It was the first week of the year and we were sitting in a restaurant in Podium, just steps away from the mall’s cinemas, waiting for Antoinette Jadaone.
The location was apt. After all, this talented writer-director has been giving us reason after reason to go to movie theaters.
At the next table, a woman discussed her relationship troubles with a friend. “Ang tanga-tanga ko,” she said. It could have been a scene out of an Antoinette Jadaone film.
In some ways, you can say that Antoinette was destined to be a filmmaker.
“Mahilig talaga ako manood ng sine. ’Yung family namin, mahilig sa showbiz, sa artista. ’Yung mga ‘That’s Entertainment’ santacruzan, pinupuntahan namin, ’yung ‘Eye to Eye,’ ‘Showbiz Linggo,’ pinapanood namin ’yan,” she said.
As early as grade school, Antoinette found herself behind the camera, shooting home videos with her aunt’s Hi8 recorder.
While studying in the University of the Philippines, where she switched majors from Broadcast Communications to Film, she made her first movie—“Plano,” a short film about a little girl and her paper airplane that’s under three minutes long. She cast a neighborhood kid in the film.
Antoinette says that she knew as early as college that what she really wanted was to be a filmmaker: “’Yun talaga gusto ko, mag-direct ng romantic comedy for Star Cinema.”
But people don’t just jump from the classroom and straight onto the set of a blockbuster film. “Mahirap makakuha ng trabaho after college. Malapit na talaga ako mag-call center pero sabi nung orgmate ko may itatayo na production house for commercials,” Antoinette recalled.
Abracadabra hired her and she was soon given the chance to film her own commercial. “Super pangit, super pangit niya, as in,” Antoinette said, cringing. And while there was good money in advertising, she couldn’t deny that her real love was film. “Sobrang idol ko si Direk Joyce (Bernal),” Antoinette says.
She made it her mission to meet the director, telling her org at the university that if they needed a speaker for their workshop, she’d take care of contacting Joyce, even if she had already graduated. “Gusto ko lang ng excuse na ma-contact siya. Mabait naman siya. Nakuha ko siya and si Mae Cruz for the workshop. Sabi ko, ‘Direk Joyce, kapag may bakante ka na slot for PA (production assistant) or intern, kunin mo ako kasi gusto ko.”
To her surprise, Joyce did call, telling her she needed a script continuity supervisor. Antoinette immediately quit her job.
That film didn’t pan out but Antoinette stuck with Joyce. “Sumasama-sama ako sa mga TV tapings niya.”
Months later, Joyce gave Antoinette her first break—as a script continuity supervisor in “Paano Kita Iibigin,” a Star Cinema film starring Piolo Pascual andRegineVelasquez. “Sobrang masayang experience siya. Sobrang starstruck ako. Ganun pala ’yung pelikula. Mahirap pero sobrang happy.”
On her first premiere night, Antoinette was so excited to see her name in the credits that she took a picture.
But because work was irregular, on the side, she would find raket, editing videos of ballet recitals and birthday parties and, at one point, working for The Picture Company.
Joyce continued to be Antoinette’s filmmaking fairy godmother, inviting her to work on TV shows “Marimar” and “Dyesebel” and the KC Concepcion-Richard Gutierrez film “For The First Time.” “We shot in Greece. Ang script con hindi naman talaga sumasama sa out of the country shoots pero si Direk Joyce sinama niya ako. Sobrang bait niya. Sinagot niya ’yung kalahati ng plane fare ko.”
Because their team was small, Antoinette doubled as script continuity supervisor and production assistant, even applying KC’s character’s scar.
Her first full-length film, one that she can actually call her own and which she wrote and directed, is “Six Degrees of Separation From Lilia Cuntapay,” a bittersweet mockumentary about the veteran “extra.” “’Pag script con ka assigned ka talaga sa talents, sa extras, so ’yung nasa Six Degrees, yun talaga ’yung makikita mo ’pag nasa set ka. Firsthand experience talaga siya.”
