New breed in filmmaking

ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabago-Visaya (The Freeman) - August 21, 2015 - 10:00am

Last August 15, 2015, I was at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) watching the last screening of Cinemalaya 2015 Short A Category and attending the awards night of the 11th Cinemalaya Film Festival. For this year, there are 10 finalists culled from one hundred fifty entries nationwide. And to provide my support for our short film Sanctissima, I was there with director Kenneth Lim Dagatan and the rest of the team. 

I felt the warm reception from the audience, majority of them were young film enthusiasts and students from various schools.   

Prior to the awarding, I was able to view other film entries. Themes ranged from same sex relationship, childhood memories, politics, drug addiction, friendship, religion to death. The films are outputs from both first-timers and come-back festival filmmakers. This year's shorts are indeed products of fresh minds whose dream is to make it to the film industry.

For the past years, we have seen the growing interest for independent films. In terms of content, style, and the filmmaker's way of achieving artistic vision are sometimes distinguishable than the commercially produced mainstream films. And in most cases, they are made with considerably lower budgets than major studio movies.

Thanks to the establishment of a non-stock, not-for-profit organization Cinemalaya Foundation, with the support from the CCP, whose purposes of its establishment are laudable: "to help develop and support the production of cinematic works of Filipino independent filmmakers that boldly articulate and freely interpret the Filipino experience with fresh insight and artistic integrity; to discover, encourage, support, train and recognize gifted Filipino independent filmmakers; to promote Filipino independent films locally and internationally; and to establish a network for exchange, communication, and cooperation among members of the independent film sector."

There are favorable stimuli that paved the way for the development of independent films. One is the advancement of digital filmmaking technology that has democratized the production of film. This enables the broader participation from the next generation of filmmakers. There are already new, exciting and provocative storytelling that have changed the aesthetic landscape of local cinema and attracted the attention of new audiences who are in constant search for novel approaches to common themes.  

And through the holding of festivals, young filmmakers are able to express their own concepts freely. In this way they are unconstraint by the industry's present condition, where artistic integrity is sacrificed in the pursuit of commercial success.

Undeniably, studio-backed productions usually favor a tried and tested formula – big-name stars, romance, a dose of comedy and a popular song used as the movie title. Though subscribed by many, there would hopefully be a remarkable transition or even shift of paradigm among audiences in terms of indie film appreciation. 

Cinemalaya films can be innovative in setting up a grassroots campaign, raising money online and pitching to anyone who would listen. Winning and well-viewed films have the opportunities to be screened and viewed internationally and grabbed many awards. 

A host of new film-makers with indie film productions are on the rise. In 2012 for instance, of the 256 local films released, 216 were indie, many by the younger generation.

Lower filmmaking costs, better funding available outside the studio system and the rise of independent film festivals have helped the indies. The great thing about the current indie boom is that excellent work is being done by filmmakers we've never heard of. It's no longer the same group of people.

Though it is still an uphill climb for indie films to become box office hits, there have been exceptional cases, especially when vastly marketed and whose audience following create a wave of positive reviews would encourage others to view also.

A lot had changed since the start of producing indie films. Even the famous and veteran actors and directors have joined the credibility and the growing viability of indie films.

But what truly excites indie supporters is that Filipino films are starting to be appreciated by Filipinos themselves which in the past, and until now, much more recognized and appreciated outside our country.

Congratulations to the awardees of the Cinemalaya 2015 especially to the Sanctissima film which bagged the Audience Choice Award. Thank you so much Ruel Dahis Antipuesto, the cinematographer, for introducing me to director Dagatan, who believed and trusted my capability to lead his film. I am grateful working with wonderful people in the film: Chai Fonacier, Gen Mijares, Jaylou Dari, Nicole Blackman, Lyka Flare Ruela, our executive producers: Evelyn Dagatan and Andres Dagatan, producer/line lroducer: Frances Marie Nuñez, associate producer Rica May Salvador, director of photography Ruel Dahis Antipuesto, assistant director Rica May Salvador, assistant cameramen Earl Yap and Karlo Soriano, sound recordist/boom operator Lorenzo Nikolo, for screenplay: Kenneth Dagatan and Mariya Lim, script supervisor Mariya Lim, production manager Lyka Flare Ruela, rigging gaffers/grips–Jandro Asuncion, Nathaniel Rubio and Ryan Singgit, production designers Breech Quincy and Kaloy Uypuanco, hair and make-up /SFX and prosthetics make-up artist Gemstar Branzuela, wardrobe / PD assistant Sheena Branzuela, prosthetic artist Richard Carvajal, PA for art department–Judith Eugenio, editor Karl Lucente, sound-post and sound designer Karl Lucente, story consultants Ruel Dahis Antipuesto, Victor Villanueva and Diem Judilla, for the subtitles–Samantha Solidum, for the music–Karl Lucente, Vince Lucer and Michelle Ybañez. 

For those who greeted me on Facebook and phone, thank you. Salute to the new breed of filmmakers! Toast to the greatness of Cebuano talent!



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