6 life lessons from 'hugot' director Antoinette Jadaone

MANILA, Philippines – Director Antoinette Jadaone – also known as Tonette to many – shot to success over the past few years, from her 2012 movie Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay, to the popular TV series On The Wings of Love, and to this year's Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) entry, All You Need is Pag-ibig. (READ: 8 entries revealed: MMFF 2015 movie lineup)

In between, she's written and directed a bunch of romcoms too, which have tugged at our heartstrings and have earned her the title "hugot director" (gut director).

Tonette sat down with us on September 3 and told us a few of the things she's learned on the road to success. Here's what she shared about work, love, art, and everything in between:

1. The best medicine for heartbreak is karaoke.

With movies like That Thing Called Tadhana and The Breakup Playlist, it's no secret that Tonette knows a thing or two about love and heartbreak. (READ: Director Antoinette Jadaone weighs in on 'Tadhana' ending: What happened to Mace and Anthony?)

To heal a broken heart – or if you just wanna have fun – she suggests a good round of karaoke. "Kahit na di ka marunong kumanta, kahit flat ka or sharp or wala sa tono, yun, 'pag kinakanta mo yung heartache mo, feeling mo may karamay ka sa heartache mo (Even if you don't know how to sing, even if you're flat or sharp, or out of tune, if you sing about your heartache, you feel like you're not alone)," she said.

Tonette even has a playlist on her phone specifically for all her favorite karaoke songs. (READ: Sarah Geronimo, Piolo Pascual share what's on their breakup playlist)

2. Working with someone you're in a relationship with isn't a bad thing.

Tonette has worked on two movies with her boyfriend, director Dan Villegas – The Breakup Playlist and English Only, Please. Working with someone you're dating might sound like a bad idea, and in some ways, Tonette says that it is. 

For one thing, she's found that sometimes, she and Dan don't know where to draw the line between their work and their relationship. "Minsan nadadala mo sa set kung ano yung mga napapag-awayan niyo na dapat wala sa set, parang ganun. Hindi maiiwasan 'yun (Sometimes, you bring your arguments to the set, which shouldn't be. That can't be avoided)," she said.

@dan_villegas A photo posted by Antoinette Jadaone (@tonet_jadaone) on May 30, 2015 at 12:54am PDT


Still, the bad stuff outweigh the good, especially when it comes to their creative collaboration. "Yung collaboration, sobrang sincere, sobrang pure, kung baga, yung collaboration, alam mong nanggagaling siya sa place ng love (The collaboration is so sincere, so pure, you know that it comes from a place of love)," she shared.

There's a lot of trust involved when Tonette and Dan work on a project together, because as Tonette said, everything they do is "for each other, parang (like) in respect of each other, for the love of each other."

She added that it's much easier to share her ideas with Dan, because he's just a text or call away whenever she thinks of a concept. She said, "So mayroon kang instant kabatuhan, hindi yung parang sasarilihin mo, susulat mo lang...meron kang instant critic, may instant fan ka ng concepts."

(So you instantly have someone to throw ideas around with, you don't have to keep them to yourself and just write them down...you have an instant critic, an instant fan of your concepts.)

3. There's no escaping rejection.

On the Wings of Love might trend on social media every night, but Tonette is no stranger to rejection or failure. "Lagi akong ano (I'm always), 'always the bridesmaid, never the bride,'" she said, when it comes to her Cinemalaya entries.

"Lagi akong semi-finalist pero never ako umaabot sa Top 10 (I'm always a semi-finalist but I never get into the Top 10)." (WATCH: Full trailer of ‘On The Wings of Love’)

She's also tried to join the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards a lot of times in the past, but it wasn't until last year that she won 3rd prize in the Dulaang Pampelikula category for That Thing Called Tadhana. (READ: Antoinette Jadaone and the romantic road to 'That Thing Called Tadhana')


Tonette's work doesn't only get rejected when it comes to awards, but also when she presents the first cuts of her movies: "Lagi siyang merong certain heartbreak na parang 'pag pinanood ng tao, 'Ang pangit 'te ba't ganyan ang pelikula mo (There's always a certain heartbreak that whenever people watch they say, 'Sister, it's so bad, why is your film like that')?"

This doesn't get Tonette down though, because these comments give her time to edit and make her movies better. "Open ako sa comments ng ibang mga tao, mga tao tinu-trust ko (I'm open to the comments of some people, of the people I trust)," she said, and if she finds that their reasons for criticism are valid, she's totally willing to edit her work.

4. Compromise, compromise, compromise.

Tonette might have started out making indie films, but she said that because she's a "mainstream girl," the transition from one to the other wasn't a huge adjustment.

Still, working in the industry – and in mainstream cinema in particular – has taught Tonette how to choose her battles. "There are battles that you just let go [of], because kaya mong gawan ng paraan, but there are battles na, if you really think that it will be a bad film kung hindi masunod 'yun, you fight for them, and these are the things na hanggang dulo ipapaglaban ko siya," she said.

