Flipping the Script by Danice Mae P. Sison
Genres: Young Adult, Romance
Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Sometime in 2012, I visited the Mowelfund Film Institute, a museum tucked in Cubao, Quezon City that houses old movie props, costumes, tapes, and a ten-feet empty pool used for underwater shoots. This was my first and last time in a movie museum, and it’s actually funny because I wasn’t even initially part of the tour. It was exclusively for the film club, where all my friends were, but because I didn’t want to have a bad case of FOMO, I offered to write a school paper article just so I can join the field trip. Though it’s been almost seven years since my visit, this helped me visualize the setting better for Santelmo Pictures.
Santelmo Pictures is the fictional film studio where seventeen-year-old Miri dela Merced spends her summer as an intern, along with four other senior high students I’ll be dubbing collectively as The Army. Miri’s love for movies has partly to do with her late lolo, a former movie director. However, before her lolo even reached the height of his career, he had a falling-out in the 90s with the matriarch of Santelmo over pito-pito films. Now, we see this family feud element in other books and films (Romeo and Juliet, Little Italy, Descendants, Once Upon a Time) but in FTS, we see less of the deep-rooted animosity and more of how this affects the MC and LI’s relationship. Like the classic boy meets girl formula, Miri meets Pabs early on in a(n albeit non-literal) meet-cute that involves red wine and this inner dialogue:
“My god, what a stupid haircut he has. I don’t know what’s more annoying- that nineties bob or the fact that he’s actively avoiding our table.”
So basically, a very confident drunken me thinking I have a chance with that cute guy across the room. In my live-tweet, I’ve put the blame on Tetet from the get-go. Tetet, by the way, is Miri’s best friend who is basically the type of friend we need in our life. But, come on Tetet, I love you but you just do not challenge the universe by saying this:
“I guess it’s okay. It’s not like you’ll ever see that guy again or anything.”
Of course, we all know what happens next- Pabs and Miri meet again, because Tetet is the harbinger of summer drama. They don’t only meet, though, because the world and film gods (and probably a still feuding Lolo Ikong dela Merced and Lola Barang Santelmo) do not do things halfway. Miri and Pabs end up in the very same summer internship program hosted by Santelmo. Why would Miri end up there, you ask? It’s pretty anticlimactic, but I’ll let you find out yourself by reading the book. Pabs, the precious down-to-earth cinnamon roll that he is, joins, I think, because there are two paths in front of him: the business side versus the creative side, and he’s only interested in one, ideally without preferential treatment.
Ava, Eboy, and Aldrin, join Pabs and Miri to complete their version of The Breakfast Club. The quintet immediately bond over their mutual hate towards a certain production assistant who “looks like an angry twelve-year-old” likened to Snowball (from The Secret Life of Pets). In Miri’s second day, she’s sent back and forth fetching masking tapes and umbrellas for Snowball, while wearing a knit sweater and platforms under the dreadful summer heat. A couple of my favorite lines take place during this scene: “tiis-ganda, but more of the tiis and less of the ganda”, and the ongoing wager whether or not prideful Miri shrugs out of the sweater (my heart also melts a little for Pabs here). I guess nothing brings a group of interns closer than a toxic superior. The beauty of the film industry aside, Sison also highlights the harsh realities, for indeed, “Maliit lang ang industriya”, so you suck it up and be polite and civil to said superior and the heir of the studio-owner that sent your grandfather’s film directing dreams on fire.
Still- Miri’s only human (and a teenager, at that!), and at one point in our lives we do end up asking how far we’re willing to go for our dreams. I do hope we were given more of these scenes (not just with Miri, but with the rest of The Army, too). Anyway, thank goodness we have friends like Tetet who’s not afraid to give her two cents, even at the risk of being too invested in someone else’s problems.
“Gaga ka ba?” Tetet says. “Maybe you’re too focused on what you aren’t learning than what you actually are.”
Let’s not forget my favorite side character, Kiko, who had me worried for a heartbeat thinking we only get one chapter with him. I’m not sure if he has a substantial role in the book, other than as a goofy and candid post-production editor who renders frames while loudly jamming along to his K-pop playlist.
“What are you guys, Gremlins or something? You’re multiplying!” [But] Kiko finally wises up and puts the four interns he has at his disposal to good use instead of just using us for entertainment value.
This is an ideal summer read. It’s light, funny, and charming. Like I mentioned earlier, the book focuses more on Pabs and Miri than their grandparents’, which is great, actually. As interesting as lolo Ikong and lola Barang’s fall-out is, a lot of family feud backstories feel too petty for me (though I think they’re actually supposed to be?). On that note, though, I wasn’t completely sold with how Miri found out about her co-intern’s Santelmo background and thought it’s a bit of a nonevent when I was so hyped as a reader. It’s quite funny how Da Boy, who grew up in Macau and is basically clueless of Pinoy pop culture references, keeps dropping truth bombs and twenty-year-old gossip in The Army.
Though not a film buff, I could tell how so much thought and research has been put in this book. In Sison’s blog post, she shared her WIP journey with FTS, which included articles on film restoration, film festival schedules, and even notes on the K+12 SHS Arts and Design track (unfortunately, few schools offer this). Surprisingly, I was not bored reading through all the studio tour scene and film talk, and it even had me Googling ‘flatbeds’ for the sake of Mickey and Minnie. I guess the thing about this book is that it’s set in the film industry, where you’d expect there to be drama, but it’s actually just a cute fluffy story of a bunch of teens trying to dodge Snowball and Killjoy (side note, not really feeling KJ- it’s like, oh you need a villain? Here’s a villain. Next!) while trying to complete their eighty hours. Even more, our MC and LI aren’t the usual film staff/actor pairing- just two aspiring film directors who want to create. Miri further talks about this desire in a scene:
My ultimate dream is making something as well-researched and richly detailed as a Peter Jackson film. It would be so awesome if I ended up directing a movie as well-loved as The Lord of the Rings trilogy right here in the Philippines.
A memorable story to me is more important than fancy special effects, or huge explosions. It’s a gigantic dream, and one I choose to keep to myself so I don’t jinx it. It sounds impossible, but that’s what’s at my core. I want to direct someone’s next favorite movie.
Honestly, as far as the plot is concerned, I found myself less interested in the teen love aspect and more hooked with the friendship. The Army is made up of likable comedic characters, who all just want to be assigned away from Snowball, hang out with Mang Fred, and watch old movies in UP’s Sunken Garden. While it didn’t leave me feeling unsatisfied, my fingers are crossed that we see more of the quintet’s film adventures in the future. I guess this is the effect that #romanceclass titles give me- I just can’t get enough of their stories, young and new adult.
Book Cover Info: Cover Models: Liane Palomo, Boo Gabunada | Cover Designed by: Tara Frejas | Flicker Design Identity: Clarissa Ines | Photographed by: Chi Yu Rodriguez | Makeup by: Carla De Guzman | Styling by: Alex Lapa
Danice Mae P. Sison realized she wanted to be Harriet the Spy when she was very young. Since then, she has been digging out from real life experiences, pop culture obsessions, and her growing TBR pile of young adult and romance books for inspiration. She works in pay television as a channel manager, and has previously contributed as an author on the anthology Start Here. Flipping the Script is her first book.