Guerrillas came about as a by-product of World War II. Huk-Ba-La-Hap (Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon) was a loose group of Filipino defenders against the Japanese invaders. The guerrillas were the un-uniformed and informally trained soldiers who fought side by side with the Americans.
(Note: WW II guerrillas in the Philippines are awarded $9,000 for their war services while those residing in the US will receive $15,000. The father of this writer is currently in the US, still waiting for the promised lump sum).
The Philippine movies have countless of war films, mostly having guerrillas for their heroes. Be it action by Jess Lapid, drama of Jose Padilla, Jr. or even comedy with Pugo and Tugo, the guerrilla character would always be in the backdrop at least.
In these modern times, the guerrillas in the movie industry are thriving, i.e. shooting without the necessary permits. Unlike the movie production of the olden times where everything is on the level, things have changed now.
Securing a permit-to-shoot entails a lot of hassles especially if the barangay people are averse to the idea. And considering the low budget of digital productions, a short-cut is always preferred. Mere crowd control is an expensive chore when the location is an urban area.
“Hindi naman kailangan ang permit lalo na kung simple lang ang eksena,” says an indie director. “Yung mga moving shots na nasa sasakyan ang camera, puwedeng-puwede. Minsan affected rin ang production design para hindi halata.”
Guerrilla shooting in Luneta
There are some shoots, particularly in crowded places like a market, which goes without any preparation. “Mas maganda nga ang walang preparasyon para candid,” the indie director states with gusto. “Ang mahirap lang kung kailangan na ng ilaw. Pero kung camera lang, madaling itago, madaling sumimple.”
With the proliferation of indie producers in this digital age, the guerrilla-style of shooting is getting to be a norm. Some directors say that the shoot is more exciting when there is no permit because everything is done in haste (assuming there is precision in movements).
But the guerrilla movement, so to speak, is now a global thing. And not only in the production of movies but also in other aspects.
Indie producers are doing everything by themselves, from the production up to distribution of their product. The internet, as the fourth medium, is now being utilized for marketing purposes. A scheme used in England is the downloading of a licensed copy (of a movie) via a service website, for a fee, of course.
Sacha Gervasi, the director of Anvil! The Story of Anvil had to mortgage his home to fund the marketing of his movie. The documentary of a Canadian metal band, it was shown in the 2008 Sundance festival but didn’t attract the interest of distributors.
After raising hundreds of thousands (dollars), Mr. Gervasi availed of the power of the internet and hired Abramorama, a marketing company, for the distribution. After selling the dvd and tv rights, Anvil band members appeared in theaters for live performances as a way of promoting their movie.
The guerrilla style of distribution was somewhat successful. Rebecca Yeldham, the producer, said Anvil had earned a million in the box office worldwide.
Another guerrilla is Franny Armstrong, the director of The Age of Stupid. After spending £450,000 for the production, there was no more budget left for the distribution and promotion.
The Age of Stupid, which stars Pete Postlethwaite, is a drama-docu and partly animation with the setting in a devastated world in the year 2055.
A sci-fi produced by Lizzie Gillet with John Battsek as the Executive Producer, it aims to awaken our interest to climate change.
After squeezing some more juice from the production’s 228 shareholders, Armstrong proceeded with the non-traditional style of distribution. It was released in Australia and New Zealand last August and had an inter-national release the following month.
For the local directors and producers of indie movies, another aspect worth looking at is the guerrilla style of joining festivals. An indie producer admitted that you have to invest money and effort because you have to be attending international movie festivals abroad in order to connect to the right people.
An international movie festival sometimes gets participants via invitation by email. And once a connection was established, a producer or director gets invited every year. Of course, the representative of the production should attend the festival.
Gina Marissa Tagasa Gil
In late 2004, Sa Kandungan Ng Langit won the Best Drama in Feature Film category of the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival. It was produced by White Windows Productions of Mr. Jae Jung Jang and directed by Gina Marissa Tagasa. Click link for a related story: http://filmacademyphil.org/?p=51
Sa Kandungan Ng Langit may be the first digital movie to have won an award in an international film festival. According to Tagasa, they got the invitation thru their Korean connections and they had sent the required documentations via courier mail.
However, the festival’s other requirement was for the production people to be present during the festival proper. White Windows sent 3 representatives to the festival—Gina, Mr. Jae and a staff who was also part of the cast. Indeed, it’s a big investment in joining international festivals.
Brillante “Dante” Mendoza can be considered a neo-veteran guerrilla in international film festivals. His first digital movie, Masahista, had won the Interfaith Award in Brisbane, Australia and the Golden Leopard Award in the 58th Locarno International Film Festival held in Switzerland in 2005.
Mendoza had, so far, directed 9 films, most of which had joined inter-national film festivals. Kinatay, one his latest movies, had earned him the Best Director trophy in the 62nd Cannes Film Festival.
As of the latest development in international film festival conquests, the 7th Bangkok International Film Festival awarded the grand prize to Independencia, a movie by Raya Martin which stars Sid Lucero, Tetchie Agbayani and Alessandra De Rossi.
In the same festival, Imburnal received special mention in a tie with Call Me If You Need Me of James Lee. Imburnal was directed by Sherad Anthony Sanchez.
For the award seekers, it’s all glory and no money for now. Award-winning movies in international film festivals failed to earn in the local box office. In fact, Mendoza’s film Kinatay has yet to be exhibited locally.
With the rapid advance in technology, movie production is getting easier, distribution is now wider, and winning an international award has become viable. And with the guerrilla style getting to be prevalent, Filipino movie-makers now have an edge in international competitions.
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