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Filipino filmmaker turns to writing to reach out to people undergoing depression

Filipino filmmaker turns to writing to reach out to 
people undergoing depression

From telling stories cinematically to reaching out to those undergoing depression through a book, this has been the recent journey of Doha-based Filipino filmmaker Janix Pacle.
Pacle has been working as a director and director of photography for various commercials and corporate films. With the release of his first book titled ‘Portraits of the Wind’, he has once again proven his deep love to connect with people through the art of storytelling.
‘Portraits of the Wind’ is a story about frustration, grief and happiness. It unfolds the different ways of coping with grief through the main characters Luma, a cyclist, and Xavi, a photographer.
The book, which was recently released, is now available in all online stores. It is likely to be available in major bookstores in the Philippines and other physical stores. Part of the proceeds of the book will go to the social media advocacy group #MentalHealthPH and to non-government organisation Kaya Natin! Movement for helping COVID-19 frontliners in the Philippines.
In an interview with Qatar Tribune, Pacle talked about his inspiration for his new project that he worked on for a year. He also shared his beautiful journey as well as the challenges of venturing into another creative field. Excerpts:
Q: What inspired you to write the book Portraits of the Wind? How did you come up with the idea for the book?
Pacle: I have been meaning to write a book for a long time now, but I always put it off. Instead, I kept on writing more screenplays for short films. But making films -- good films -- is a tall order. It wasn’t anymore like when I was still a freelancer that I had all the time in the world to make my own films. Now that I have a full-time job and a cheeky daughter, I had to put personal film projects on hold, but I still have the urge to tell stories. Why not a book? So, one day in June of 2019, I opened Microsoft Word and stared at a blank page for a long time. I didn’t know what to write. So, I turned to my stockpile of un-produced screenplays, took two of them, and merged them into one story.
Can you tell more about the book including your target readers and your choice of book title.
During the publishing process, when asked about the same question, I mentioned that my target are teens to adult, and it was given a General Fiction and Romance genre. But my real target audience are those who are also undergoing, or have undergone depression. I think this story would really resonate with them. It does not offer any kind of blatant inspiration or motivation, but it does show a life that would somehow resonate with their own. And by witnessing the character’s journey, I hope it would somehow reveal the light at the end of the pitch-black tunnel.
I came up with the title Portraits of the Wind because, as also explained by Xavi in the book, the wind to me captures all the emotions of the world. The wind is an innocent element of nature that breathes joy and sadness to someone’s heart. I am very much in love with the wind in that regard. If you see all my previous films, I always make sure to have lots of wind.
How was your journey in putting this book project together?
Working on this book was a tedious journey. Having a day job, I can only sneak in a few lines that randomly pops up in my head. Then when I get home, I start arranging the random beats and plots that I have written down. I could also say that I have written 70 percent of this book using my phone. That was not an easy task, but I had no other choice. I started writing by June 2019, I got to twenty pages by the end of the month, and then by July, I highlighted all the text and pressed backspace. I started over again.
By August, we were commissioned by an NGO in Qatar to go to four different countries to document the charity efforts that they were doing. We went to Uganda, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Kenya. I wrote whenever I can. I wrote at the airport while waiting for our flight, I wrote in the airplane whenever there was WiFi available, and I wrote down on the ground when traveling between locations. I would say it was fortunate that in each country that we visited, the filming locations are always around 3-6 hours away from our hotel, so I had a lot of time to write. It wasn’t that easy though, especially in Kenya and Uganda because we had to travel to remote areas and the road conditions were terrible. It was literally bone-shaking. So, staring and typing on a smartphone with a tiny screen while being jolted around inside a 1998 van with no airconditioning, difficult is an understatement, but I managed it anyway.
I completed the first draft in Siem Riep, Cambodia. To celebrate, I took a quick dip in the pool and had dinner with the crew at the mall next door. Then in Kenya, I started rereading the whole book and proceeded with some major revisions again.
Then come October, I am happy with my first draft and gave it to the editors to have a look. They came back with their comments, I wrote again, and finally, June 2020, I had placed the final period on the text. It was quite an adventure writing this book, sometimes I wrote while my daughter is sitting on my lap because she wants to play with me. I also gained weight, a lot of weight, because I tend to munch uncontrollably while I think -- and writing involves a lot of thinking. Thankfully, I have already shed all those weight and I’m ready for another round.
On the beneficiaries of the proceeds of the project, why did you choose the two organisations?
This may sound naive, or maybe it is naive, that I actually don’t care about how much money I make in writing this book. I wrote this book because I like to tell stories, that’s why the book is priced very low. Now because the book deals with mental health, I started searching for mental health institutions in the Philippines. I sent emails to a few of them and the first one who answered, actually, the only one who answered was MentalHealthPH. They are a social media advocacy group that offers support to those who need it. And since we are also in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I also reached out to Kaya Natin! Movement, who’s donating to PPEs to frontliners, and offered them some of the profits that the book would make.
What did you learn while writing the book, including about yourself?
Writing involves a lot of research, and I made sure that each character trait and the struggles they are going through are as accurate as possible. I learned a lot by talking to professionals and doing research. About myself, I learned that it does not matter how I tell my stories, whether in film or in writing. I just hope that people would actually see or read them. That’s the only reward I could ask for.
From being a filmmaker to being a book author, what are the challenges of venturing into another field? How does being a filmmaker an advantage or helped in your writing project?
The only challenge I encountered at first was how will I show the scene through words. Being a filmmaker, when writing a screenplay, it’s easy to show what’s going on. You’re allowed to say “we see this character” or “the camera pans to reveal this character,” but in books those techniques wouldn’t make sense. You have to carefully choose the right words and craft them meticulously to portray the scene that you want to portray. Once you get used to that, it unlocks a whole new level of cinematography -- it’s cinematography with words. On the contrary, coming from a filmmaking background, molding the overall story was easier since I already have some knowledge about storytelling. All I had to do is translate that knowledge in the language of book writing. Writing novels and screenplays are basically the same in the sense of plots, beats, acts. The one big difference with books is that you have the ability to put down an unlimited amount of words, whereas in screenplays, you are limited to your film’s run time.
How can interested readers get hold of your new book?
So far, the eBook and paperback are available through online stores such as Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, and much more. You can have a look at the links in my website or visit my Facebook page Janix Pacle. If you want a paperback and want to save cost on shipping, just send me a direct message and I can arrange a cheaper option by pooling paperback orders together.
What are your upcoming projects?
I have another book in the pipeline, but right now I am concentrating on launching educational videos targeting the Filipino people.