From indie to ‘maindie’
Most of the “traffic” between indie and mainstream films has favored established stars gracing independent film productions with their presence, despite the much lower talent fees they get. Why do they agree to act for a relative pittance? Because indie scripts offer them the complex, challenging characters they generally don’t get to play in mainstream TV-film productions.
The traffic in the other direction, indie talents breaking through into the mainstream, has been much less congested, consisting mainly of new directors who have been tapped to do TV drama series, and occasional “graduating” actors like Eugene Domingo, Mart Escudero and Coco Martin, whose indie starrers have been relative hits—thus getting mainstream producers interested in expanding their playing field to include, not just film buffs and insiders, but also the TV-film audience at large.
In the process, however, the edge that made those talents “indie” in the first place has been blunted to some extent. So, the question now arises: Is the transition or transformation from indie actor to “maindie” star worth the loss of the edginess, or is it in fact a contradiction in terms?
For instance, Escudero started out as a mainstream TV talent who was stuck in a pretty-boy rut like the rest of his generation of starlets, until the hit indie comedy, “Zombadings,” revealed his antic potential and made him a star. After that, however, he was put in the ensemble or “smorgasbord” stellar cast of a TV drama series, where he quickly lost the advantage he’d gotten from his indie success. So, what was the two-way transition process for?
Eugene is another case in point: She’s become a popular mainstream comedienne, but has had to do some of the usual comedic mugging and screaming that “maindie” comedies require. So, the added value she brings to “maindie” movies as an indie “import” has, in part, been generally finessed away.
Most strikingly of all, Coco had his start in a number of sexy dramas and gay romps, in which he acquired a reputation for excitingly edgy portrayals. In his mainstream starrers, however, he’s been homogenized to fit mainstream dramas’ preferences.
In his current soap, “Walang Hanggan,” he still plays an edgy outsider character, but the series’ romantic-melodramatic parameters have required him to also come up with “kilig” and mushily romantic moments that cancel out his vaunted edginess. In acting, a performer really can’t have his cake and eat it, too, so Coco’s efforts to straddle both worlds and styles have been rudely stymied.
The word’s out to other indie actors who want to “graduate” to mainstream status, therefore: You can’t do it while still being true to your edgy indie essence—unless you’re made of sterner stuff, like Sid Lucero, who’s managed to come up with gritty, nonglossy portrayals in popular projects like “Amaya.”
That may mean, however, that he won’t become a really big mainstream star. But, if that’s okay with him, it’s right fine with us, because success in show biz has all sorts of contexts—and meanings!
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