Stage actors angry, offended by comments from indie director on "paying them in catfood and they never complain"
(SPOT.ph) Independent film director Rafa Santos earned the ire of theater folk after making a questionable comment about theater actors on the ANC show Cityscape last week, reports ABS-CBN News and PEP.ph.
When Cityscape host Lexi Schulze asked why the Samarito director preferred to employ stage actors in his films, a straight-faced Santos answered: "Because they don’t complain. You can feed them Skyflakes three meals a day or pay them in cat food. They’re never late and they cry when you want them to cry."
Tempers flared after the video was posted all over social media websites yesterday, June 28. In his Twitter account, Santos wrote, "Let’s be clear. I said ’theater people don’t complain. They aren’t in it for the money and they are exceptional actors’ in bad joke form." Almost immediately, he tweeted again, "My sense of humor may be terrible but at least it exists. I have nothing but respect for theater." In his letter of apology (below) e-mailed to actress Frances Makil Ignacio, Santos wrote, "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."
In an interview with SPOT.ph, theater actor Joel Trinidad, however, said, "It was meant to be a joke but it doesn’t matter. You say something and there are consequences, especially in a public forum." Trinidad, who is not part of Samarito, posted an open letter (below) addressed to the Cinemalaya board on Facebook, calling for Santos to be sanctioned. "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 removed his film from your festival," Trinidad wrote.
"Obviously he was aiming for the funny-subversive bit. But that takes wit, and what came out didn’t have it. It was all the more insensitive because, let’s face it, theater actors already get the raw end of the bargain, from pittance pay to general non-recognition despite many of them being able to wipe the floor with and run rings around the mainstream stars and starlets (and directors, indie or otherwise) they work with," said theater critic Gibbs Cadiz.
Meanwhile, other theater folk took to Twitter and Facebook to vent out their frustrations. Twitter user "jaketor" posted: "As a catlover, I am offended with the statement of Rafael "Rafa" Santos... buti na lang di ako theater actor kundi nakapatay na ako ng tao (thankfully, that I’m not a theater actor otherwise I might have killed people)." On Facebook, international theater actor Jake Macapagal said, "Mister Cat Food! Your attempt to compliment is a complete failure. Please refrain from verbal diarrhea. This kind of press is what we do not need in our lives."
World-renowned theater actress and singer Lea Salonga also posted in her two cents' worth on the Theater Actors' Guild Facebook Page. But while she agrees that Santos’ remarks were insulting, Salonga said pulling Samarito from Cinemalaya is not the solution. "Clamor for a public apology to the community of actors that he’s inadvertently offended is a good idea, but please, no collateral damage-to boycott his movie is to also boycott the actors that put their hearts and souls into the film they worked on." She also suggested watching the film not for its director but for its actors. "We may not like this Rafa Santos fellow, but the actors in his movie deserve the kudos for their hard work, professionalism, character study and understanding, and for willingly wearing their hearts on their sleeves in order to tell a story, and tell it well."
Rafa Santos’ interview with Lexi Schulze in ANC’s Cityscape
Here is Joel Trinidad’s open letter to the Cinemalaya Board:
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 Sky Flakes 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 removed his film from your festival.
Thank you very much.
Here is Rafa Santos’ e-mail of apology sent to actresss Frances Makil Ignacio, as posted on the Philippine Theater Actors Guild Facebook page:
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.