Wednesday, April 27, 2005

QUESTIONS FROM MABUHAY MAGAZINE

1. what the movie is about, what inspires/inspired it

I have two films. One is "Lasponggols" for Cinemalaya and the other is "Ang Anak Ni Brocka" for Cinema One Originals, both indie film festivals this year. I also wrote Topel Lee's Cinema One entry "Dilim".

LASPONGGOLS, a black comedy, is about two of the smallest people in the film industry, a utility boy named Dido (Epi Quizon) and a clapper (Dwight Gaston) who accidentally ran off with the film equipments when bonnet-clad goons killed their companions on their way home from afilm shoot in Iloccos Norte, leaving just the two of them alive. In panic, they speed off and ended up in a far-flung barrio where there is no electricity by 6 in the evening and people have little knowledge of the film industry. When confronted for their identities, the two pretended to be directors Erik Matti and Jon Red who will shoot their next film in the barrio, Barrio San Roque. Immediately, the once sleepy barrio comes to life and it becomes a microcosm of the local film industry itself. We'll see mothers selling their flesh so that their kids can become actors, local lasses likewise selling their bodies, politicians who want to be action stars, racketeers out to get a slice of the pie, pretenders in the field of production design and writing, and producers who want their films to have some flesh. The film also stars Buboy Garovillo (as the barrio captain who wants to be an action star, his racketeer wife Roence Santos, the gay prodcution designer pretender Soliman Cruz, the stage mother Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, the blind former cameraman Danny Javier, the eccentric artist Jim Paredes, the village idiot Raul Morit (24 years as an actor in the indie film scene!), the old utility boy Pete Lacaba, and the moralista Marra Lanot. They are joined by cameo appearances from Joel Torre, Ronnie Lazaro, Bombi Plata, Sasi Casas, Hector Macaso, Ickay Eusebio, Monet dela Cruz, and Rapunzel Hernandez.

The film was inspired by an essay which my scriptwriting professor Ricky Lee wrote in his book "Si Tatang At Iba Pang Mga Himala Ng Ating Panahon". The essay is entitled "Maliliit Na Tao Sa Pelikula" wherein I got my first introduction to the word "lasponggols" which means the last shot of the last shooting day in a film shoot. This is the part of the film process wherein the little people of the industry are somehow "showered" with gifts like T-shirts by the cast of the film their shooting. In earlier days, they also get small bonuses from the producers during this day. This is my tribute to all the little people I have worked with in my six years of working inside the film industry (i'm a screenwriter by profession). It is also somewhat inspired by an animation film that was part of my collections of animated works (i love cartoons and somehow have this Peter Pan-syndrome, hence my email ad). The animation is "The Raod To El Dorado" which was released by Dreamworks. It tells of two loser guys who ended up in El Dorado and pretended to be gods. It is the closest film that has some sort of influence in "Lasponggols".

"Ang Anak Ni Brocka", on the other hand, is a mockumentary. It is about a group of investigative journalists from a sub-par TV station who got a scoop that a twenty-year old boy is looking around for his identity if he really is the son of the famed director Lino Brocka. The group, played by Nonie Buencamino, Roence Santos, Bombi Plata, Raul Morit, Adrian Ramirez, Raph Hernandez, Ronald Tupas, and Hector Macaso, search for the boy who manages to be three steps ahead of them all the time. The group are only able to interview people who have seen the "son of Brocka" and tell them tales of how he looks like and if they believe he really is who he says he is. They go on a journey meeting people whom Lino Brocka was able to mingle with in his years as a young man in San Jose, Nueva Ecija, as a student in UP Diliman, as a theater director, as a TV director, as a filmmaker, as a gay icon, as an activist, as a son, and as a human being, with all his flaws. The boy's journey also becomes their journey that in the end, they too are able to understand who Lino Brocka truly is.

Ang Anak Ni Brocka is the first I ever wrote in my entire life and was the script I finished in able to graduate from the 11th Ricky Lee Scriptwriting Workshop back in 1998.

2. when is it released, where is it released

It is part of the first Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival that will take place from Julu19-25 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. It was chosen along with nine others among 300 plus entries.

I am not pretty sure what Cinema One Originals' plans are. There are no concrete explanations except that they will be shown in the cable channel and that there will also be a film festival like that of Cinemalaya.

3 how long it took to make, as well as how long it takes to make an indie film?

