Cebu is blessed with its fair share of storytellers: people who go out on a limb and tell tales, big and small.
Chai Fonacier tells a lot of tales: one day, she’s a sa-op of the Mother of Dragons, gossiping about the Unsullied. On another, she’s Kurdapya Jones, public service announcer extraordinaire. Other times, she’s Jude, a trans-man on a roadtrip with his family. Sometimes she’s also a musician who sings hit Vispop songs.” In between, she’s the one who hangs out with friends at odd hours, drinking beer in a favorite haunt somewhere in the city.
Which begs the question: how to be you po, Chai?
Here’s what she has to say about where to get inspiration, how to make your way into the industry, and a side note on HR personnel who won’t approve leaves in the name of art:
Tell us bit about yourself and your work.
I make up stories and pretend to be people other than myself. Professional imposter.
How did you work your way to your current career?
Via hundreds of 250-word articles on venetian blinds and above-ground pools, poverty, and countless beers, all so that I get the time to join 14-day production shoots without having to apply for a vacation leave that has a 99% chance of being rejected by an HR that really doesn’t care about art. *Bitter* *haha*
It looks like you have a lot of fun with what you do, though. 🙂 What’s the funniest or strangest misconception about your line of work?
People think that because it’s God-given, then this thing that I do should be as easy as when God parted the Red Sea.
Ergo, the sometimes annoying demands to “Sample! Sample!”
Describe your “typical” work day.
1- I wake up at odd hours, and continue sleeping in the van on the way to the location.
2- And then there’s usually a whole lot of waiting, during which I doze off again.
3- About an hour before my scene, I change into my costume and into my character, read through the scenes I have to do, read my notes, make more notes, have my nth cup of coffee.
4- And then there’s the take.
5- repeat steps 2 to 5 as necessary, sometimes all the way till 4 in the morning the next day.
Note: I do get to eat more properly and on time during shoots.
That’s for when there’s a project. On other days…
1- I wake up at odd hours because the body clock’s gone weird after working for, say, 18 hours.
2- I go online and either watch SNL clips or rant about the ills of society online, or make brain fart tweets
3- if a friend tells me he/she’s nearby, we grab a beer. Otherwise, I’ll complain that it’s easier to get to Cebu than it is to get from Makati to QC.
What’s the most enjoyable part of your job?
Inom, kanta, no need to file for vacation leave, have free reign on my sched and choose whether or not I go out or stay at home.
And then when there’s work, it’s so much bigger than me — there’s an important story to tell, I’m collaborating with both cast and crew, and when it’s all done, I watch the work of the entire team fly, and it’s scary, thrilling and exhilarating if it ever does.
On the flipside, what’s the hardest part of your job?
Ummm, honestly? Having to be in the company of too many people during socials. I get “people-itis.” Being an ambivert, I can get exhausted and randomly absorb different energies. That kind of makes me off kilter. I haven’t really understood yet how to work around that.
And there’s the waiting.
I personally love your Sutukil Sauce skits, especially the one about dark-skinned girls and katung mga Saop ni Diniris. Where do you get the inspiration to come up with this kind of funny witty content?
Pasmo ra gyu’y inspirasyon namo. Pasmado gani ka, daghan gyud ka’g kabuang mahuna hunaan. The group that pasmos together, beers together and makes funny content together.
Let’s talk about Patay na si Hesus. Did you expect it to be this popular?
I expected it to fly, because I felt it in my gut: it’s about goddamned time we saw something like that in Philippine Cinema.
What makes your career choice fulfilling? Will you trade it for something else?
It’s finally the kind of work that fits my skill sets, and I no longer feel like I’m being judged based on criteria that doesn’t apply to me.
Any message to those who want to pursue the same career? What does it take to be successful or happy in your field?
Brace yourself. Also: do your homework all the time. Your work as a storyteller should be first in your priorities. The rest is noise.