If there’s a Filipina director making rounds in Hollywood right now–someone with both an acting and film background–it’s none other than West Palm Beach-born and USC grad, Maritte Go.
“I did a lot of TV. I was an actor in TV shows and commercials,” Go recalled. She also did professional theater and lived in New York for less than a year after getting some representation over there, but she thought the weather “sucked” and so Go moved to LA.
After getting stuck in very stereotypical roles [such as] massage technicians and stereotypical parts, “I was very frustrated with it…I went to film school (USC) and ever since then, I’ve just been producing and now I’m directing,” Go said.
Her dream is to make a feature in the Philippines and she’s currently doing just that. Go was inspired in the moment when she structured, acted and directed her award-winning HBO short film, REMITTANCE.
Here is asienne‘s conversation with her:
A: How many years did it take you to finally get it to HBO?
MG: My friend had submitted to a competition and it really helped jumpstart his career and everything and that was probably six years ago. I heard about it and I didn’t know if there was any Asian competition and I had seen that they started one last year and I just kept looking out for the call for it.
I was on my way to my sister’s birthday cruise to Alaska and so I was going with my whole family. We wrote a structure for a story. I know it was going to be about Filipinos on this cruise ship. Wrote it. Shot it. We made it in a month. It was very, very fast.
A: How long did it take you–the writing and everything?
MG: I wrote the structure. I knew that she was going to have a son. I didn’t know what the locations were going to look like.
I had story plans but I didn’t write a full-fledged script but I knew that I had planned everything in the week, went in the cruise, shot it within those 7-day cruises, came back, edited (music and color) and then submitted the film.
A: What drew you to that particular topic?
MG: I’ve been going back and forth from the Philippines because we’re going to be shooting a feature there. My boyfriend Brody, we’ve been writing a script so I went to go visit a couple years ago and just to see.
I’ve been staying with my family and my cousin, in particular, Roy, he lives in Dubai. He works in the service industry – he comes home once every year and he was kind of my tour guide in the Philippines. He was taking me everywhere–that inspired me–how he lives abroad and how he supports his family in the Philippines.
My mom had essentially done the same thing. Her sisters, my aunts had paid for her med school so she could work and support all our family back at home.
When I heard the call from HBO asking What is home, I thought of my family members with ”What is home?” and then that to me is Family. In the Filipino culture, you know there’s a lot of sacrifices: which is a lot of knowledge that you can’t see your family every single day. You have to put your needs behind everyone else because family comes first. So that’s something that my parents have also done for me.
A: How has being on HBO helped your career so far?
MG: It’s absolutely given us wayyy more coverage than we can ever have dreamt of which is amazing. It pushed our films everywhere and really having that stamp of approval from HBO means everything because I’ve written a lot of scripts that were in development that is now being financed. But I want bigger talent, people with names that can say ‘Oh, she’s done a short that was on HBO right now’ and for people to check out my work and be [think] ‘Ok you’re legit HBO approves of you, then we do too,’ you know?
I wanted to learn how to produce because as an actor you don’t get to have your way in your feature. You’re waiting and waiting for people to notice you and so I wanted to learn the business aspect of it–to move things instead of waiting for people.
A: What do you think about Filipino stories being more prevalent now? Going forward from where you’re at now and Filipino stories in general that you want to tell?
MG: It’s important to me because it’s who I am and I want to get that out there and you know, being an actor and seeing that there’s just no representation on TV…I’ve seen no one that looks like us literally only what the guy who played Rufio. Seeing him on TV growing up, Oh my god, that one Filipino! I was so pumped (laughs).
I think it’s our responsibility to make it prevalent. If we’re waiting on other people to say ‘Hey! Filipinos exist!’ then it’s probably not going to happen.
Making that important for us to have our faces out there and say ‘Hey! We exist and we’re not just your typical doctor, or scientist or whatever.’
It’s important that we exist–that we tell our stories.
Nowadays where there’s such segregation. It’s so much separation now where people are only seeing the color of your skin…
We’re just like everybody else with the same issues and I feel very passionate about raising voices of those people who haven’t been seen.
So that’s just definitely been one of my number one priorities in this industry and will continue to do that ’til the day I die.
A: Is there any particular story that you would like to and have yet to tell?
MG: I wrote a feature with my filmmaking partner which is an American Filipino Horror Story based on the manananggal. That’s what we’ve been writing in the Philippines.
It’s been a couple years and we finally found a company that would finance it.
We’ve gone through so much to put this out there. We’ve had different companies/financiers say ‘Hey why don’t you do a Chinese story, why not do Korean because there’s such a huge market and not Filipino?‘ And I’m like ‘No, the point is this is a Filipino movie and I’ve dreamt of making this since I was 14.’
It’s always been my dream to bring that folklore because my parents growing up have told me about these horror stories of black magic that is out there and quack doctors and people getting cursed.
It was just so fascinating and I grew up believing in things like that. It was really cool to see movies like The Grudge come out for Japanese people in a mainstream way and see that and people really responded to that and I think:
If they can do it, we can absolutely do it.
These are stories that have never been seen in America and it’s terrifying and I want to share that. I think that Filipinos have such amazing stories and I think it just takes financing it to be able to bring it to the level it needs to be.
REMITTANCE is now streaming on HBO (HBO On Demand) and HBO GO.
This interview was edited and condensed for time.