The Outlier Methodology

by Serious Studio
What defines an outlier? What does it take to be an unyielding one especially during the outbreak?

We caught up with some of our outlier friends to discuss how they are doing in this Covid-19 outbreak. As a community of creatives and entrepreneurs, we hope to get through this pandemic together with insights and words of encouragement, practicality, and empathy.

“Organize the boxes in your brain. Sort out the essentials. Leave your anger and anxiety aside. Bake. Bake something out of it all.”

WHAMMY ALCAZAREN

Whammy Alcazaren

Film Director, Production Designer, Writer

Hi Whammy. How are you? What’s keeping you busy these days?
I’ve been trying to have fun. It’s more difficult than it sounds if you know what I mean.

 

Though things are pretty much winding down, I’m not yet done with FISTING. Last year
was a personal triumph in just having been able to make the film. It got me out of a creative rut and has pushed me into wanting to love what I do once again. After everything though, the dream continues in that the goal is to showcase the film to more and more people. The team is doing its best to get the film out there via small screenings and more festivals. But, officially, I’m back to work doing production design for films and commercials. We just finished filming Death of Nintendo, a coming of age film set in the 90’s directed by Raya Martin. Over the next few months I’m doing production design on a few other films as well: Sila-Sila by Gian Abrahan and Whether the Weather is Fine by Carlo Manatad. It should be fun.

 

I’m not forgetting myself though. I’m done feeding personal turmoil even if there will always be chaos. On the side, I’m trying to soak up the sun a bit more than I’ve done over the last few years. I’ve been watching more films and trying new things. I’ve been writing as well. Hopefully, I get to do the horror-romance film I’m currently writing. A few years down the road I hope to make my dream campy adventure film as well. I’m crossing my fingers.

 

What’s an outlier?
It’s that kind of cake you’re really not sure if you’re into or not. You’re glad it’s there after all the biscuits, but the taste will always be a flip of the coin. Oh well.

 

Who would you consider to be an outlier in your industry?
Outliers in the film industry aren’t always found in the independent film community. Things aren’t that simple. In an industry motivated by an understated goal, there is a breath of fresh air when it’s done a bit different, when things look a bit better, and the point of view isn’t just like the other. It’s my opinion that it’s much more the case of doing something connoted as different. What matters to me is the content and its correlation with process and place. As they say, “It’s what you do that counts.”

‘Tito and Tita’ and the gang of ‘Los Otros’ fit this mold for me most especially. They’re
what I can best describe as a group of friends who have compacted work and play as a process of Cinema. It’s not even because they can be typified as art house. Their works become more interesting hence because there is an awareness of this and that there is resulting conscious playfulness when dealing with the medium. A most recent work from the group is Timmy Harn’s Dog Days – a drug-filled journey soaked in blood magic about a young basketball superstar who dares uncover the myth of his destiny.

In terms of influence, Derek Jarman is someone I would perceive to be an outlier in the
industry. His films can be described as atypical if laid out in the simplest sense. ‘Blue’, for example, is a feature length film that marries the image of a blue screen with his personal voice-over recounting his battle with AIDS.

 

An actor is being unprofessional. How do you manage the situation?
Tell them off. Respect begets respect.

 

How does design play into your creative processes?
As a production designer, aesthetics and look have a heavy hand in my personal creative process as a whole. As much as my works may seemingly lack a logical sense to them, it is very much grounded in the sense of thematic and therefore visual unity. As a visual, I imagine things as a pastiche.

 

Are there any trends you enjoy the
most now?

A design trend that I am really into right now is this idea of elevating the everyday into a
form that is both elegant and mighty. It’s the intentional humor that shrouds this aesthetic that greatly enamors me to it. It’s almost a joke – cheap plastic tablecloth and Fashion, low-res footage and Cinema, comic fonts and Graphic Design. But as the world has taken to itself to be so serious, seeing such a design patchwork would really bring a smile to any face. I like it. I heart it. I share it as well.

 

What did you learn/have you learned in the months of self-quarantine? Any habits that were challenged?
I learned how to bake banana bread. I’ve been wanting to learn how for quite some time. Being made to stop, to take a little breather in life, helps you realize the things that matter most to you. Stop wasting time worrying. I’m putting in more chocolate in my next batch of banana bread.

