Of theater actors and catfood

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I opened my Facebook this morning to a barrage of shout-outs about theater actors wanting to eat Skyflakes (a brand of crackers) and cat food! Whaaat?

Upon further investigation, apparently, during a TV interview on the show "Cityscape" on cable-channel ANC, "two Cinemalaya directors were asked why they got theater actors for their films. One said it was because he needed to work with actors who understood the concept of emsemble and character. The other one's reply: Because they don't complain. they're never late. You can feed them skyflakes three times a day or catfood for meals and they cry when you want them to cry."

A clip of the segment can be found here:

or here:

The person who made the statement is Rafael "Rafa" Santos.  His statement did not sit well with the theater community, spurring shout outs in Facebook such as:

is a proud actor for the stage, film & TV. You can pay me simply with compliments or adulation, but never insult my craft by offering me cat food. If you're also proud of your craft, post this status on your wall.

and at least one open letter calling for the removal of Santos's entry to Cinemalaya:

on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 at 5:53pm

Independent filmmaker Rafa Santos needs to be taught a lesson. Not a lesson in filmmaking, as he is obviously competent enough to have been included in this year’s Cinemalaya. Not a lesson in thrift, as he is apparently frugal enough to have produced his film without major backing. Not a lesson in public speaking, as he can definitely hold his own in interviews about the film in question. No, what this man needs is a lesson in gratitude. (He would also do well to acquire some class.)

In a televised interview on ANC this morning, Mr. Santos said he preferred using theater actors in his films, because “you can feed them Skyflakes three meals a day and pay them in cat food.”

Congratulations, Mr. Santos. You have succeeded in alienating the very actors that have helped you to make your film so cheaply. No theater performer who has heard your egregious statements will ever work with you now. (Apparently, you lack not just gratitude, but also intelligence.)

Mr. Santos doubtless meant his remarks as a joke, but that does not excuse him from having made them. He is insensitive, mean-spirited, and divisive—qualities that do not become the artistic institution that Cinemalaya has become. We would appreciate it if you would remove his film from your festival.

Thank you very much.

Sincerely yours,
Joel Trinidad
Upstart Productions

While majority of the reactions were against Santos, a few (one or two that I saw while trawling many, many shout-outs and comments) appealed for context:

(Sorry, name of the poster withheld as I don't have permission from the person who posted this ... yet.)
noong una kong nabasa, positive ang naisip ko, hindi nega. Na gusto ng direktor ng theater actors dahil walang arte, at hindi demanding, pero nagdedeliver. Hyperbole lang yung Skyflakes at catfood to stress the point. Yun ang dating sa akin ha, na professional ang theater actors kaya niya gusto.

These comments erupted last night.

An apology letter from Santos was posted earlier today (June 29, 2011 Wednesday) in Facebook:

Apology Letter of Rafa Santos
Posted Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 5:23am

Eto po ang Letter ni Rafa thru Cinemalaya Directors Egroup.
(Rafa is a director of the movie SAMARITO na part ng Cinemalaya this year. He made remarks in a TV interview kaya nabulabog ang theater people sa FB at Tweeter)

Auraeus Solito

Rafa Santos, Letter of Apology
Just received this email from Rafa Santos
through the Cinemalaya Directors group email-

Dear All,

My name is rafa santos. I recently taped an interview for an ANC show that, as you may have heard, went about as terrible as it could have gone for me. I made an unfortunate joke about what it is like to work with theater actors; a remark which offended countless artists the industry over. I do not defend this comment in any way. Even in the context of poor, ill-advised humor, my statement made light of an art that many among us hold dear and sacred.

Misguided comedy aside, what I meant to infer was that theater actors, in my estimation, are the pinnacle of the thespian craft. They do not put on airs or show up late or complain about the quality of the food or condition of the set and come in day after day after day for little to no money all for their love of acting and performance. It is the work that they feed on: the opportunity to bring life to a nebulous character on an inanimate page.

It was never my intention to look down on or demean stage actors in any shape or form. Some of my best experiences as a director are derived from the pleasure of working with theater people; to be able to feel the dedication and devotion they possess towards their art and to somehow allow that same commitment to diffuse into myself. 

One of my dearest friends, my neighbor and actress in my movie, Bea  Garcia, is herself a shining example of the passion of which i speak.  It pains me to know I've hurt her so deeply in assaulting the craft  that she loves so much.It is with a clear mind and heavy heart that I extend my heartfelt apology. I have offended any of you, I am sorry. If I've offended; anyone you love, I take the blame. If any of you feel sorry for me;please don't. I built my own coffin of words and nailed it shut with insolence.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I don't expect to be forgiven, but I do hope my family is treated kindly.

rafa santos

I do not mean to make light of this obviously sensitive situation, but I guess that's why they say be careful what you say, you may get foot-in-mouth disease and may have to eat not just humble pie, but also swallow your pride chicken later on ... kekeke.

