Posted May 17, 2014 by Yuri Mangahas in Comics

LET’S TALK COMICS: A Journey From Film To Comics With Paolo Herras!

Most people say that the gift of writing is something we can obtain only by thorough study of all its aspects, and mastery of the said craft through the years. I believe otherwise – there are those who are born with the skill of the pen, and are fated to succeed through it.

One of those gifted individuals is Paolo Herras, a filmmaker and comic book writer. He is also one of those who made the slow transition from directing to going full time with writing. The journey, according to him, is difficult at times, but one full of rewards and promises.

Flipgeeks sat down with Paolo for a chitchat about his writing process, his background, and the odd instances he encountered during his filmmaking days.


FLIPGEEKS: Can you share something about yourself?
PAOLO HERRAS: Hullo. I’m Paolo Herras, a copy-based Creative Director by day, and indie filmmaker/indie comics writer by night.

FG: Wow. Three jobs a day. Wasn’t it stressful for you doing these things each day?
PH: well, I’m not actively working on a film since the last five years, I’ve mostly been focused on my advertising job, and since last year, Tepai got me into comics.But i do plan on going back to indie film maybe next year or so.

FG: Cool. Let’s talk about writing. When and how did you realize that you like weaving stories?
PH: Sure. I realized I liked to weave stories when I was a little kid. I grew up with my grandparents, and my Lola loved to read. So I started reading Hardy Boys, Asterix & Obelix, and Tintin, and I just loved to go on adventures through reading, when I read through all the books, I started to create stories and made my own adventures.

FG: Nice! It seems that you’re really meant to do great things with a pen. Who/what are your influences in terms of writing?
PH: I have several writing influences that have led me to where I am today. I started to work on my craft at the Philippine High School for the Arts as a Creative Writing Major for a year, then I went through a couple of workshops, like the 33rd UP National Writer’s Workshop and the 11th Ricky Lee Scriptwriting Workshop. So I guess it would be PHSA, Ricky Lee (scriptwriting), Rene Villanueva (playwriting) and Marlon Rivera (advertising).

FG: Ricky Lee. One of the greats. No wonder your works are fantastic. Having mentioned him, how did you get into filmmaking?
PH: I was attending the 11th Ricky Lee Scriptwriting Workshop for Film & TV, and I was invited to apply by a batchmate. I practically knew nothing about Philippine Cinema and who Ricky Lee was. I was seventeen, I grew up with English speaking grandparents and studied in an English speaking school. So Ricky really opened my eyes and doors to film and TV. But I did indie films later on. I finished my studies, played 5 years for UP, and taught at Benilde while taking MA subjects before directing indie films.

Some of the films under Paolo’s plate: Rekados and Lambanog

FG: Great. Now, would you mind telling us about your directing style? Or rather, to be apt, what are the things we’ll commonly see in a Paolo Herras flick?
PH: Well, I’m a writer who became a director, and similar to comics, I think my style is more in the kind of stories I tell, and how I tell them. I loved how the Philippines is so magically real. We have actors that become presidents, we believe in ghosts and hexes, and we live in a country where a nobody like me could direct a film or write a comic book. I like to tell magically-real stories. Stories that sound fantastic or super, but are real. My films Lambanog, Rekados and Manghuhula have these magical yet real stories. And same thing for Sumpa, Buhay Habang Buhay and even my new comics, Strange Natives. Noodle Boy is downright fun and funny.

From L-R: Sumpa, Noodle Boy, and Buhay Habang Buhay

FG: I see. Cool. Would you like to share three favorite films of yours and why would you recommend them?
PH: Just 3? Hahaha. 1. Comrades, Almost a Love Story directed by Peter Chan, starring Maggie Cheung (In the Mood for Love, Hero) for such beautiful storytelling, well-crafted plot, planting, foreshadowing and rewarding. I have not seen much of this type here in the Philippines except for Chris Martinez’ 100. 2. Moral directed by Marilou Diaz Abaya, starring Lorna Tolentino, Gina Alajar, Anna Marin and my favorite Filipino actress, Sandy Andolong. This film has wonderful characters, magnificent acting and masterful writing. It’s Direk Marilou at her best. Buhay Habang Buhay is a tribute to her, that’s why the lead’s name is Sandy. For this film and Oro, Plata, Mata. 3. Raise the Red Lantern (and all of Gong Li’s films by Zhang Yimou) for the theme, concept and excellent acting.