The film was lauded by critics, and won six awards at the 2011 Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival, including a best actress nod for Lilia. “Six Degrees” also made the rounds in film festivals abroad.
It was a beautiful film, one that made us laugh and cry, and one that cemented our respect for Antoinette the filmmaker.
Soon after, she worked as co-writer on “Ekstra,” sharing the credit with Jeffrey Jeturian, who directed the film, and Zig Madamba Dulay. “Hindi ko alam kay Direk Jeff, hindi talaga ako writer doon eh, dinagdag lang ako sa gitna.Kailangan nila ng humor.”
Although directing was the dream, writing screenplays came naturally to Antoinette. She has been writing all her life—for her school paper, for Junior Inquirer, on her blog, and she’s had a number of pieces published in Inquirer’s Youngblood section (one of which was included in the fourth Youngblood book). She’s a brilliant writer, one who can come up with one-liners that leap from the movie screen and into people’s lives. (We cannot count the number of times friends and colleagues have used the line “Traffic sa Edsa” on us, quoting Jennylyn Mercado’s character Tere Madlansacay after watching “English Only, Please.”)
“Six Degrees” and “English Only, Please” won awards for best screenplay. “That Thing Called Tadhana” won third place in the 2014 Palanca Awards.
2014 was a huge year Antoinette. Four of her films hit the big screen: “Relaks, It’s Just Pag-Ibig” which she co-wrote and co-directed with Irene Villamor; “Beauty In A Bottle” which she wrote based on a story by Chris Martinez and directed; “English Only, Please,” the Metro Manila Film Festival entry that she co-wrote with Anjeli Pessumal; and the film that’s closest to her heart, “That Thing Called Tadhana,” the dream project she wrote and directed (it won awards at last year’s Cinema One Originals).
“English Only, Please” was a huge hit, raking in almost all the awards at the Metro Manila Film Festival. “Nagulat kami, as in. ’Di namin in-expect. Ako gusto ko lang manalo si Jennylyn na best actress and si Dan na director.” The film got those awards and more and people are clamoring for a sequel. There will be one.
It was Antoinette’s idea to write a rom-com for the festival. “Pag nag-uusap kami ni Atty. Joji (Alonso) lagi niyang sinasabi gusto niya mag-Metro Manila Film Festival. Sabi ko, sige, sali tayo pero feeling ko dapat romantic comedy kasi dapat ikaw yung alternate viewing.”
It’s obvious that Antoinette is a big fan of romantic comedies. “Siya ’yung favorite genre ko. Favorite ko ’yung ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding,’ ‘Don’t Give Up On Us,’ ‘One More Chance.’”
It was also rom-com that led to Antoinette’s real-life romance with “English Only, Please” director Dan Villegas. “Kilala ko siya sa pangalan, sikat siyang DOP (director of photography). Nag-meet kami sa set ng “Bakit Hindi Ka Crush ng Crush Mo?” Nag-stop ’yung shooting namin, raket-raket lang kami tapos nung nag-resume ’yung shooting, kami na.”
She and Dan have formed a dream team, having worked together on “Relaks, It’s Just Pag-Ibig,” “Beauty In A Bottle,” “English Only, Please” and “That Thing Called Tadhana.” Thanks to Star Cinema, “That Thing Called Tadhana,” her film starring Angelica Panganiban and JM De Guzman, will finally get the nationwide release that it deserves on Feb. 4.
It’s the story of Mace, a heartbroken girl who meets a guy in an airport in Rome. “Magaan siya, every shooting day, kahit maliit lang budget namin. Feeling ko nakatulong talaga na may pangarap ako sa kanya eh.”
She was all praises for the stars of her film. “Ang galing ni Angelica. Meron kasing ibang artista na iti-treat ’yung film na parang raket lang, it’s just another film. Pero si Angelica, binibigay niya talaga every eksena. Hindi siya artista, actor siya. Gets niya ’yung character, gets niya ’yung tamang timpla. Si JM din. Nag-fall into place lahat.”
