One of the most sought-after film directors in the country today, Antoinette Jadaone is everywhere. Not only is she most likely behind that romantic teleserye or film you may be watching, but she also writes a column for the broken-hearted in a broadsheet (“Dear Tita Witty” for The Philippine STAR), and is the creative mind behind some planners and notebooks you may have bought (Witty Will Save the World). Quite recently, Antoinette was in the news again for being the director of the new film real-life exes Kris Aquino and Mayor Herbert Bautista will be starring in. With her star on the rise, we were able to ask her for some advice, especially for those in the creative industries. Read on for some of her secrets that got her to where she is today.
Handling Criticism and Negativity
Antoinette shares that she has learned to ignore naysayers. “I’ve learned it’s best to ignore, [especially] if it’s not really a pressing issue. There will [also] be people who will answer for you, like what happened with the blogger,” shes says, referring to an incident where a blogger blamed her for the sudden influx of tourists in Sagada and its subsequent over congestion.
Antoinette actually welcomes criticism of her work. “Always remember: ALL comments are valid,” she says. “To each his own. [Even if harsh.] Hindi natatanggal na nagco-comment ang tao. It’s their P220 [for a movie ticket]. Ang mababago mo is how you react.”
She reads all reviews, good and bad. “Mamumulat ka how people think,” she says. “[For example,] ‘masyadong whiny si Mace [sa That Thing Called Tadhana].’ You just read it. But that kind of opinion matters. ‘May double chin si Angelica.’” Not that Antoinette is a saint; she freely admits that just like the rest of us, she rants to let off steam—usually in the company of her boyfriend, fellow film director Dan Villegas, and her trusted friends.
A Kalog Sense of Humor and Creative Life
Antoinette has the ability to make her audiences laugh until they cry, be it from one of the situations in her movies (remember that scene in You’re My Boss, when Coco Martin ran out of load while he and Toni Gonzaga were texting some lines that almost led to him accidentally confessing his feelings for her?), as well as one of the lines from her writing (“Let go, move on. Si Jennifer Aniston nga naka-move on na kay Brad Pitt, ikaw pa,” from her Dear Tita Witty column). She charges it to her love for pop culture. “Ma-pop culture talaga ako, e,” she says. “Mahilig ako manood ng kung anong nasa pop culture, like TV. Lumaki ako, nagpapatintero, [naglalaro sa labas], kinakausap ko yung mga taga-kanto. As a Paulinian, may makakausap kang mayayaman. So siguro, nung lumaki ako, best of both worlds.”
She mentions the importance of being observant. Her days as a student at UP also contributed to this, since she was able to meet people from all over the country from various socio-economic backgrounds. She also says that the creativity of the people in film have also helped in honing her humor and creativity. “’Yun yung okay, kasi nung nagtrabaho ako sa pelikula, all walks of life talaga yung makakatrabaho mo,” she says. “May crew, may taga-Tondo, may mayaman kang artista, may middle class kang PA. So yung interactions mo sa kanila, madadagdagan ng madadagdagan yung knowledge mo, pati humor. Kasi may iba’t-ibang humor yung mga tao, e. Tapos dahil doon, mas maraming nakaka-relate dun sa humor.”
Idols and Influencers
Antoinette also credits Director Joyce Bernal as one of her greatest influences, especially when it comes to humor. “Tapos siguro big factor talaga na nakatrabaho ko si Direk Joyce, because she’s really one of the funniest people I know,” says Antoinette. She explains that the veteran director never runs out of punchlines when you talk to her. “Sa English Only, Please, yung [phrase na] ‘bakla ka,’ si Direk Joyce ‘yun ‘e. Yung mga ‘wag kang pupunta sa kanto namin,’ kay Direk Joyce ‘yun, e. Na-hulma niya talaga yung humor ko, ‘e. Kasi when you work with people who are smart and witty and funny, naaambunan ka nila ng humor nila, ng wit nila. Kapag kausap mo siya, dapat mabilis kang bumato. May banter dapat, na hindi mo namamalayan. So na-pa-practice mo yung humor mo.”
She also greatly admires late director Ishmael Bernal and loves his classic works and sense of humor. “Mas Ishmael Bernal ako kaysa Lino Brocka, kasi sobrang in-a-admire ko yung humor niya,” she says. “I think yung humor nina Joyce Bernal at Ishmael Bernal, magkapareho. Ang okay kay Ishmael Bernal, nalalagyan niya ng humor yung social commentary. Nakakatawa yung pelikula niya, pero ‘di mo alam, ginagamit niya yung humor para maiparating yung social commentary. Hindi siya in your face na social commentary. Lino Brocka kasi, in your face, e. I-p-present yung issue talaga, tyaka violent. Pero kay Ishmael Bernal—mag-e-enjoy ka sa film, pero after mo tumawa, mapapaisip ka din sa social commentary na gusto niya ibigay.”
