You’re doing most of your own distribution and promotion for The Flip Side. Was that a choice or were there available distributors? ^ No serious offers. I talked to a few people, but the way it worked out… I would have been doing most of the work, but the distributor would have been making all of the profit. So this way, at least I can keep the money within the community and I could actually make a return on my investment. I guess you could say it was a definite choice, but of course, every filmmaker would love to get their film picked up for distribution. I think if indie filmmakers like myself aren’t getting any love from Hollywood, you know, I don’t mind doing it myself because I’ve always been self-motivated. Whatever it takes, I’m willing to do it.
When you say Hollywood isn’t giving you any love, why do you think that is ^ Well, I think that most Hollywood executives don’t even know what a Filipino American is. I mean even if they do they don’t see our community as a viable market. I’ve had a lot of meetings with Hollywood suits saying that they really love my film, but they just don’t know what to do with it. They don’t know how to play it in theaters. I don’t think any of them are willing to take a career risk on a low-budget black and white film about a community that Middle America doesn’t really know about. I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily racial, but it’s definitely monetary.
So nationally, you’re having to do it all in every city that you go to? ^ Exactly. We’re having our theatrical premier here in the San Francisco Bay Area… and it’s really grassroots, community oriented. I have a lot of student organizations helping me, and a lot of volunteers passing out postcards. It’s really overwhelming because I wouldn’t be able to do this without their help.
In interviews, you thank NAATA for helping you complete the film so that you don’t have to keep substitute teaching until your 50. How’s it feel coming back here today? ^ I love coming here. This place is like a second home. They’ve been so supportive and really welcoming. They always laugh because I thank them so much. I guess I thank them too much. But I really can’t thank them enough because without the funds they’ve given me I wouldn’t have been able to finish the movie in time. I wouldn’t have gotten it into Sundance.
In Hollywood, do you think there’s a sellout factor in order to succeed? ^ I think it really goes back to what the filmmaker wants to do at the time. The Flip Side is my first feature and I wanted to address issues of Filipino identity because that’s what I felt needed to be told. But that’s not to say that’s the only film I want to make or I’m capable of. At the same time, I know being one of the few Filipino filmmakers in my position I do have a responsibility to my community. I guess you really have to find a balance. But, I firmly believe that the filmmaker should be able to do whatever he or she wants. I don’t think that you should feel pressured by your community [or Hollywood]. I think great art comes from your passion and you can’t be passionate about something when people are just telling you what to do.
Were you offered deals from Hollywood people? ^ Yeah, after Sundance, I was able to get an agent and they sent me on a lot of meetings. I met with a lot of big producers because they really liked my writing, but the way it is in Hollywood, they like meeting with the up and coming talent and they themselves don’t necessarily want to do the projects you want to do. Most of them wanted me to write their projects for them.
Can you give an example? ^ Just really crazy stuff… like really exploitative. This one guy wanted me to write something called “Bootie Dance.” And I’m not even kidding about this. This guy said to me “Yeah, we watched your movie and read your new script and we’re so impressed with your writing because you’re so fluent in Ebonics… You’re the hot new urban writer aren’t ya?” I was like man you guys have got to be kidding. So then they said, “We love your movie and script, but we think that your talent lies in this story we have for you. We don’t really have a story; we just have the title, “Bootie Dance.” Now, we just want you to come up with the story line but, you know, you just throw some kids in a club grinding their bodies together and it writes itself.”
So nothing productive came out of it? ^ Yeah, nothing really came of it. I mean, they wanted me to… I could have gone on to write “Bootie Dance” and make a million dollars but, you know, I probably couldn’t live with myself.
Get the rest of the interview in part three of ROD PULIDO: LIFE ON “THE FLIP SIDE”>>>
Posted on July 24, 2002 in Interviews by Ed Moy
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