Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ria Lu, Talecraft Creator Interview

I had the pleasure of addressing a group of Ateneo high school students last Saturday, alongside PGS contributors Paolo Chikiamco, Yvette Tan, and comics illustrator and PGS layout editor Elbert Or. Also a speaker was Zsa Zsa Zaturnah creator Carlo Vergara, whom I had the good fortune of meeting for the first time. Paolo took videos and will probably upload them soon and write about the event, so I'll link up as soon as he does (he plugged the event here). This event was organized by the creative, talented, and charming Ria Lu, creator of Talecraft.

I blogged about Ria's latest brainstorm, Project 20:10, recently, and she talks about her rhyme and reason behind it here in this interview (Part 1, Part 2) over at The Philippine Online Chronicles. An excerpt:

How did this project come about? Who else is involved in this?

We have to admit, many Filipinos have this prejudice against locally made work. I love to read. I would pick up any foreign fantasy book, even if I didn't know the writer, and just try it out. But for the longest time, I wouldn't do that with a local book. And let's face it. I'm not the only one like that. Most of the time, the only reason you'd pick up a book by a local author is if it's a book required by school, or it's a short story anthology you want to be published in. A few years back, though, I picked up a copy of the Digest of Philippine Genre Stories. A friend of mine was published in it. And, to be polite, I read it. To my surprise, the stories there were good! After that, I got myself other issues of PGS. I started trying other publications and other authors, and now, I even have favorite local comic book authors.

There are great local stories out there. But by default, we just shut them out. Project 20:10 was made to counter that default.

Currently, it's just Talecraft involved with the project. But several creators and groups already expressed interest in being part of the project. We don't want this to remain just a Talecraft project. It would be great if more people, more organizations are involved in this project. Our creative industries could use all the help it can get.

The site mentions a "paradox", that "the main problem for our lack of good local content creators is a lack of support. And the main reason why there is no support is the lack of good content creators." How did you arrive at this conclusion?

When I said lack, I meant "not enough," not "there isn't any." There are jewels in the Filipiniana section. Sorry, I shall construct my sentences less ambiguously next time. :) But try this. Go to a book store. What is the ratio of local books to foreign books?

I rest my case. In Japan, the ratio of Japanese books to foreign books is six floors to one section. It's pretty much like that in many parts of Asia and Europe.

Try this one, too: How many local authors don't have day jobs?

When you ask readers why they don't read a lot of local books, they'll tell you there's not a lot of good (local) stories to read anyway, Or, there's not enough variety. Or, they're not well-researched. Actually, there are a lot of good books out there, but people just normally jump to the conclusion that there aren't. And this discourages a lot of local writers: Why continue writing, when nobody's going to read anyway? Why continue making comics if you're constantly rejected anyway? If a creator could just give a bigger portion of his time to write, do research, and experiment on his style and stories, a mediocre writer can be a good writer, and a very good writer can be a great one. But they can't. They have to work because the books they've written so far can't pay for them. Why? Because very few people are reading them! And why won't they read? Go back to the beginning of this paragraph.

Let's break down the paradox statement a bit. You mention a "lack of good local content creators" and I'm sure there are those who would object to that (Komiks fans especially). What did you mean by that?

Like I said, when I said lack, I meant "not enough," not "there isn't any." There are great local stories out there. I'm a fan of several local comic books. But there isn't enough [content] to properly sustain the industries. For books and comic books, most content creators have to have other jobs, or do outsource work, because they cannot survive on their books alone. For animation, studios survive on grants and outsource work. For games, companies survive on outsource. While outsourcing is not really bad, the ideal is for content creators to be able to opt to do it or not. The market must be strong enough to allow content creators that option. But since creating local content for locals is not our bread and butter, we focus on what brings us money. It's not a bad thing. We all need to survive. But creating local content for locals takes a back seat. We produce less of it. Or we produce it with lower quality to be able to squeeze it into our busy schedules. And some even abandon it altogether.

Click here and here for Parts 1 and 2 respectively of the interview.

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