 

How have you had to adapt to your new situation?
It all boils down to focusing your energy. Organize the boxes in your brain. Sort out the essentials. Leave your anger and anxiety aside. Bake. Bake something out of it all.

 

Tips to spark your creativity during quarantine.
Limit yourself. A little on the nose. But, get creative. Mold your batter in a different tin.

 

What advice would you give outliers that may be feeling uninspired during these trying times?
Frame the situation as a tool. If you don’t have all the ingredients or instruments in the kitchen, maybe there is another way to make banana bread.

“One recurring question I have when I create my projects is: ‘How will this push things forward?'”

MARK REDITO

Mark Redito a.k.a. Spazzkid

Musician and Producer

What, to you, is an outlier?
To me, an outlier is someone who challenges the norm and pursues or finds a way of doing things differently. They can be by themselves or they may have a community behind them. They aren’t afraid to break new ground or reinvent the wheel.

What is the role of outliers in the society?
Outliers push things forward. Our civilization always relied on outcasts and people on the fringes, to push human evolution and art forward. Most of the time, when these outliers are starting out, they are met with resistance, which is understandable when one is doing something new or unfamiliar. We later on adapt and incorporate their contributions which will become the norm at some point, then another outlier challenges the norm and that pushes things into the future.

Regardless of what area of discipline you are, you are bound to meet someone who challenges the status quo while also providing a fresh perspective on things. That’s how we evolve. A good example in the tech world would be Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. This doesn’t exist only in technology but in other creative endeavors like art, design, music and business (yes, running a business involves creativity).

I know I am not on the same level as say, a Kanye or Elon Musk, but I aspire to contribute to art and creative scenes as much as I can by offering an alternative and hopefully a fresh way of looking at things. I try to apply these both with my own music and visual art by seeking interesting and challenging explorations, experiments and collaborations. One recurring question I have when I create my projects is: “How will this push things forward?”

“Inspiration can come from anywhere: pain, joy, chaos, boredom. You have to stay open to the possibilities of discovering something new.”

SASSA JIMENEZ

Sassa Jimenez

Fashion Designer

What’s an outlier?
An outlier is someone who bridges the gap between ordinary and extraordinary.

What’s the most “outlier” thing you’ve ever done?
I think the most outlier-y (is that even a word) thing I’ve done is putting in the hours at the studio and making very dramatic and whimsical dresses while listening to gangster rap or 90s grunge music. There’s something about the work and process behind a piece that makes it so special and unique. I like working in an environment that is a contrast to the final work.

Who are your favorite outliers?
Oh my, there are many. The Beatles, Beyonce, Margaret Zhang, Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Locally though, I would have to say CJ Cruz and CRWN. Geniuses.

You recently celebrated a decade in fashion. Congratulations! What are the 3-5 key takeaways you have learned?
After 10 years, there’s just so much to remember and learn. The most important thing I’ve learned is you can’t do everything by yourself. I also learned that constantly striving for perfection is part of the journey and it’s something to be enjoyed. Lastly, always always always steam and iron your garments!

In less than 3 sentences, explain your “brand.” My brand is all about fantasy. I like to sell the idea that your fantasies can be translated into something you can wear everyday. Every woman has a fashion fantasy and we are here to make that happen. 

What did you learn/have you learned in the months of self-quarantine? Any habits that were challenged?
I learned that the world has really humbled us all in the middle of a crisis that does not spare anyone no matter who or where you are. We continue to face a situation wherein we are bound to one another and will have to rely on the kindness and concern we have for the human race.

How have you had to adapt to your new situation?
I lost my dad a week ago (due to non-COVID reasons) and was unable to be around the comfort of family and friends during the most difficult part of my life. I am learning that resiliency and support from the people that love me will carry me through most situations that I will have go through for the rest of my life.

Tip to spark your creativity during quarantine.
Stick to a routine so your mind has space to wander.

What advice would you give outliers that may be feeling uninspired during these trying times?
Inspiration can come from anywhere: pain, joy, chaos, boredom. You have to stay open to the possibilities of discovering something new.

