Renowrites blog!

Author of YA novel "Enlightenment" available March 2019!

Filipino TV Writers

This article in the Philippine Inquirer written by Filipino Hollywood insider, Ruben V. Nepales, has me hopeful representation is churning in Hollywood.

As I tell anyone who will listen, we need more stories about us. Actors need roles of the people who look like them.

More stories. More jobs in television and film.

Today I’m hopeful…

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Filed under: Writing

The Crossroads

I caught an actor acquaintance’s online post about possibly moving out of California. It made me reminisce about my crossroads when I decided to leave my entertainment jobs (of course I had to have multiple gigs to make ends meet) for a stable career.

My crossroads came in the year 2000, when I got married with a baby on the way! And why do I hear Conan O’Brien in the background in the “In The Year 2000” bit?

Anyway…

In 1997, I moved from my home state of Michigan and deferred on a job offer from a firm in New York City. The job paid peanuts, but it had a starting salary enough to pay rent in a studio, provided benefits and damn it…I would live in New York City!

But I chose another opportunity on the West Coast.

From 1997 to 2000, I worked at Classified Records, an independent label out of the San Francisco Bay Area that released music by recording artists of various genres. I also deejayed in the Bay Area nightclub scene and auditioned for bit roles between SF and LA.

I had an intense connection with Classified pushing Filipino American talent, as the majority of the roster shared my Filipino ethnicity. Jocelyn Enriquez. Pinay. Julie Plug. Drop n Harmony. Officially, my job title entailed working retail and radio promotions. Off the record, I was the sometimes soundman for artist performances. I dropped off CDs (yes CDs) to retail stores around the Bay. I represented the label at various Filipino American events nationwide. Even more Filipino talent came out of the woodwork. Kai. One Vo1ce. Premiere. Devotion. Simple. Do any of these groups sound familiar to anyone now (they better LOL!).

I threw myself into work with 16 hour days, leaving the office only for label events, deejaying gigs or auditions (no one knew I auditioned because I didn’t land any roles, but I loved auditioning)!

I made just enough to pay Bay Area rent. Everything else I charged on my credit cards. As in everything. Gas. Food (but not groceries, because I ate out almost every day).  I even had a car loan for this awesome Geo Tracker that didn’t have air-conditioning or power steering. I had to roll my windows down manually!

I had chased a dream of bringing Filipino talent to the forefront of American consciousness. For this dream, I sacrificed financial stability. I was digging myself into major debt. My earning potential with my B.A. degree was 3x-4x the amount I earned in entertainment. By the year 2000 (Conan O’Brien reference again anyone?), I had a lot of financial making up to do.

2000 was a major pivot year for me – a crossroads. Do I keep pursuing my dream full-time? Or start a new career in a stable field? I agonized over this. Day and night. I was a failure if I chose stability. So I went down the middle.

But when we knew we would be parents, I made a commitment not to fail in providing for my family. So I got a full-time job and started an online store and record label of my own called Rhythm Drive Records. We hit some Bay Area notoriety with Malyssa and Alvendia. These side-hustles weren’t sustainable however.

As I settled into life outside the entertainment industry, some pretty amazing things happened. As in American Idol. Reality TV and social media!

Talent of all walks of life received exposure, and this included Filipino American talent. Artists like Jasmine Trias. Camille. Thia Megia. Jessica Sanchez. Sway Penala (from Sixth Day and Drop n Harmony). Then the Jabbawockeez became American icons! Then Vanessa Hudgens became an overnight star in Disney’s High School Musical series! Then Melissa De la Cruz became a star author! Comedians like Rex Navarrete, Joey Guila and JoKoy! Black Eyed Peas I Gotta Feeling! Bruno Mars! More recently, Angelica Hale! WHAT!

In my world, it was OMG! The dream I was chasing was happening in front of my eyes! What was this dream? Let me italicize it again for dramatic impact. I had chased a dream of bringing Filipino talent to the forefront of American consciousness.

By 2006, I started auditioning again. I flew to Utah for a high school musical audition (yeah, I didn’t get it, but I had so much fun). I auditioned for roles in the Bay Area acting scene. I even got signed to a talent agency. I landed auditions, my most memorable playing a chef in an ESL series (This…is…how…you…cut…to…may…toes).

The dream that drove me in entertainment became a reality! But disappointments persisted. Where aren’t there more Filipino American stories? Besides the Debut and Lumpia, why weren’t there any Filipino American movies? So I made a commitment to write.

And write.

And write.

And write.

And throughout these 18 years, I have written stories that the general public hasn’t been exposed to. But I keep writing.

I realize that failure is a perception people have of others. It is not how I should perceive myself. I say “should” because I have days of doubt, no doubt (two doubts for comedic relief). These days are the toughest, but will be the days I remember if the masses approve of my art. I think back to my crossroads. the day I thought I left the industry is the day it really all began.

Today, I stand stronger. Filipino Americans are out there in the arts. Singers. Actors. Broadway.

Now I invite Fil-Ams to tell their stories, and not just through Facebook posts or Instagram stories! Get your stories published. Stories that can stand the test of time.

“Enlightenment”, the first novel in the Bathala Proverbs, is available Filipino American month. It’s a story I can’t hold back any longer. It’s time for this story to be heard.

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Filed under: Filipino American, Writing, , ,