Filipinos excel in various fields and are acknowledged for their contributions wherever they are located. They are also happy people who love to highlight their kababayans’ achievements and recently they have another one to celebrate. Clarissa D’orival, who still calls the Philippines her ‘home’ recently won the “AGRAF” Prize for an in-development Animated-short film at “The French National Animated Film Festival in Rennes, France” with her animated short film titled “Usahay”.
There were postings about Clarissa’s achievement that has set the social media abuzz with excitement. It was a pleasant surprise for me to find that Clarissa is actually the niece of Milali Frias, one of my sorority sisters and friends from the University of the East, Manila. On behalf of The Australian Filipina, we joined in congratulating her and asked her a few questions to get an insight into her persona and her chosen field of passion.
Twenty-nine year old Clarissa who is based in France is happy to say that she is a biracial and binational, Filipina-French film director and animator. Her Filipino heritage is from her mother Michele, a proud Visayan woman from Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte; while her father Jean hails from Paris, and she has an older brother. She grew up in a couple of different Asian countries but the majority of her pre-teen and teenage years were spent in Manila. After graduating high school in 2011, she moved to Paris where she started art and animation studies and finished her higher education at EMCA a well-known animation school in Angoulême (a small city south-east of France near Bordeaux). She has been working in the industry for about five years both as a Director and Animator.
*Aside from this recent award, what do you hold fondly in your heart as achievements of having migrated to France?
One of my greatest achievements is honestly being able to do what I’m doing right now. It had always been somewhat of a childhood dream of mine to work in animation. I love working as an animator and the fact that I’m somehow also a director now is a bit wild to me.
*On the flip side what challenges did you face and overcome?
I’m currently working on my first non-commercial animated short film, and I’m discovering the process to be very long. There are many regimented hoops and steps you have to go through before getting to the actual creation of the film.
However, one of the other main challenges will almost always be internal. I often find myself struggling with impostor’s syndrome, doubting my own capabilities. It’s something you have to work on and takes patience but it definitely can be improved, if not lessened over time.
*Why did you pick France to try out your luck and what process did you undertake to get there?
Simply put, I chose France because I had been in the French schooling system my entire life and didn’t think to go elsewhere. France is also well known for its art and animation schools, many of which happen to be public schools.
*Did you ever get to a point that you regret the decision to be in France? what advice would you get somebody who is finding it difficult to settle in their new ‘home country’?
I don’t think I’ve ever regretted going to France, per se; but just like any country, there are pros and cons to living here. Over time you just kind of notice the negatives that were always there to begin with.
Weirdly enough . In my case, although I have two nationalities, the Philippines is the place I will always consider “home” since I grew up there. If there ever was a hierarchy (there isn’t ever when you are biracial) I’d be Filipino first and French second.the advice I’d give to someone finding it difficult to settle into their new home country is to lean into the stuff that reminds you of who you are and what’s important to you
Since there isn’t a large Kababayan community in the city I live in, I’ve kept in regular contact with friends and family back home, started learning Tagalog and started cooking food from back home. But we don’t all have that same attachment to the Philippines and sometimes your solution to the conundrum of “not fitting in” might have to do with something completely different.
* From what age did you realise that animation is the area you are passionate about? Who was the biggest influence in your pursuit of this passion? Are there other members of the family who are in that field?
It’s a bit of a cliché but I’ve been drawing for as long as I could hold a pencil. Ever since I was a kid it’s always soothed me and brought me joy to draw. I vividly remember telling myself when I was a teenager: “Drawing is the only thing I have fun doing so it’s gonna be my job. It sort of HAS to be or else I’m “screwed” haha.
My parents and family have always been super supportive and always trusted me to do my own thing, and they were right. I have an amalgamation of many influences, so it’s hard to pinpoint anyone or anything in particular. As long as something, a movie, a moment, a sight makes me feel something profound I can probably just throw it in the esoteric basket of “Influences”.
* What is “Usahay” about; how long it took you to plan, execute and finish the submission?
“Usahay” is a 2D animated short film that is currently in development. Unfortunately, I’m unable to go into a lot of detail as I am currently under NDA but I can mention that It’s about a yaya, and it takes place in Manila and Dapitan (In Mindanao) during the 90s.
The characters in the story will be speaking in Visaya for a majority of the film which is already quite rare in live-action movies but almost unheard of in animated movies. The movie will entirely be drawn by hand and will feature a variety of different visual styles.
*What did you enjoy the most in doing your submission? what was the challenging or not so good part?
The project is currently in development. I’m in the pre-production stage which is both the most creatively stimulating and most difficult part. Pre-production is where the story gets written and where the visual style of the project is born. How do the characters look like? How do they move? What are the main conflicts in the story? These, among a great many others, are the kinds of questions I have to ask myself at this stage. It’s essentially the foundation on which the film will be built so it needs to be as solid as it possibly can be. This is also the stage at which I can look for a producer to help fund the film.
*What is your next project? please tell the listeners where they can find more information about you.
I have a one-track mind so currently, all I can think about is my current project “Usahay”.
You can find me mainly active on Instagram at “@lamunut” or on my website “clarissadorival.myportfolio.com”. Or Clarissa d’ORIVAL on VIMEO.
*Lastly, what is your definition of ‘tagumpay’?
Tagumpay, to me, is when the story I want to tell is true to life, simply put. I just want to make honest films that reflect my Filipino experience and that, by proxy, may feel real to the realities of other Filipinos and whoever wishes to give my movies a watch.
Watch her 2018 graduation movie dedicated to her grandma below:
The Australian Filipina wishes Clarissa more success in all her endeavours. Congratulations!