"Lasponggols" took me seven days to shoot. With regards to "Ang Anak Ni Brocka", my first shooting date is on April 30 and I plan to finish it in 4-5 days.

4 budget? and how it affects quality and production

Cinemalaya gave us P500,000 to shoot our entries and with "Lasponggols", I exceeded by as much as P200,000 of borrowed money just to finish the film. Shooting outside of Manila (I shot it in my grandparents' home province in Victoria, Tarlac) proved to be costly as film equipments were priced times two everytime a shoot is done outside of Manila. Further, I have to shoot in 3-4 straight days of little rest because we can not afford to rest as the "meter" of the borrowed equipments goes on even if we don't shoot because we have it there in Tarlac and can not return it back and borrow it again as quickly as when a film is shot in Manila. It affects the quality in the sense that you have to rush and you can only use the actors in limited days especially with the Apo Hiking Society.

With Cinema One, they are giving us P600,000 to shoot our film and after coming from "Lasponggols", I sure did learn a great lesson in production management. I'm planning to make this smoother.

5 how do you contact actors?

Most of my actors are friends and people I have worked with in the past. Epi is a good friend and an ex-classmate in the 11th Ricky Lee Scriptwriting Workshop back in 1998 when he was still just Jeffrey, the shy son of Dolphy and not Epi, the heir to Dolphy's throne. He is also the godfather of my son Kubrick and we have worked together in films such as "Astigmatism" and "Boso" as actors for Direk Jon Red. Dwight Gaston is an idol. I always refer to him as "the most underrated actor that ever came out in the 80s". I really love his short role in Scorpio Nights 1. I was able to work with him in some projects, one for a shelved TV show entitled "Exodus" back in 2002 and another for a commercial for a watch and jewelry company. I also pinch-hit for Erik Matti's "Kagat Ng Dilim" during the time when Dwight was not able to write for the show. The Apo Hiking Society were my childhood idols. I really wanted to cast them upon seeing them only once as actors for Mike de Leon's "Kakabakabakaba?". I was introduced to them by another Cinemalaya contestant, Ron Bryant, who once worked for Jim Paredes. Raul Morit is the icon in the indie film scene and I am a very big fan since his "Trip" (Jon Red's short film) days. The rest of the cast, Roence, Sol, Sasi, Hector, Bombi, Raph, etc., are either friends I have accumulated during my 5-year stay in the mainstream film industry or co-workers.

For "Lasponggols" each and everyone of the actors and crew were paid the same amount for their per day services. The reason? It is a film about the little people of the film industry so I was able to convince everyone that the lttlest people on my set gets the same talent fee as the biggest person on the set (both literally and figuratively, hehehehe). I'm very thankful that everyone understood that part of my film. Some of them even returned their talent fees and asked us to just give it to the staff as bonus.

6. any difficulties or differences in making indie films and independent films? is there a difference in atmosphere, creative culture?

The difficulty for a first-time director is the part of managing the shoot and budgeting things at the same time. Despite having a production manager, you still have that obligation to look into the money matters of the production because you also play the role of producer because the grant was given to you. The creative side can be handled smoothly but double it with the financial matters, expect tensions and pressures. I was never prepared for this part. I am very bad with managing financial matters but the shoot has taught me a very great lesson in that department.

On the creative side, the only problem was that I was coming from two different schools of thought in filmmaking, my two mentors the mainstream maverick Erik Matti and the indie or alternative filmmaker in Jon Red. While shooting, the two schools of thought were banging and competing inside my head. I have ths bubbles like "If Jon ould shoot this, what will he do? Or if Erik will compose this shot, what techniques will he put? What elements will they use in terms of design, mood, lighting, camera angle, etc.? But at the end of the day, it will still be you and Erik and Jon's styles will just be there to guide you.

The difference with shooting the indie way is that you have so much FREEDOM. And you can do a lot of things to share this freedom to other people who are living in boxed situations or inside a circle. Indie films have the power to shape things. I am always conscious with that when I'm shooting or writing or doing my films. Kailangan ang pelikula mo kuing saan malaya mong nagagawa ang mga bagay ay makakatulong rin para makapagpalaya ng iba pang mga kaisipan para hindi lamang ikaw ang lumalago ang pag-iisip kundi ang audience mo din. May obligasyon ka laging itaas ang kaisipan nila ng ilang hakbang nang sa gayon ay hindi sila nakatali sa mga dati nang tradisyon at kaugalian na nakikita nila sa mga mainstream films. That's how I define indie films. Films that are free from everything and that can free everyone.