“Being in this industry is like a never-ending personal development program. If you are always present, you will always feel complete.”

NICCO SANTOS

Nicco Santos

Chef and Entrepreneur

What’s an outlier?
It’s someone who’s always out to disrupt, someone who’s unstoppable in the face of no agreement.

What’s the most “outlier” thing you’ve ever done?
For work and in life, I think Your Local is a good example, although it’s not mine anymore. From conceptualisation to running it, I had to recreate who I was as a human being and just be unstoppable. I remember no one believing in me and in that concept. Andre (my cousin and founder of Yardstick Coffee) and I really wanted to create a community on that side of Legaspi Village. I have never been rejected so many times in my life (although I don’t blame them). I literally did not have any money and successful ventures before that.

What does it take to be a chef in this day and age? What about as a photographer?
I think it depends. Some have different reasons for pursuing the craft but I’ve always just wanted to create communities and empower people working in the culinary industry. I can’t imagine a better profession than one that just focuses on making people genuinely happy — inside the company and out. I rarely shoot now, and if i do they’re just for fun. Context is decisive so I think what will always set you apart is why you shoot and what you get out of it. Fuck what others think.  

Manila’s known to be a place with its own uniqueness and has got some character to show. Do you agree with this and how do you think you, as a chef and creative, contribute to its character?
I completely agree and I think Manila is just warming up. I will continue creating businesses with a context of showcasing Filipino talent and hospitality. Nothing inspires me more than seeing my team transform and thrive.  

Being in the restaurant industry, do you ever get cynical about the type of content or branding that these shops put out? How do you keep yours honest and sincere?
I think if there’s one thing that breaks my heart is when people rip off brands abroad. You cannot fool the emerging market. I really cannot create anything without purpose or meaning so for me sincerity and honesty are basically the keys to creating sustainable business value. 

What is the role of design in your creative process, particularly with regard to food? How does it extend to the other aspects of your restaurant?
When it comes to my creative process in creating spaces and food, i always start with a blank canvass and depending on the intention will determine how many lines i’ll start with. These lines are basically my target market, location, business model etc. I literally draw them hehe. 

Is there any trend that you feel you should be keeping up with? 
None. I’m always moved by people, community, and spaces — not trends.  

What are your key takeaways being in this industry for so long?
Being in this industry is like a never-ending personal development program. If you are always present, you will always feel complete.

What did you learn/have you learned in the months of self-quarantine? Any habits that were challenged?  
I’ve learned that happiness and fulfillment is a choice. I’ve been enjoying my time playing with my son and cooking for the family everyday.

How have you had to adapt to your new situation?
Aside from the con calls, I’ve started cooking nasi lemak twice a week with my partner, Quenee Vilar. As long as there’s a way to make people happy, we keep cooking.

Tip to spark your creativity during quarantine.
Look for new skills you don’t know that you didn’t even know that you don’t know. Once you’ve discovered your blind spots, new information and inspiration will be uncovered.

What advice would you give outliers that may be feeling uninspired during these trying times?
Try not to focus on the score but rather stay on the court and play the game. Regardless of what the outcome will be from these trying times, what matters is how well you played. Keep creating.

“I have found exploring and nurturing my spirituality (and I don’t necessarily mean that in a religious way) to be really helpful in maintaining and even activating new creative pathways.”

MANNA VARGAS

Manna Vargas

Oscar M. Lopez Center Partnerships Manager

What is the role of outliers in the society?
An outlier has an exceptional ability to view society from the outside looking in, but also possesses a remarkable ability to articulate and communicate the injustices of a society. So much so that she fearlessly cultivates her voice to drive real change and transformation in society.

Who would you consider an outlier in your industry?
I am particularly fascinated by young activists such as Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai mainly because of their relentless courage in calling out and confronting the injustices that affect their future. It is one thing to take up a cause, but far more transformational and admirable it is to live out that cause in every single aspect of your life. To have your battlecry define you at such a young age is a courageous position to be in. I’d also like to take this opportunity to honour my Tita Gina Lopez who, like Greta and Malala, lived out her values of service and compassion in every aspect of her life—facing detractors and egregious injustices head on despite threats to her life and personal attacks to her being.