FG: Was able to see your first pick before, and it was a great flick. It moved me. At present, you’re writing for comics. Was the transition that difficult, or otherwise, granted your initial background?
PH: Well, it was difficult at first, and it still is difficult. I’m the first and last to move when I create comics with Tepai and Brent. The script is done with initial dialogue, but the final edit is the last on our list of to-dos. I’m more of a plot and structure driven writer from my literature and film background. That’s why most of my comics have minimal dialogue, but weirdly, you see most of my writing through the plot and structure. I’m always tempted to just dive in, and narrate, narrate, narrate, or explain, explain, explain, and after doing films and hearing my characters speak their minds, or even in conversations, I just had to learn to hold back, because I’m such a talkative person in real life.

And sometimes it just doesn’t sound as good when you actually read it out loud. Am I making sense?

FG: Yes. And your style actually works, as evidenced by the great reviews you’re getting for your books. Say, if DC/Marvel approaches you for a writing gig, which character would you like to lend your pen on and write about?
PH: Oh my. I would love to do a Psylocke dream/nightmare storyline and go all-out fantasy on her. I would love to introduce Dream or Delirium of Sandman, but some things are better left untouched. Hahaha.

FG: Interesting. How do you deal with writer’s block?
PH: Writer’s block happens when the writer is too close to the material. It’s like a piece of paper held closely to your eyes, so you can’t see anything except what’s in front of you. So I take a step back look for a different way around the block and explore. It might not be how I intended it to be at first, but the beauty of writing is always in the unexpected journey, in the unfolding of events to find your way to the end.

FG: Fantastic. Let’s veer away from writing, shall we? What do you usually do when not holding the pen?
PH: Hahaha. Sure. When I’m not writing, I read, I drive, and when I need to recharge, I go to the beach. I love to eat, either Japanese food or pizza, or fried rice. I’m such an easy person to please. I always say I’m going to lose weight and exercise, but I end up either working, writing, reading, driving or eating.(So boring!)

FG: It happens. Do you have any weird or strange experiences when working on set?
PH: Yep, sure. Parati akong nag-aalay kay Maria Makiling. Before I shoot, parati akong nag-aalay kay Maria to bless the film and the shoot. For PHSA students, Maria Makiling is our creative muse, like a fertility goddess of creativity. Then the usual, nag-aalay din ng itlog so it won’t rain during the shoot, or so that ghosts won’t make the shoot difficult. In my first film, we captured a woman’s voice screaming. Pumuputok ang audio, implying we were in a tight space, but we were in a big living room. Still gives me the goosies to this day. In shoots we would always pray so that the resident ghosts would allow us to shoot. Because they can make things difficult for us like lights would pop or would suddenly go off. Or they’d slow down the shoot, make the room feel stuffy, and “crowd” us.

FG: Ooh. Ghosts. That’s scary. Would it suffice to say that things like that happen often?
PH: Hmmm. Depends. Some are real ghost experiences, sometimes your mind, fatigue or even coincidence comes into play.

FG: I see. You have also mentioned your advertising job. How was it? Any notable ads you’d like to share?
PH: Hmmm. Maybe you’d be familiar with a couple. When I started as a trainee, we won a pitch for Belo Essentials. “Only Belo Touches My Skin” was my first taste into writing for commercials. When I became a regular employee, I did a lot of Nescafe ads in my first few years. There are so many memorable ones for me, but the most notable one I wrote is the “Para Kanino Ka Bumabangon” campaign. Then I did a lot of Bear Brand commercials like the “Labanan ang Micronutrient Deficiency” campaign endorsed by Gov Vi. And my latest work is Cherry Mobile’s Cosmos TVC with Anne Curtis and Omega Infinity with Kris Aquino.

FG: Any advice you’d like to share to aspiring writers out there?
PH: Write like it’s the last story you’re ever going to write.


Here’s our review of one of Paolo Herras and Tepai Pascual’s collaborative works, Buhay Habang Buhay. Check it here.


Yuri Mangahas

Yuri is magnanimously juggling between two managerial jobs: A technical manager position for an advertising/copy-writing company, and an associate editorial position for a fashion and lifestyle magazine. Nevertheless, he still finds time taking photos and seeking for geek nirvana.