A few hours later, this letter was posted by award-winning playwright Rodolfo "Rody" Vera in his Facebook account:

At the Virgin Labfest, we DON'T serve catfood.
by Rodolfo Vera on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 7:33am

At the Virgin Labfest, we don't serve catfood! Our writers sometimes bring pizza, krispy kreme, spaghetti, kfc. At kung minsan naman, potluck! Masaya! At kung skyflakes man ang pakain, siguradong may chiz whiz, nutella, o kung minsan, sosyal na mga palaman, o diba?

PERO kung minsan may nagba-back-out din na artista dahil may sumulot na trabaho sa pelikula o TV. Yun, hindi masaya. Kasi nabubulabog ang buong produksyon. Yun, medyo nakakainis kasi nare-realize mo, may ilan din palang artistang mas madaling masilaw ng salapi o katanyagan at handang ipagpalit ang teatro. Hindi man natin sila masisi, pero sana, humindi na lang noon pa.

Pero dahil mas maraming theater actors na nagmamahal sa entablado, nairaraos din. Kung hindi mapalitan ng writer o director ang script, nakakahanap pa rin ng iba, kahit ilang araw na lang, palabas na.


Watch the VIRGIN LABFEST 7 from June 29 to July 10 and see what PINOY theater actors can really do! Watch them all-- in order of appearance: Cris Pasturan, Angelina Kanapi, Cai Cortez, Jelson Bay, Bembol Roco, Missy Maramara, Paul Jake Paule,  Che Ramos, Ian Bautista, Roeder CamaƱag, Lao Rodriguez, Olive Nieto, Chromewell Cosio, Kathlyn Castillo, Acey Aguilar, Yong Tapang, Roli Inocencio, Skyzx Labastilla, Russel Legaspi, Irene Delarmente, Joel Saracho, Paolo O'Hara, Adrienne Vergara, Bong Cabrera, Ness Roque, Regina de Vera, Jerry O'Hara, Peewee O'Hara, Tess Jamias, Marco Viana, Ana abad Satnos, Frances Makil Ignacio, Jonathan Tadioan, Mary Jane Alejo, Katte Sabata, Chic San Agustin, Leo Rialp, Kiki Baento, Mark Jones Simbit, Vera Capiral, Bham Sumooc, Eva Madera, Giovanni Cadag, Floid Zulueta, Biboy Ramirez, Siegfried Sepulveda, Mayen Estanero, Richard Cunanan, Via Antonio, Noel Escondo, Joel Parcon, Frankia Pascua, Abner Delina, Ian Lomongo, at marami pang iba!!! Take a bow, guys!

Here is the link to: Of theater actors and catfood -- Part 2

What do you think of this situation? Share your comments.


jpams said...

i believe rafa meant no harm with his statement. when i watched his interview, i knew he was just joking. but he should have just explained what he really meant, and not used inferences. you can never expect others to be in the same wavelength.

filmmaker said...

He might make an excuse that he was taken out of context, But as filmmakers we should be responsible for what we say.

What matters now is he made an apology.

Anonymous said...

i believe that rafa meant no harm. he's just making a point that theater actors are not maarte, and that they deliver more than how much they are compensated. masyado lang na-hype yung statement and was taken out of context. it is in my opinion also that the cause of this outburst is much deeper- that theater actors and its prod staff should now rethink about how much they should be paid and treated for the value of work they put in. minsan kasi okay na ang 'for art's sake' e (as it is in other medium), kahit mababa ang tf basta maganda ang project, kaya you can't really help to get those kind of remarks. oh, well, let this just be a wake-up call not just to theater actors but to all artists, as well, that TF means Talent Fee and the fees should justly compensate their talent regardless the production has big or low budget.

Rogelio Braga said...

Hindi ko mahanap ang pinakatamang salita nang mabasa ko ang artikulong ito. Bastos at walang modo ang lalaking ito, Rafael Santos, tila masyadong masikip ang mga tanghalan ng Cultural Center of the Philippines sa laki ng kanyang kamangmangan. Sa Pasil o sa mga malalawak na taniman ng tubo sa Negros ang pinakatamang benyu ng kanyang mga perspektibo.

Anonymous said...

I, too, believe that he meant no harm. The problem lies in how he said it. He was trying to be funny because he seemed really nervous. He even smiled a little after saying the cat food joke.

Perhaps this shows how some people can truly underestimate the passion given by Filipino thespians to their craft.