Jerrold Tarog: From indie to mainstream
Mario E. Bautista (The Philippine Star) - November 1, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - One of the youngest and most talented filmmakers in the country today, Jerrold Tarog started his career with three indie films, Confessional, Mangatyanan and Senior Year, all of them getting wide acclaim. He went mainstream last year with the Funeraria episode in Shake, Rattle & Roll 12, got rave reviews, and won two acting awards for its lead actress, Carla Abellana.

Born on May 30, 1977, he’s an only child born and raised in Canlubang, Laguna. He finished high school at UP Rural High and took up music, major in composition at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

“I was never really a film buff,” he says. “Musician talaga ako. I took up piano lessons as a child. In college, I was the drummer of a band. But the UP Conservatory of Music was just a stone’s throw away sa Masscom at UP and I took film classes. That’s where I got exposed to the works of Akira Kurosawa, Martin Scorcese and Woody Allen. Just like most college students then, I was not fond of local films. But I appreciated the local films of the ’50s and ’60s, those directed by Gerry de Leon. I only got excited with local films when I saw Laurice Guillen’s Tanging Yaman and Mark Meily’s Crying Ladies. In 2002, I was working with Audio Media and they referred me to Sen. Bong Revilla who got me as musical director of his filmfest entry then, Agimat. Then Dante Mendoza got me to score for his movies: Masahista, Kaleldo, Manoro, Tirador and Foster Child. I also started making short films. One of them, Carpool, was shown in Gawad CCP. I met one of the judges, Ronald Arguelles of Cinema One, and he asked me to join their Cinema One Digital Filmfest. It so happened I just came from Sinulog festival in Cebu. So marami akong footage. I cooked up a story incorporating it and this became Confessional.”

Confessional won most of the awards in the 2008 Cinema One filmfest. It also won Best Film and other honors at the Star Awards, Cinemanila and Cinefan Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema. Jerrold co-wrote the script, directed, edited and scored the finished film. He also starred in it playing the role of a videographer who meets a corrupt politician in Cebu who confesses his scenes to him. So his name won’t keep on appearing in the credits, he used many aliases like David Barril, Ramon Ukit and Roger Ladro. We doubt if any other local filmmaker has done this feat before.

His second work, Mangatyanan, is about a female photographer who is troubled by her past. She’s a victim of incest. He says he made it for Che Ramos, a theater actress who really did well in the lead role and we’re surprised no one noticed her great performance. His third full length film, Senior Year, about high school life, got an A from the Cinema Evaluation Board and also got several nominations from various award-giving bodies.

How did he get his first mainstream assignment in Shake, Rattle & Roll 12? “I really don’t know. Basta one day, Regal called me to direct an episode of Shake. I no longer asked why they’re getting me. Basta thankful na lang ako. I accepted it right away kahit na I’m not really a fan of horror films. I took it na lang as a good technical exercise. I thought it would be a challenge for me to deal with the creative side kasi I’m used to doing things on my own. But surprisingly, di ako nahirapan as they gave me artistic freedom. Mother Lily met with me sa pre-production lang. After that, I deal na with Roselle and it’s important that we have the same objective. May scenes lang na pina-reshoot siya, like yung pagbugbog kay Carla. They wanted it to be more bloody and I saw her point.”

For Aswang, he created a different kind of aswang mythology for the movie. “When they gave me the script, it was based on the first aswang film of Peque Gallaga. I said I’ll change the story so I wrote a new script with Aloy Adlawan, who also worked with me in Funeraria. This has a more modern sensibility, hindi basta nanggugulat lang but more of a suspense thriller about two kids, Albie Casino and Jillian Ward who are escaping from hired killers and hide in this town populated by a clan of aswang who live in their own sugar plantation, led by Bembol Roco and Joem Bascon. It’s also a forbidden love story between an aswang, Lovi Poe, and a human, Paulo Avelino. Monster movie din ito kasi merong creatures called the abwak who can move underground to chase its victims.”

Mother Lily tells us she has seen the film and she really got scared. “Takot talaga ang naramdaman ko and I screamed in the fight scenes between aswangs and humans,” she adds. Aswang got a B from the Cinema Evaluation Board.

What’s next for him after Aswang? “I’m directing the Parola episode in Shake, Rattle & Roll 13. It’s about two girls, Louise de los Reyes of GMA 7 and Kathryn Bernardo of ABS-CBN, who get possessed by evil spirits. After that, I want to go back to indie films as I have materials na sa indie lang puede and not with mainstream.”

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