Tag Archives: Hollywood

FilAm TV Viewers Tune Out


by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

BURBANK – Filipino-American television viewer Jon Ibay has nothing to do on Wednesday nights now that the creators of his favorite show “Lost” walked out.

Ibay is one of thousands of Filipinos and viewers who have religiously watched ABC’s hit show ‘Lost’ every Wednesday night since it first premiered in 2004.

Like most fans, he’s anxious about the new season and its engaging story lines.

“The time between last year’s season finale to this seasons premiere was already too long,” said Ibay, a 29-year-old LA County Administrator. “Now, the season is already in jeopardy.”

Last November 2, thousands of writers from every major Network and Cable studio across Los Angeles and New York put their pencils down and formed picket lines.

Particularly, the writers of ‘Lost’ joined thousands of their colleagues in one of the largest entertainment industry strike since 1988, jeopardizing viewer ratings and literally ‘lost’ many shows seasons.

More than 60 television shows from daytime Soaps, Late-Night television, to network and cable original series were affected by the strike. Not to mention the millions of viewers at home who had tuned out or settled for re-runs of their favorite shows.

The last time the writers walked out on studios, they demanded better VHS sales. This time around, new media such as DVDs, the Internet, downloads, web streaming and web/ TV phones that have been transforming the entertainment industry became a main focal point of the strike.

“Companies are basically saying that they should not have to pay our members for our material [on the internet],” said David Weiss, the Vice President of the Writers Guild of America, west (WGAw). “TV shows like ‘Lost’ that would have gone to re-runs or syndication that would have generated money for our members are now going to the internet and companies are saying we shouldn’t get paid for that.”

“The reason that’s crucial to us is that those residual payments is the money that keeps food on the table of our members between gigs,” he added.

He said that 45 percent of their members are not working in any given year. The WGA represents more than 12,000 members.
Another hot issue is DVD sales.

“Right now, we receive about 0.3 percent of DVD sales,” said Michael Tabb, a feature film writer carrying a “Writers Guild on Strike” stake. “We’re asking for 0.6 percent. That’s about five cents for every $20 DVD customers buy.”

However, many people think that writers are paid handsomely for the little work they do.

Tabb said that is not the case.

“It takes me as long as two years to finish a script that I’m proud of or as little as three months,” he said. “People don’t understand that [feature] film writers can go months of working on a script then realize it’s wasted time because the script is not working. We try to write three scripts a year and hope that one of them sells.”

Tabb added that even if he did get paid for a script, he would need to pay his manager, agents and government taxes.

“A lot of people throw big numbers out there on how much a screenwriter gets paid for a script but in reality, those are overblown, exaggerated numbers,” he said.

Adam Horowitz, a co-producer and writer for ABC’s hit show “Lost” said he’s striving for a fair deal with the networks.

“We’re here to show our unity and focus to get that deal,” he said standing in front of the Disney Studios in Burbank. “What it boils down to is if they [the studios] get paid, we want to get paid. This is a union town. We’re not only here to fight for ourselves but we are here to fight for all the unions so that we can all be treated fairly.”

Horowitz said he does not know what’s going to happen to the remaining seasons episodes of ‘Lost.’

“Well right now, the studio is filming the seventh episode and production continues even though we will not be doing anymore writing or producing,” he said. “I imagine they’ll [the studios] finish the episodes that were done before the strike but after that no more writing until this is resolved.”

So far talks with the studios have grown stale.

“There are no backdoor negotiations at this time,” said Weiss. “We’re basically waiting for them to respond to our offers.”

Despite the lack of negotiations, the strike is gaining momentum. Most recently, Actor and Writer Steve Carell of NBC’s hit-show ‘The Office’ refused to cross the picket line and joined the protest.

Viewers are also joining the cause. Chris Cheong, a 22-year-old student at UC Irvine, said to give these writers what they are demanding.

“They need to be paid for what they are doing,” he said. “I watch ‘The Office’ all the time. It’s funny and it’s very well written.”

Tabb said he and the rest of the writers are prepared to strike for “however long it takes.”

As for Ibay, he said he probably would not watch ‘Lost’ re-runs.

“Right now, I don’t watch a lot of other shows that is affected too much by the strike. I’ll just watch sporting events.” (www.asianjournal.com)

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Filipinos on Top of Hollywood Animation

By Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

IN recent decades, most US animation companies have relied on Filipino talents to bring to life varied characters from Mulan to The Lion King to the Little Mermaid.

If you look closer at  animated films, you will see that there is a bahay kubo in little clownfish Nemo’s aquarium in Finding Nemo.  And there is a Mt. Mayon-inspired miniature volcano, Mt. Wanahakalugi. Thank Mang Nelson Bohol from Catbalogan for that touch of Pinoy in one of Hollywood’s box-office blockbusters.

Animator Virginia “Gini” Cruz, a Fine Arts graduate of the University of Santo Tomas from Pasay City, got to animate Dory, the bluefish voiced by Ellen DeGeneres.

In Lilo & Stitch, there are parols hanging in little Hawaiian girl Lilo’s Christmas sequence of the movie. That is the work of Manila-born animator Armand Serrano.

The surfer dude in the same movie, David Kawena, and the lovable alien Pleakley were brought to life by 20-year veteran award-winning animator Ruben Aquino from Mandaluyong.

The Flintstones Christmas Carol, an animated film nominated for the Emmys, takes place in Bedrock but is made in the Philippines.