She enjoys hearing from people who watch her movies. “May na-meet ako pagkatapos manood ng ‘Tadhana’ sa Glorietta, paglabas ng sinehan, binati niya ako, “Four times ko na pinanood.” Wow, four times. I get comments from people I don’t know na sobrang naapektuhan sila. Merong nage-e-mail, nag-me-message sa Facebook.”
Antoinette also touches other people’s lives with her company, Witty Will Save the World, which she runs with Chinggay Nuque. Their planners, which they first released in 2010, and slambook, have a strong following. Their latest planner, “Relaks, Puso Lang ’Yan, Malayo sa Bituka,” which Antoinette wrote, is another winner.
Witty Will Save the World will soon publish companion books for “That Thing Called Tadhana”—the award-winning screenplay and “The ArrowWith The Heart Pierced Through It.” They also plan to come out with journals.
“Witty started as a side project pero ngayon business na talaga siya. Chinggay quit her day job, we get a monthly salary so ’yung pag-pepelikula, hindi ko siya trabaho.”
Antoinette likes that her business takes the pressure off her life as a filmmaker. “Dati ganun eh, kailangan ng next raket. Naging okay siya sa akin pelikula-wise. Creative na siya, pipipili ka ng project hindi dahil it will pay pero dahil you really want it. ’Yun ’yung na-realize ko eh, dapat talaga gusto mo siya. Hindi ka niya dadalhin hanggang dulo, bibitaw ka talaga kung about the money lang, dahil napilitan ka.”
For Antoinette, making movies has never been about the money.She says her biggest joy as a filmmaker is seeing people go to the cinemas to watch her movies. “Feeling ko mainstream talaga utak ko eh. Gusto ko nanonood ako sa Megamall, sa Greenbelt, kasi iba-iba ’yung reaction ng crowd. Sila ’yung audience mo eh so kailangan alam mo yung gusto nila kasi kung gusto ko lang lagi ’yung gusto ko, eh di private screening na lang to.”
That’s her biggest challenge too, in a world of piracy. “Kailangan ’yung film mo endearing enough para ’yung mga tao mapapanood mo talaga sa sine.”
She believes a person can successfully straddle the world of mainstream and indie. “Hindi ko sinasabi na hindi ako ma-indie film kasi dun ako galing. Kaya siyang i-marry, kaya siyang mag-co-exist. Dapat i-judge mo ’yung movie not kung commercial siya or indie, dapat i-judge mo siya as a film.”
Just like the characters in her films, there are many things to love about Antoinette—how hardworking she is, how funny, how humble (she dissolves into embarrassed giggles when you lavish her with praise), how self-deprecating, how quick she is to give credit to others, even for her own sense of humor. “Hindi ko rin alam bakit ganun ’yung sense of humor ko. Na-develop rin siguro kasi nagtrabaho ako with Direk Joyce kasi si Direk Joyce is the funniest person I know,” she says.
Asked which of her awards she treasures the most, she says, “’Yung best actress ni Lilia and ni Angelica.”
And what’s the best thing anyone has said about her work? “May isang article na nagsulat na parang I revitalized rom-com. Sobrang, huh? Masyado siyang malaking ano… Nanonood lang ako dati ng rom-com, masaya na ako, revitalize pa kaya? Ang lakas maka-bata nung revitalize.”
Antoinette has a lot in store for fans (“May mga fans?!” she laughs, in her self-deprecating way). She’s currently in talks for future projects.
“Gusto ko rom-com pa rin pero ibang klase naman. ’Yung hindi ko pa nasulat o hindi pa nagawa.”
Antoinette’s focus may be on romantic comedies, but the truth is,we think she can do anything. But for now, she wants to give us love stories that thrill, tales of hugot and kilig.
And we’ll take it. We’ll keep buying movie tickets and grabbing buckets of popcorn and we’ll take whatever Philippine cinema’s new rom-com queen has to give.
Watch “That Thing Called Tadhana” in cinemas starting Feb. 4.