(There are battles that you just let go of, because you can find a way around them, but there are battles that, if you really think that it will be a bad film if your ideas aren't followed, you fight for them, and these are the things that I will fight for until the end.)

That Thing Called Tadhana, for example, didn't have the usual happy ending, but Tonette stuck by her choice, and would have fought for it had anyone told her to change the ending.

SA WAKAAAAAS!!! That Thing Called Tadhana DVD now available!!! With deleted scenes (e.g. mas mahabang bangketa scene), interviews with the cast and staff and more! Buy your original copies at SM, Odyssey and Astrovision for P499 only! See you at the DVD launch soon! #ThatThingCalledTadhana #ThatThingCalledTadhanaDVD A photo posted by Antoinette Jadaone (@tonet_jadaone) on Sep 22, 2015 at 5:28am PDT


"As a director, always remember that you have a choice," she said, which is something she learned from Judith Weston's Directing Actors.

"If itong artistang ito ay hindi makaarte, you always have a choice, you can't say na 'Wala po akong nagawa eh, kasi di po talaga siya magaling umarte.'" 

(If this artist can't act, you always have a choice, you can't say, 'I couldn't do anything because he's really not good at acting.')

Meanwhile, Tonette's most recent movie, All You Need is Pag-ibig, had some trouble with casting, as leading lady Kris Aquino initially backed out before agreeing to be back on board.

Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista also backed out of the movie due to the 2016 elections, and actor Derek Ramsay was asked to join the movie instead. (READ: MMFF 2015: How did 'All You Need Is Pag-Ibig' change after Herbert Bautista's departure?)

Screengrab from ABS-CBN Star Cinema

In a press conference for the movie on December 8, Tonette said that in spite of the difficulties in casting, the important thing was that her vision for the movie was still preserved. 

5. Learn to collaborate.

Being a director doesn't just mean always telling people what to do. When it came to directing James Reid and Nadine Lustre for On The Wings of Love, Tonette said that she really learned to listen to her actors' instincts.

"Iba siya 'pag you play with your actors' instinct, parang minsan mas may magic doon eh. Na sobrang nakita ko siya doon sa ano JaDine (James and Nadine), na may sarili talaga silang take sa eksena na parang napaganda pa nila lalo," she said.

(It's different when you play with your actors' instinct, sometimes there's more magic there. I really saw this with JaDine (James and Nadine), that they have their own take on a scene that made it even better.)

Post-#OTWOL viewing sa set with Clark and Leah. Salamat po!!!OKAY, BACK TO WORK!!! A photo posted by Antoinette Jadaone (@tonet_jadaone) on Aug 10, 2015 at 7:37am PDT


As a collaborative director, she said, "Sometimes you just need to let go, you let go of your control." The same goes for writing about her characters – Tonette finds that it's better to let them take on a life of their own instead of putting too much of herself into them.

6. Have a business and create art – be passionate about both.

Tonette isn't just a director, she's a businesswoman too. She and her friend and business partner Chinggay Nuque started "Witty Will Save the World Co" in 2008, and the self-published planner and notebook company is still going strong today.

They recently released The Arrow With A Heart Pierced Through Him, the same book that was featured in director Tonette's That Thing Called Tadhana. 

 TWO COVERS. The jacket of 'The Arrow With a Heart Pierced Through Him' has Antoinette Jadaone and Onin Filotin's names, but the cover says it was written by 'That Thing Called Tadhana' characters Mace Castillo and Anthony Lagdameo. Photo courtesy of Witty Will Save the World, Co

Based on experience, Tonette suggests that artists and filmmakers should have a business outside of their art too. This is not as a fall-back career, as many would assume, but rather one that would allow their art and projects to take center stage.

"If you have a business outside filmmaking, mas maiiwasan mo yung you do a film for money (it's easier to avoid doing a film for money)," she said.

She explained, "Tinatanggap ko yung mga pelikula hindi dahil... ganito yung mabibigay niyang pera, tatanggapin ko siya dahil in reality hindi ko doon nakukuha yung pera ko, nakuha ko siya sa business ko."

(I accept films not because... this is how much money it can give me, I accept them because in reality, I don't get my money from filmmaking, I get it from my business.)

BREAKING NEWS! Now available at Fully Booked TRINOMA!!! Bili na, guys! P520 only! @_fullybooked A photo posted by Witty Will Save the World, Co. (@titawitty) on Dec 3, 2015 at 7:49pm PST


Even though Tonette juggles her business with writing and filmmaking, it doesn't mean Witty takes a backseat. Because she and Chinggay have been self-published all these years, they're still the ones who put the price tags on everything and deliver their goods to distributors.

"Nakakatuwa na yung business din namin (It makes me happy that our business), it's something we really love." – Rappler.com

Vernise Tantuco

Vernise Tantuco is on Rappler's Research Team, fact checking suspicious claims, wrangling data, and telling stories that need to be heard.