganda, excited ka. Pero pag nandun ka na sa set, wala na. Sobrang heartbreaking na siya. Kasi, siyempre, hindi naman ‘yung na-envision mo ‘yung mabibigay talaga sa scene.
You mention heartbreak quite a bit. Is that important to the process of making a film?
I think it’s… hindi naman important, pero inevitable. Part siya ng process, ng whole conceiving, bringing out the film into the world. Feeling ko pag walang heartbreak, hindi siya full process. Laging may heartbreak kahit maliliit na bagay lang, kunyari umulan, ganun.
What makes a girl boss?
I think dapat ikaw ‘yung captain ng ship, pero alam mo ‘yung pakiramdam na hindi ikaw ‘yung captain. Kunyari, sakin, I started as a production assistant. Alam ko ‘yung pakiramdam pag pinapagalitan, pag hindi nagagawa nang maganda ‘yung trabaho, ano ‘yung effect n’un sa boss mo, ganong ka-imporante na may feeling of family kayo, you trust each other, you respect each other. Feeling ko, magiging okay ka na boss kung marunong ka maging follower, kung alam mo ‘yung pakiramdam na maging follower. Ayun. Pag na-cultivate mo yung feeling na, “Magkakampi tayo, hindi tayo magkalaban dito,” maayos ‘yung production, maayos ‘yung pelikula. Sa pelikula naman talaga, may direktor lang, pero iisang ship kayo eh. Kumbaga, kung may isang tao lang na gumawa ng hindi tama, magiging pangit ‘yung pag-sail ng ship. Pero director ‘yung nagse-streer ng ship. Pero everyone else — sabi nga nila, “The captain is only as good as his people.”