On Making Impact as a Writer and Creative Person
Antoinette has always been a writer; she was even on the editorial team for her high school newspaper. And she has never stopped. She explains how social media has actually helped in her creative process, unlike the usual notion that this is a huge time-waster. “Kahit in-between work, I always write. Merong blog. Side scripts, ganyan. So nakatulong yung Twitter. Nakatulong yung FB, yung Instagram. Kaya ako, mapost ako sa social media not so much para mag-share ng share, but because it also practices me. Kaya ‘pag ‘may mga talk ako, I say na it’s good that you post. But when you post, you post with a story. With a purpose. So ayan, mag-pose ka ng senti pero dapat meron kang insight. It’s an instant checker kung gaano ba ka-patok yung sinulat mo. More on reactions than likes, because it’s easy to like. Yung reaction, ‘yun yung audience participation.”
The young filmmaker says that being the admin of their business’ Facebook page has also helped. “So kung magpo-post ako dun, tapos maraming shares, alam ko, patok yung nasulat ko,” she explains. “Doon ko nage-gets na, ah eto, hindi siya patok, hindi siya nakakatawa, I won’t use this.”
A quirky thing that this writer-director does to measure audience impact is that she actually watches her movies when they get shown in theaters so that she would know the audiences’ authentic reactions for herself. “Kailangan,” she says. “Kasi makikita mo talaga na merong parts na dapat funny pero ‘di natawa yung Megamall crowd, pero natawa yung Rockwell crowd. Kailangan mong i-compare. Tapos uupo ka sa tabi talaga nila kasi dun mo maririnig yung mga reactions na very true, like makikita mo kung magte-text ba sila. All comments are valid, ‘e. Kasi ibigsabihin, mas importante pa yung itsura, kesa dun sa eksena. So next time, kapag nagdi-direct ka nung ganung klaseng eksena, titingnan mo kung nagma-matter ba na mataba yung artista mo. Baka kasi sobrang nakatingin na sila dun sa itsura. In that way also, if you compare one sequence na nag-react yung Megamall crowd, or SM North crowd, tapos sa Ayala, or Glorietta crowd, anong mga eksena yung all cinemas, natawa sila? Ibigsabihin, yung humor na ‘yun, ito yung hindi namimili ng purchasing power. Hindi namimili ng antas. Kasi nakakatawa siya [for all]. Feeling ko, kailangan mong intindihin yun, yung across the board [humor] na natawa sila. Dapat meron kang balance—na pl-please mo yung SM crowd, pero na p-please mo din yung Ayala crowd.” Antoinette said that if she doesn’t do the watching herself, her friends at times “report” to her which scenes from her movies the audience loved the most.
When it comes to writing her films, Antoinette said that her personal experiences have helped her write her plots. Experiences of other people have helped, too. “[Based on] observation siya talaga,” she says.
She says other people have also helped her flesh out her characters. “Most of my characters talk the same,” she says. “Halos lahat ng characters, ikaw nagsasalita, kasi ikaw yung nagsulat. ‘Yun yung iniiwasan ko. So what I do, kapag nakatapos ako ng script, pinapabasa ko siya sa ibang tao.”
She also tries to make her plots as realistic as possible, but has her frustrations. “Yes, pero ‘yun yung frustration ko, watching rom-coms in general,” she says. “Parang they don’t act like real people. Pero ‘yun naman yung gusto ng ibang director, pero ako personally, gusto ko nakaka-relate ako sa character.”
Antoinette shares that when it comes to her actors, they have to be able to carry out the scene as well as the character. “Dapat kaya niya yung eksena,” she said. “Kaya niya yung character. Nagkataon lang na sobrang big star si Angelica [sa That Thing Called Tadhana]. Plus point na lang ‘yun; icing on the cake na lang ‘yun. Box-office hatak.”
Since she is doing mainstream, she is also more conscious of what messages she puts in her films, since it reaches a wider audience. “’Yun lang yung advantage tyaka disadvantage ng mainstream, is that it reaches more people. So whatever you do, it reaches a lot of people. So you have that power. So kunwari, sa You’re My Boss, you have that power to feature that part of Batanes, and not this part of Batanes. You have that power to show yung nagpapa-load, which happens in real life. Mas may power ka maka-reach ng mas madaming tao, so yung message ng pelikula mo, dapat mindful ka.”
An Unabashed Romantic
Antoinette admitted that she is a romantic at heart. She chose to work on the genre because it was what appealed to her as a viewer. “Personality ko talaga siya,” she says. “Tyaka [‘yun] yung mga gusto kong movies—‘di ako mahilig sa drama. Okay lang yung comedy, pero yung mas romantic.”
Her favorite rom-coms include Don’t Give Up On Us by Joyce Bernal, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Up in the Air, and One More Chance. Others include Only You, When Harry Met Sally, and While You Were Sleeping. Antoinette also said that she doesn’t really read chick lit.
She also really uses rom-com tropes, such as the meet-cute of Mace and Anthony in the airport in Tadhana. Her treatment though is far from the usual rom com. “It’s quiet, simple, nothing sweeping,” she says. There is less use of sweeping shots for example in You’re My Boss. “How can I tell this story in the most simple way, but with most emotions?” she said. “Minimal effort, maximum impact. Know when to indulge, [know when to] go for simplicity. Sometimes, the simpler the better.”
Want to learn more about this funny and inspiring director? Follow Antoinette at @tonetjadaone on Twitter and @tonet_jadaone on Instagram. You should also read our full feature on this director, her work, and more.