on being “highbrow”

As I’m wrapping the sixth draft of the screenplay I’m working on now, I’ve come to the realization that I have a hell of a lot to learn when it comes to writing a mainstream narrative. The ins-and-outs of commercial films are not in my creative arsenal. I can appreciate it. Hell. I love a lot of mainstream, commercial productions. I’ve just come to realize that it’s not my forte.

And that’s okay.

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photo by Jake Versoza

Maybe in the future, when I’ve lived abroad for a bit and have some real life experiences out there, I can write mainstream films for Hollywood and I’d do okay. But there’s a sensibility that I lack when it comes to Filipino mainstream films. I surround myself with a lot of Western influences and I’m expanding it slowly to include more European and other Asian cultures that is bringing me further away from grassroots Philippine sensibilities.

I’m too highbrow, as I am told too often. It’s the feedback I always get from people with regards to my work.

And that’s okay.

Know your strengths and know your weaknesses. Know the style and the method that you are good in and work on that. Understand that which you lack and, if you want to pursue it, pull up your shirt sleeves and get your hands dirty. Immerse and learn.

But I’ve always resisted feeling like an outsider and it’s not a comfortable or enjoyable feeling for me. So, for now, I’ll finish this script and pull back and focus on what I’m good at.

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Embrace the Strange (Photo by Jake Versoza)

When I get more mature, I’ll sink my teeth into that world that is so different from my own.

So, I’m going to take a long break from big projects and just write personal projects and work on genre films, which I love and which I feel like I can handle better. It’s what people expect from me and it’s what people want to get from me, I think. I got very good feedback on the way that I structured and wrote T’yanak. A critic had said that I the film was fully committed to its strangeness and yet managed to navigate the reality of that world.

If I will be considered high-brow in my own country, then so be it. Embrace it and amplify it. There’s still so much time and the Filipino audience is growing and getting more and more sophisticated that concepts like highbrow art and art for mass appeal might not even hold credence anymore.

That would be such a wonderful thing.

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