Elizabeth Gilbert talked about the concept of “shit sandwiches”, which are basically the not so awesome things you have to do to get to your goals. This is where the phrase “you gotta eat your shit sandwich” stems from, a phrase my sisters and I usually tell each other when we’re feeling demotivated.
I took up a scriptwriting elective this semester because I realized, after all the zigzag in my life, that I wanted to be first and foremost, a storyteller. Akira Kurosawa even said in one of his interviews that if one really wanted to become a director, one should start being a scriptwriter first. That has been my motivation for quite some time.
Being subjected to criticism is nothing new to anyone in the arts. We’ve had our short films, our photographs, and our concepts scrutinized, even crushed by professors and peers. I’d like to think that I take these criticisms quite well. In fact I appreciate the comments that I get from my professor because I can see what he’s looking for and what I’m lacking in structure, in flow, and in the meat of the story.
But there’s one thing that’s been bothering me throughout the weeks, it was the comment “masyadong burgis, hindi ako maka-relate” (it’s too bourgeouise, I cannot relate.)
It’s a feedback a classmate of mine also received from a different course. In fact in the same course I also got the comment: “It’s not independent cinema enough.” (but what is indie? is it not possible to put forth a progressive material within a mainstream framework?)
I do understand where these professors are coming from. I am aware of the struggles that our people face. And as the bourgeoise class studying in a state university- we’re expected to give a voice to those who are oppressed. But it also felt like how one would feel if you were to make a film about a middle class family, show it to a first world audience and the first world would wag its fingers and say “your country is poor, why are you making films about the middle class.”
While I may come from a more privileged background, does that mean that my stories are not valid? Should they not exist? Why are we denying the existence of the middle class?
I remember watching Babae sa Septic Tank (2011) at the Vancouver International Film Festival and how the director, Marlon Rivera answered that the reason they came up with the film was because when they were showing 100 (2008) in festivals around the globe, a lot of international viewers were reacting as if the only stories that could come from the Philippines should be poverty stories. I think that’s dangerous and Chimamanda Andichie says it most eloquently:
“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story. Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. ”
Are the middle class’ struggle trivial just because they are in a much better position than those below them? Funnily enough I’m reminded of Kathryn Bernardo’s line in Barcelona, “I may not have a typical OFW story but I have a story to tell.” Boompak! Kathryn nailed that one btw. To be honest, I’ve always been frustrated by the lack of diversity in our OFW films. There’s a population of us that aren’t exactly working in the medical field or didn’t exactly grow up impoverished (which is why I actually like Barcelona: A Love Untold, because it presented the OFW community very well). It has its lapses, like cliche lines and some ill-placed drama but this mainstream film (something that most of those in film school would scoff at) is actually one of the OFW films that managed to tell multiple stories. It actually broke stereotypes in a way that some “indie” films never had.
I credit my scriptwriting class because I was able to dissect Barcelona’s screenplay and pinpoint parts of the story that could have made it stronger. Still, I felt a little bad the past few weeks. I did take the class because I wanted to learn how to write but I feel like there is a disconnect somewhere. We’re just not on the same page (get the pun, ok not.) I wished it didn’t have a grade equivalent or forced dropping because I want to continually learn how to write. It’s sad how my idealism for film school kind of went down the drain. I’m back in film school because I plan on creating stories that aren’t out there yet. The thing is I’ve been bumping into this kind of roadblock in University. The place I least expected to hinder my goals. If this was a relationship I’d say, it’s not working for us. But all I have to do is survive. Ok i’ll do what you guys want, make “non-burgis, indie film” kind of stories, i’ll bend but not break, get at least a minimum of 3.0 grade if only for the diploma. I’ll just eat this shit sandwich.
Like my momma said:
“Be bamboo-like bend when you need to but spring right back. Compromise without losing your essence.”
To many more shit sandwiches in the future!