Finished film product or screenplay? Limitation or no limitation on the number of entries per producer? A festival of quality films or a showcase of commercial entertainment fares?
These are among the contentious issues which will be discussed in a workshop seminar called by Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando to come up with possible revisions or changes in the rules for the screening and selection of the entries in the next Metro Manila Film Festival Philippines in December.
The consultation workshop-seminar will be held on Saturday, April 23, 2005, according to Manny Nuqui, coordinator of the event.
All interested producers, theater owners and representatives from the major booking groups in Manila and the provinces are invited to the consultation workshop, as well as three representatives each from the various working guilds of the Film Academy of the Philippines, the Directors’ Guild of the Philippines, and the Nagkaka-isang Manggagawa ng Pelikulang Pilipino. Officers of the three main beneficiaries of the tax rebates during the festival—the Mowelfund, the Motion Pictures Anti-Film Piracy Council and the FAP—will represent their respective agencies.
Chairman Fernando called for a streamlining of the rules and guidelines to avoid the misunderstandings that attended the MMFFP last year. Though the said festival grossed Php 300 million, the MMDA Chairman said that studying the present sets of rules and guidelines will benefit everybody and erase possible irritants.
Nuqui, a member of the festival’s executive committee, explained that the committee will be amenable to adopt new rules but it may insist on retaining rules that had proven effective and advantageous for the past years.
He said that the consultation seminar will start with Chairman Fernando briefing the participants on the purpose of the workshop. The participants will then be divided into working panels which will discuss particular issues to be tackled.
At the end of the day, the working panels will submit their recommendations which will be forwarded to the MMFFP executive committee for study and possible inclusion into the rules and guidelines of the MMFFP selection process, Nuqui emphasized.
FINISHED PRINT OR SCREENPLAY?
The first point of contention will be the basis for the selection of entries to the festival. Must it just be a screenplay or the finished film product with print already?
Since 2002, the festival entries were selected from among completed screenplays submitted to the screening committee. Based on screenplays submitted, a panel of readers chose the eight or nine scripts which were then turned into films. In 2002 and 2003, the finished films were screened and at least six were chosen to be shown during the entire run of the festival. Two or three only began showing on January 1. In 2004, all eight entries began showing at the start of the festival on Christmas Day.
Those who are vocal against the system contend that a screenplay and a finished film are totally different altogether. A good written script is not an assurance that a director can translate it into a good film. There are even cases that some bad scripts when handled and revised by good directors may turn out to be classic works. In 2002, the festival’s board of readers did not choose the screenplay of Magnifico though this was an award-winning script at that time. Magnifico, when produced by Violett Films, was a grand slam winner of all the film awards given out in 2004.
Those who want the present system argue, however, that at this time of a meltdown in the film industry, producers need assurance that their films are already selected as entries to funnel more budget and financing into their films. Especially after the Php 4 million incentive was removed, producers are hesitant to invest millions to a project that may not be selected come crunch time. Producers say that the Christmas season is the only sure money-making playdate left today.
A LIMITATION OR NO LIMITATON ON ENTRIES?
Regarding a limit on the number of entries a producer can submit to the festival, most knowledgeable experts in the film industry concede that the present rule is still the best though they warned that there are ingenious ways of circumventing the rule.
The rules state that a producer can submit one entry, with another entry submitted by a sister company owned by the same producer. It is clear that one producer can submit two entries at the most. The rules are specific on this point, discouraging a producer to submit another entry where he or she is a co-producer when he or she has already submitted two entries.
But the same experts from the film industry stress that producers trying to submit additional entries might utilize existing film companies as dummies though they added this can easily be exposed because the industry is a close well-knit enterprise.
On the other side of the issue, there are those who advocate for no limitation in the entries of a single producer. They argue that if a producer can make as many qualified films as possible, why limit his or her participation to a minimal number of entries.
Others, however, contend that the submission of more entries by a single producer will not be viable on the economic point of view. The odds are high that having at least four entries in a single festival will result in two moneymakers and two flops. A minimum of two entries may turn out to be more profitable as what happened to Orly Ilacad of Octo Arts Films whose Enteng Kabisote (Octo Arts Films) and Spirit of the Glass (Canary Films) turned out be the top grosser and third highest grosser of the last festival.
In case of a no-limitation rule, those who are pushing for a finished film as basis for screening will gain added ammunition for their argument. They say that it is easier to submit ten or more screenplays than submitting ten or more finished films because of the obvious reason that submitting finished films will entail gargantuan investments and this might be one way of leveling the playing field..
QUALITY OR COMMERCIAL?
On the question of finally declaring what the Metro Manila Film Festival really is, whether it is purely a festival of quality films or a showcase of commercial entertainment movies, the growing consensus is that the status quo is still the best there is.
The film festival is a money-making venture inasmuch as we exclusively appropriated for local films the rich playdate of the Christmas season. Also, the tax rebates generated by the festival are intended for various beneficiaries. Thus, festival films must make it at the box office to ensure higher tax rebates which will benefit the FAP, the Mowelfund and the Anti-Film Piracy Council. This line of thinking contends that quality films are usually weak at the box office.
But in reality, the MMFFP for these past many years has been a showcase of fine quality films and blockbuster commercial movies. In essence, this might turn out to be the perfect formula. There is no reason to rock the boat and demand a festival of quality films, most insiders in the industry emphasize.
Others, however, say that even quality films can turn out to be box office hits as what happened as far back as 1977 when the Manila Film Festival showed only quality films and dispensed of the star-oriented films featuring that time’s box office actors and actresses. That was the year of Celso Ad. Castillo’s Burlesk Queen, which was exhibited with films directed by Ishmael Bernal, Lino Brocka, Mike de Leon, Romy Suzara, Joey Gosiengfiao, Augusto Buenaventura, Gil Portes and Eddie Romero.
But others are quick to assess that the last festival’s entries were a combination of quality films and commercial movies. Out of the eight entries, four received an A or B rating from the Cinema Evaluation Board.
The consultation workshop will be tackling other matters aside from the three discussed in this article. The FAP Website will give you an update to the April 23 event in our April 27 posting.