How does an Outlier view his/her work/profession?
A service to some greater good. Every crucial decision is in contribution to something greater than herself.

What is the role of an Outlier to in society?
An outlier has en exceptional ability to view society from the outside looking in, but also possess a remarkable ability to articulate and communicate the injustices of a society. So much so that she fearlessly cultivates her voice to drive real change and transformation in a society.

What did you learn/have you learned in the months of self-quarantine? Any habits that were challenged?
I’m a mom, wife, student and employee all rolled into one space now at home. Before the quarantine those roles were more organically compartmentalised so it’s become quite challenging to delineate the boundaries. I am however, endlessly grateful for these moments with family!

How have you had to adapt to your new situation?
I think establishing a routine (at least on the weekdays) has really helped in maintaining a sense of normalcy, especially in raising a toddler. But also taking time to just sit quiet and allow myself to process my thoughts in a very intentional way has also helped in managing the all the adjustments.

Tip to spark your creativity during quarantine.
I have found exploring and nurturing my spirituality (and I don’t necessarily mean that in just a religious way) to be really helpful in maintaining and even activating new creative pathways. 

What advice would you give outliers that may be feeling uninspired during these trying times?
Be kind to yourself. Don’t pressure yourself to come out of these last few months with grand achievements or unfinished personal projects, finished. Think of this time of as time for healing in various ways, as well as mental recalibration. I have found focusing inward and moving slowly but intentionally to be an effective way of staying inspired and encouraged throughout these difficult times.

“…surviving in the New Normal requires a whole lot of creativity, disruption, introspection, and thinking outside of the box… Go back to your values, to your identity, to your core, to what you’ve always been about — then find new ways of expressing that.”

TOFF DE VENECIA

Toff de Venecias

Writer and Pangasinan 4th District Representative

What, to you, is an outlier?
An Outlier is someone who has an awareness of the system but makes an active choice to work outside of it. Through dedication and commitment, an Outlier finds a way to thrive within his or her set boundaries, oftentimes breaking them. 

How does an outlier view his work?
An outlier views his or her work as somewhat of a calling but just the same, it is also a continuing commitment to overcome all the challenges that he or she will most likely face. This is best explained by the concept of “holding steady” vis- a-vis “holding on.” Holding steady would be the outlier’s unwavering commitment to his work or advocacy, fashioned by a confidence that stems from curiosity, experience, and understanding of the craft. Holding on is that of playing catch- up to a tide that seems really just difficult to mount.

What is the role of outliers in the society?
An outlier’s responsibility is to show society what it can be and what it might need. It’s his job to open up possibilities.

What did you learn/have you learned in the months of self-quarantine? Any habits that were challenged?
I’ve been just as busy if not busier these past few months, weirdly enough. My coping mechanism for anything as with my life pre-Covid 19 is to always launch myself into action. I’ve been calling it forward motion. So between my political work, advocacies for culture, creative industries, and the performing arts, and fundraising for the displaced workers in our sector, I’ve been able to find the right calibration for my ADD via multitasking online.

How have you had to adapt to your new situation?
Being on the go for most of my life, jumping in and out of meetings and commitments, whether by choice or circumstances, there’s actually a lot of time that gets wasted. For starters, traffic and moving from one brick and mortar establishment to another via snail pace. When it all adds up on your iCAL, you can rejoice by saying, “I got a lot done today.” When at the core of it, you haven’t done anything at all. This ECQ, despite the stay-at-home restrictions, has somehow jumpstarted not only my productivity but also efficiency – achieving more by doing less. It’s that realization too that not all meetings needed to happen face to face, or that work from home arrangements could be possible. But on a personal level, it was also realizing what I absolutely needed in my life and what I could do without. Everyone I think will come out of this as a 2.0 version of themselves.

