2 female execs say sex discrimination still prevalent in film industry
“Eventually, you learn to be strong and let it not get to your head,” said producer Patti Lapus on how to deal with discrimination against women that is still shockingly prevalent in the filmmaking industry here and abroad.
“When I was starting as a young woman in the industry, I admittedly experienced a lot of cat-calling, especially since I started as a make-up artists, a job that involved dealing with the actors. This was why, for a moment, I had to ask myself if becoming a producer is really what I wanted to do,” said Patti, who is head of production of Epicmedia Productions.
“As a line producer, you have to make decisions on everything that happens on the set. These decisions affect the overall budget. Sometimes, you really have to say ‘no’ to a request of staff members who are many years your senior. I had an encounter with a cinematographer once. As a reaction, he said, ‘gano’n na talaga mga bata ngayon …’ I think that aside from me being younger, it was also because I’m a woman. I’m sure I’d hear a different comment if the producer was a man,” she said.
Patti’s colleague, Bianca Balbuena-Liew, who is co-founder and COO of Epicmedia, shared this interesting observation.
“In the Philippines, you usually feel discrimination from actors and directors, but mostly in the form of jokes. You hear it and after a while, you realize that it’s a very sexist remark, something that’s quite disrespectful. Luckily, we have a lot of women producers here so there’s less questioning and arguing,” she began.
Bianca then recalled her experience of being both the only Asian and female guest in a panel of film producers at a festival in Europe. “The other panelists would cut me off every time I would say something. They also made me answer only a few questions while they answered 10. I later wrote a complaint and they eventually apologized. Based on my experience, it’s usually in Europe that people have superiority complex.”
Patti, meanwhile, said it was good that she has now managed to “establish some level of authority” on the set compared to when she was still younger, a fresh grad. “This was also why I felt it was important to have a particular working relationship with my team. In a recent shoot, I had to fire a driver for sexual harassment. I’m now able to make this kind of call. I know how people should be treated on my set.”
Inquirer Entertainment interviewed the two powerful female personalities via Zoom on March 8, which is celebrated globally as International Women’s Day. Patti was joined by her boyfriend, Filipino writer-filmmaker Dodo Dayao, while Bianca was with husband, Malaysian director-producer Bradley Liew.
Bradley, who has had experience working with different international film outfits, especially in Europe, had this to say: “When I’m working in Southeast Asia, I always feel comfortable working with both male and female colleagues. Having a female boss shouldn’t be a big deal. What I mean is that it’s not better nor is it the worst. It’s all about mindset. The whole of Epicmedia is run by women, either female or from the LGBT community.”
Bradley and Bianca met for the first time in 2012 while attending a film festival in Busan, South Korea. “At that time, I really liked Bradley because he seemed like a very responsible person. I saw that he has leadership and confidence. We had a really good conversation. He also added me on Facebook. A month after, he visited the Philippines and told me, ‘I want to stay here for good.’”
Bradley added: “I think what was really romantic about the whole thing was the setting itself. We were in Busan. Meeting her by the beach was a special moment.” Bianca said: “Ten years later, here we are. We have a daughter who loves Bradley so much.”
Meanwhile, Dodo and Patti fell in love while working on the film “Midnight in a Perfect World” (2020). “The truth is, people have long wanted to set us up on a date because we were both single but I declined because, at the time, I didn’t want to date someone from the industry. Meeting him changed my view on things,” said Patti.
Dodo said he “looked Patti up” on Facebook before the supposed date that never happened. “After looking at her pictures, I found her really pretty. I didn’t think much of it because I was busy writing ‘Midnight.’ I met Patti in the flesh during our preproduction work. We had to work closely because she’s my line producer. Of course, I had to keep it professional. I think that our ‘feelings’ for each other added a layer to why I found the shoot enjoyable. It helped make things more fun.”
Both couples admitted to the fact that the pandemic affected their relationship in such a way that it drew them closer and gave them the chance to know each other better.
“The situation became more bearable because we’re together. Before the pandemic, we used to travel a lot but we’ve managed to stay home for over two years now,” said Bianca. “I discovered that Bradley can actually clean the house, make coffee and take care of the child while I’m on my phone doing ‘Monster Buster.’”
For Dodo, the pandemic made it easier for him to open up to Patti about the “more personal stuff, like my being hypochondriac, which became more apparent during the lockdowns. Suddenly, Patti is already privy to all my neuroses,” he said.
Professionally, Patti said she now has a better understanding of what Dodo is like as a writer. “He always wants to isolate himself. There were days when we don’t see each other because he was working, and that was fine,” she explained.
Bradley said another factor to consider is working with people in different timezones. “That’s a major point in coproduction. Some are in America while others are in Europe. The situation is ridiculous but you make the effort if you want to lock the deal. Apart from that, you still have to be a parent,” he said.
When asked to share their future plans, both personal and professional, Bianca quipped: “We really don’t have any personal plan, but professionally, we want to make more money.”
Turning serious, she explained: “It’s our professional dream to develop more series content. I think we have about 10 now. I’m talking to different streamers outside the Philippines. Hopefully, it all pushes through.”
For Brad, it’s all about “figuring out the whole North American style of making TV shows: how they don’t just have one director but a group of showrunners. I’m curious how they do it so well—come up with a narrative-driven series with a higher production value.”
Patti said she hoped Dodo would get to direct another movie soon. “That’s his biggest struggle during the pandemic, but he knows that we need the money in order to fulfill our personal plans,” she explained. “Since I’m a hypochondriac, imagine my anxiety when I’m on the set,” Dodo interjected. “Hopefully, I get past that soon.”