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When indie projects lord over mainstream output

Direk Jason Paul Laxamana (third from left) with the cast of Fallback (from left) Lemuelle Pelayo, Daniel Matsunaga, Zanjoe Marudo, Rhian Ramos and Tetchie Agbayani. He likes the challenge of writing and directing in one setting.

MANILA, Philippines — Whether we like it or not, this is a good year for good indie directors who now manage to overtake mainstream output in the unpredictable box-office.

Director Andrea Sigrid Bernardo made box-office history in Kita Kita by producing an indie film reportedly costing only P11M and earning close to P400M thus upstaging a Sarah Geronimo and John Lloyd Cruz starrer.

Jason Paul Laxamana’s 100 Tula Para Kay Stella is another case of a triumphant indie-conceived film.

Because at the outset, you don’t really expect an indie film about a campus poet with his juvenile poems to connect with a kilig-oriented Filipino audience. But Jason found a way into the heart of both millennials and non-millennials and literally laughed his way to the bank.

Direk Jason’s latest output is Fallback produced by CINEKO Productions and distributed by Star Cinema.

Here, the young director (he is only 30) explores a situation where people explore fallback positions when certain decisions or relationships don’t work.

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His film was an offshoot of a study of British women with fallback choices when relationships don’t work. “Of course, it doesn’t apply to Filipino women who were raised in different culture. But what if indeed they have fallback positions hidden in their minds when they are not sure of present partners? This probability will open a can of worms, but I made sure the characters in this movie will not put Filipino mindset in a bad light.

“Having a fallback position is pretty much a very internal thing. We don’t discuss it but what if in our minds we do have one such a plan without taking it up with your close friends?”

Jason has lost count of his films starting with Babagwa (The Spider’s Lair) and Magkakabaung (The Coffin Maker) and on to The Third Party and beyond. Indeed, he is on his prolific stage as filmmaker as he commutes from one production meeting and on to location shootings and on to hectic post-production schedules.

But his latest films remain focused and are fairly vindicated well in the box-office. “I think it is just a matter of dividing your time well and making sure you have the energy and passion for the projects as they come. I basically like the challenge of new projects. I want to explore new subjects and new possibilities in this career.”

Media men notice his penchant for answering criticisms, especially those aired in social media.

“I deal with them better now than before,” he says. “Out of ten criticisms, I answer only two and that is for me a good batting average.”

From the way he deals with them, it is obvious he accepts criticism for what they are but only if they make sense. Otherwise, he snaps back and puts the critic on the spot. “Well, life goes on now. I just let my films speak for themselves.”

After several projects, he considers himself the “explainer” type of a filmmaker rather than the “motivator” type.

He adds: “I like explaining things rather than motivating actors. It is enough for me that I tell them what I want. It’s up to them how they will deliver. I have high respect for actors in that sense. I really trust them all the way.”

Rhian Ramos and Tetchie Agbayani are working with Jason for the first time and in the initial location encounters, they didn’t know what to expect.

Points out Tetchie: “He is the quiet type but very effective. I like it this way because I hate directors who scream on the set.”

Rhian: “On the first shooting days I was restless of course because I have no idea how direk Jason deals with actors. After a take, he is usually quiet, but he doesn’t tell you if you did well or not. That’s just a clue that he likes good output on the set without having to articulate it all the time. You just have to do your best.”

It is obvious this young filmmaker is doing well wearing two hats as writer and director. “It works very well with me. When things don’t work, I can easily rewrite on the spot without consulting another person. Of course, it involves more work, but it is very good for your creativity. It is good to have a good vision of how your film will turn out. It is equally challenging when you do the writing yourself.”

Fallback — starring Rhian, Techie, Zanjoe Marudo, Daniel Matsunaga, Ricky Davao, Marlo Mortel and Lemuelle Pelayo — opens in cinemas Nov. 15.

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