Then, there is Stargate Digital’s Anthony Ocampo, a Fine Arts graduate of the University of the Philippines, who won the Visual Effects Society Award for his work on the Trojan horse in Helen of Troy.

Global Animation Haven

The Philippines is now known as the global animation haven. Industry estimates say about 90 percent of American television cartoons are now produced in Asia. Of that, more and more are bringing their business to the Philippines.

The animation industry in the Philippines started in 1983 when Burbank Animation, Inc. set up the first animation studio in the country. This was quickly followed by Fil-Cartoons, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hanna Barbera, a subsidiary of Turner Broadcasting which employs nearly 650 people in Manila. Filipino artists and technicians draw, paint and film up to 25,000 sketches, mainly by hand, for every 30-minute episode.

After 20 years, the animation industry now employs 4,500 full time employees in 40 animation studios in the country. Its estimated revenues last year reached 54 million US dollars, according to reports.

Sense of Humor

The Filipinos’ sense of humor makes this profession a natural thing for us. Our love of storytelling and telling jokes as a people despite life’s adversities are traits that are valuable in this line of work. Pinoy animators are recognized not only for their creative and artistic skills, an important factor in animation, but also for the consistent quality and speed by which they can deliver their output. They also pay close attention to detail and are proficient in English. Plus, they have an innate ability to comprehend concepts and storylines better than their Asian counterparts.

Mina Caliguia, managing director of ArtFarm Asia, the first animation school in the Philippines, supports this notion.

“We are entertainers by heart. We are expressive. We are unabashed in expressing movement, compared to our Asian counterparts. We are loud, physical, and wacky. All these characteristics have been translated into art form. That’s why we’re such good animators.”

Another advantage that Filipinos have is the fact that they understand the nuances of American humor better than their other Asian counterparts.
“Because of the Western influence the Philippines has had for so many decades, and when you’re doing a cartoon [with] Western humor, [Filipino animators are] able to animate it much better,” said Bill Dennis of Fil-Cartoons.

Visit the various film studios in the US and you’ll be proud to see several wacky Filipinos in the drawing tables or cubicles.

Jessie Romero, animator

In 20th Century Fox Animation, you will find outstanding Filipino animator Jessie Romero. Born in Quezon City, Jessie was among a few animators hired from Manila to work in major studios in the States more than decade ago.

Recently, Romero related to Asian Journal his adventure from Manila to the entertainment capital of the world.

“Bata pa ako, mahilig na akong mag-drawing (I really love to draw even as a kid.). When I learned that Fil-Cartoons needed artists, I applied. There were several hundred applicants. Thank God, I was among the few who made it. Two of us were immediately transferred to work on Walt Disney projects.”

“In 1996, 20th Century Fox was hiring Filipino artists to work on  Anastasia the Movie. Again, there were hundreds of applicants. And by God’s amazing grace I was one of the few who passed the test. I knew it was only by God’s provision that I was able to pass because there was a lot of very talented people who took the test. Even my bosses took the chance and tried to get in but did not make it,” Romero added.

Sixty Filipino artists were brought to Arizona with their families. Jessie was supposed to be among them but his agent singled him out and brought him to Los Angeles. And the rest, as they say, is history.

For the past 11 years, Jessie has worked for Fox Animation Studios, Film Roman, Klasky Csupo, Nickelodeon, Hanna Barbera, Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney TV. He was one of the few artists who were chosen to do The Rugrats. Among the many other animation films Jessie has worked for are Flintstones Christmas special, Tom and Jerry, Addams Family, Johnny Quest, Avatar, Winnie the Pooh, King of the Hill, Yogi the Easter Bear, Avengers, Darkwing Duck, Beauty and the Beast, 101 Dalmatians, Power Puff Girls,Captain Planet and American Dad.

“Every project that I worked on is my favorite because it’s the passion of doing art work that’s the most important thing to me. Every project for me is a masterpiece,” told Asian Journal.


Jessie revealed that in his first few months in the US, he was so homesick he wanted to go home to the Philippines.

“I didn’t liked the States at first, “ he admitted.  “After 3 months of staying here, I was so homesick, I wanted to go home and just stay in the Philippines. But I had a contract to finish.”

“Homesickness is one battleground that is really hard to tackle. Being alone in a foreign country was a pain. But the Lord is good. He brought me to a good church, Word International Ministries- LA where I met a new set of friends and family. It’s also where I met my wife Lizette. We now have 3 kids- Jacob, Jessica and Jeremy. For all the success and happiness I have now, I give glory to God,” Jessie said.

Jessie revealed that in the animation industry in the States, Filipinos are known for their great creativity and accomplishments. “Our race is well respected in our field,” he announced.

Jessie offered this advice to his kababayans.

“For all the Pinoys who are starting your life here in the States, my advice is to learn the culture that you are in. Educate yourself on how to deal with the new environment. Don’t hesitate to ask for professional advice. If you are willing to stay here for good, do not procrastinate in taking care of your documents. Make sure you have the right counsel because there a lot of people in this part of the world that will take advantage of you being new here in the States. Finally, be strong and trust that the Lord  will see you through. God bless you,” said the animator who is also a music minister in his church.

Thanks to Jessie and other Pinoy animators, Filipinos are being regarded in the global market as animators par excellence; Manila is als the cartoon capital of the world. So, the next time you watch a TV cartoon or an animated film, take a closer look.  You just might spot some Pinoy touches like a colorful jeepney or a bahay kubo.

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