7. what brought you into the scene? who influenced you?

I came from a family of writers. Almost every generation, from both my mother and father's side, we have a history of contribution to the literary world. That's why I write my name with my mother's maiden name also (Sigfreid Barros-Sanchez). Kasi anak din ako ng nanay ko. But i tried to veer away from writing in college because I was growing really tall. I reached 6'4" and was truly into basketball which was the crazed that time in the early 90s. I tried out for the varsity team of my university and studied Political Science on the side.

Then one day, a Humanities professor of mine, Mr. Henry Alvir, asked us to watch short films which were being shown that time alongside Metro Manila Film Festival entires. Two films struck me har. One is Jon Red' "Trip" (where my prof was an actor) and the other is Rox Lee's "Tito's Wedding". It struck me that one can do films even for just 15 minutes and were able to communicate their messages really hard with that short span. It encouraged me to try the same and I left my course and pursued a career in filmmaking as a screenwriter and other odd jobs inside the industry. Anything that can pull me closer to the smell of a 35mm film rolling. Hehehehehe...

Another incident in my life that has taken my attention to the visual language was when I was kicked out for the rest of my life from entering our school library back in second year high school. The pregnant librarian was always pissed at me that he decided to ban me from the library. From second year high school up to when I reached college and left it, I never entered a library again. When I was kicked out of the library, I would just spend my lull hours at home watching old LVN and Sampaguita movies on Channel 9 at 1PM. Perhaps I can even trace my love for films to my days watching old Lito Lapid, Chiquito, Jun Aristorenas, Tito, Vic, and Joey, etc. on Piling-Piling Pelikula on Channel 13 or the "teks" (those card games with movies back in the 80s) I collected in cigarette boxes while growing up. Sadly, my mother has burned all of them when I refused to grow up.

My early influences were neither the Brockas or the Bernals or the De Leons (although Batch 81 was one of the earliest films that really never left my head). My early favorites will always be the Pinoy Action films that featured all the Lapids (Rex, Rey, Lito, Jess) the Aristorenas' (Jun and Robin), the early Dolphys and Chiquitos (complete with Panchito and Tintoy), Tito Vic, and Joey, and the Bugs Bunny cartoons on TV. Funny but I was never a fan of the FPJs, Eraps, and Ramon Revillas. I found them too cool for me. What I really love are the old TV shows then, John en Marsha, Champoy, TODAS, Iskul Bukol, Kulit Bulilit, Chicks To Chicks, Saturday Fun Machine, Froggle Rock (which I remember crying twice), etc. Very simple. In the late 80s, there's the Wonder Years, NAM: Tour of Duty, and China Beach.

When I was in college, I was able to see two films that really struck me hard: Giuseppe Tornatorre's "Cinema Paradiso" and that River Phoenix film "Running On Empty" which both make me cry up to now. I also love "Comrades Almost A Love Story" and works by Zhang Yimou and Wong Kar Wai. I almost named my baby Szhangyimou Karwai. After a long debate and lots of banged telephones from my Mom who was based in the US, I have to settle with Stanlee Kubrick. Local directors who really have a great influence in me include mentors turned good friends Erik Matti, Jon Red, Larry Manda, Mark Querubin, and Rox Lee. Sa wirters, Ricky Lee at Pete Lacaba. Hindi lang mahuhusay mag-isip, mahuhusay din ang mga ugali.

I also get a lot of influences from alternative music, both local and foreign. I'm a sucker for great lyrics worthy to make a film about. At iba 'yung angst nila. Laging isang malaking statement. Minsan dinadaan sa wit pero alam mong sinisipa ka at tinatadyakan. Ganun din siguro mga sinusulat ko na films. Akala mo lang dinadala ka sa isang mahabang trip tapos yun pala tatadyakan ka sa huli at magigising ka sa trip mo at babagsak sa katotohanan. Pangknotdeaths, ika nga ng isang jologs na pangk sa isang tugtugang pinuntahan ko. Ganun din pelikula ko. Jologs. Maaring mali ang grammar pero maaari namang nagsisilbi akong boses ng mga katulad ko na galit na rin at gustong maging kasangkapan ng tunay na pagbabago.

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