Tip to spark your creativity during quarantine.
In crisis, there is possibility. The biggest crisis besetting the performing and live events sector is that we’re among the most heavily impacted and projected to be the last to recover because of the “mass gathering” component of our industry. We’re expecting no shows or live events in the next 6-8 months, or possibly even longer until such time that a vaccine is discovered. So this fundraiser that I helped organized, Open House, has become not only an avenue to raise funds for displaced workers in the performing arts, but also for our more than 300 participating artists to familiarize themselves with new media. It’s up-skilling and retooling for the New Normal. You have the likes of SPIT and Marlon Rivera playing with the form and exploring creative ways by which storytelling can happen via Zoom. You also have artists exploring mixed media while maintaining the core and essence of a live event. The comments section on FB lives has also been able to increase the theater’s engagement with our audiences (now called viewers) outside of the theater’s four walls, with the streaming of Ang Huling El Bimbo reaching an unprecedented 7M views online. So between new media and current circumstances, the performing arts industry has been placed under a crucible to reassess current business models of traditional ticket-selling and actually look into monetizing streaming and online content as part of its survival and sustainability in the New Normal.

What advice would you give outliers that may be feeling uninspired during these trying times?
Best advice: Just survive. And surviving in the New Normal requires a whole lot of creativity, disruption, introspection, and thinking outside of the box. The world was already headed there with talks of the Fourth Industrial Revolution being upon us. If anything, this pandemic jumpstarted that shift. So in this New Normal, and in the post-CoVid 19 world, the stakes are higher than ever. Go back to your values, to your identity, to your core, to what you’ve always been about – then find new ways of expressing that.

“Relearn what you already know. Look at old work to see your progress or brush up on a software you’ve been wanting to learn. Inspiration doesn’t always have to lead you to a groundbreaking idea, sometimes it’s just finding a new way of doing something you’ve done a thousand times before.”

MARTIN DIEGOR

Martin Diegor

Content Creative Manager, Film Director, Writer

How do you think outliers view their work?
I think outliers gauge the success of their work based on whether or not it speaks their point of views and principles. Relevance, style, and marketability are all important, but I’d rather these be the by-product of a job well done versus the actual goal of the work. I also believe that the best creators have a sense of detachment from the work itself, constantly submitting it to the cycle of creation and critique. A creative director once told me to be the most brutal filter of my own work, only letting the best possible version of it come out the other end.

What did you learn/have you learned in the months of self-quarantine? Any habits that were challenged?
I’m one of the lucky ones to still have a full-time job in this crisis so I’m very grateful for that. But now that the line between life and work is blurred even more, I took the time to re-evaluate what I do. Throughout the years, I’ve dipped my toes into different skills and practices (design, illustration, photography) and I’ve delved into more things (screenwriting) with the free time in my hands. I wanted to have a come-to-Jesus moment with my creative labels.

On the professional front, being an art director is still the best hat I could wear; visual storytelling, image curation, image-making, and conceptualization are still my most-flexed creative muscles, but with design, illustration, and photography as skills in my toolkit. On a personal one, I’ve learned to call myself a writer, my short film Homebound being a first solid attempt. It’s currently part of Lockdown Cinema Club Vol. 4, a fundraising initiative to support displaced and unemployed film workers in the Philippines.

The Type A in me makes me want to try different things, but knowing my focus professionally just gives me clarity on how I want to take my career forward as well as take pressure off pursuits that are purely creative outlets.

How have you had to adapt to your new situation?
In the last two months, my productivity has spiked and dipped countless times. Routine has definitely helped, but when I just don’t feel like it, I just kind of accept the fact that I can’t do meaningful work at the moment and switch gears to do literally anything else—like cooking a second breakfast or taking a nap (if I don’t have calls lined up). I learned to be kinder to myself.

Tip to spark your creativity during quarantine.
Find other sites to watch films on that isn’t Netflix. A few recos:
Short of the Week
Mailchimp Presents SXSW 2020
NY Times: Short Films
Nowness

What advice would you give outliers that may be feeling uninspired during these trying times?
Relearn what you already know. Look at old work to see your progress or brush up on a software you’ve been wanting to learn. Inspiration doesn’t always have to lead you to a groundbreaking idea, sometimes it’s just finding a new way of doing something you’ve done a thousand times before.

 

Order the limited print collectible of The Serious Review Vol. 001: Outliers and/or download the online copy for free.

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