The quality of a film largely depends on the so-called production value. And one aspect of production value is the production design.
“Parang hindi nga nabibigyan ng importansya,” states Vic Dabao with a tinge of sadness that production design was being taken for granted, “pero sa totoo talaga, malaki ang role ng PD.” The Production Designer handles the A to Z of the aesthetic part of the movie, i.e. the set design, costume, props, make-up.
“Gusto ko nga na magkaroon sana ng standard. Ang PD dapat artist rin. Kasi art ang production design. Paano ka gagawa ng design kung hindi ka artist, di ba?” Vic says that there are PDs who really don’t know their craft. They just hire a good Art Director as if they had become just an agent for Production Design.
“May mga PD na naglalagare,” that is having 2 or more projects at the same time,” paano nila magagawa ng tama ang trabaho? Yun pala iaasa na lang sa tauhan nila. Tama ba yung setman o karpintero na ang bahala?.” Vic emphasizes that the PD should always be physically present in the shooting because the PD is always on guard for mistakes especially in the installation of the set.
In Zombie 2 and Zombie 3, a foreign production by the famed Italian director Lucio Fulci, there were more than 200 people working under Vic’s department. “Masyado kasing matrabaho ang set. Gumawa kami ng parang isang community sa Laguna. Tapos, yung makeup matindi rin.”
Sample of Vic’s character design
For a foreign production, 200 people working for the production designer is not uncommon. “Pero dito sa atin kasi tinitipid… yung 200 people na yun dito baka isa lang siguro,” Vic laughs before saying that the quality of local production design is way below standard particularly because of the meager budget.
Aside from the production design of 30 movies, Vic also had handled television production, stage and even commercials. “Yan lang ang hirap, wala akong record ng mga nagawa ko kaya pag hindi ko na maalala eh wala na talaga.”
One memorable movie that Vic had handled was The Trident Force of Anna Films. That foreign movie was shot in San Juan, La Union. The required set was a vast desert with Arab-looking cast. “Matindi rin ang budget nito. Pag foreign production talagang binubuhusan nila ang production design.”
Anthony Alonzo, the leading man of The Trident Force, was all praises for Vic’s set design and artistic concept. “After that movie, pumupunta sa bahay si Anthony pag may gagawing pelikula. Nagpapa-design sa akin ng costume,” says Vic with pride that he had become a sort of design consultant for some actors.
The hardest project that Vic remembers was the one shot in Tanay, Rizal. It was Far East Adventure but was retitled Sweet Revenge in its international release. “Parang mga pirates yun, pirate’s den yung setting. Kasali nga dun si Leo Martinez.”
Vic Dabao holding a painted bottle
Part of Vic’s design was a huge face with trickling water. Unfortunately, a storm ruined the plans so the set was moved inside the Rapids Hotel. “Hindi nga nila akalain na mailalagay ko yung malaking mukha sa loob ng hotel. May ugat-ugat pa yung mukha, ugat ng mga puno at baging ang ginamit ko.”
Another difficult project for Vic was Born To Fight. “Vietnam kasi ang setting nun kaya maraming bahay na parang kubo. Susunugin kasi yun. Pero meron ding mga tubigan at mga palayan.” Recreating a Vietnam setting from scratch involves a big budget for the production design.
For some technical tips on designing sets, Vic underlines the use of acrylic paint. “Ako ang nagpauso ng acrylic. Talagang nag-experimento ako. Kasi yung enamel matagal matuyo at saka mabaho ang amoy nun. Nagagalit yung mga artista pag ganun.” According to Vic, acrylic adheres to almost anything so it is easy to apply.
For his TV project, Vic remembers the one in Ateneo. Aptly titled Paano Kita Malilimutan, that tv show was produced and handled by Ateneo students. “Maliit ang budget pero nakakatuwa kasi yung mga estudyante maliliksing kumilos, willing talaga silang matuto ng trabaho.”
It’s not only production design for Vic. He also writes scripts. Romano Sagrado in 1996, which starred Monsour Del Rosario, would have earned Vic a nomination. “Kaso may bayad pala yung registration para maging qualified sa nomination. Umayaw ako. Para kasing binili mo na yung nomination.”
Vic Dabao is not only a Production Designer, not only a scriptwriter but first and foremost a visual artist. “Kahit ano. Painting, sculpture, mixed media. Yung mixed media kakaiba yun.” On the canvas is a mixture of paint or ink and symmetrically pasted were waste materials like computer chips and cd, rusty screw, bottle caps, etc.
“Sa painting dati oil ang gamit ko. Kaso mahal ang kit saka ang tagal matuyo. Akala mo lang tuyo na yung oil pero two years yun bago talagang matuyo.” Vic pauses a bit as if to think.”Mas maganda ang Acrylic. Yung pintura. Yung sa bato. Mura kasi tapos madali pang matuyo. Medyo iba nga lang ang color kaya dapat marunong kang tumantya.”
Aside from oil and acrylic paint, Vic likes ink the most. “Bago ako matulog nagdo-drowing ako.” Using ball pen or sometimes technical pen, Vic creates mostly semi-abstract drawings. Like the madonna and child he had given this author, the woman was nursing a baby while holding a high-powered gun.
Another of Vic’s new invention is bottle-painting. “Acrylic din ang gamit ko dyan. Pero nilalagyan ko ng emulsion para kumintab.” His painted bottles sells for up to 6,000 pesos during exhibitions. But the primary use of his painted bottle was as a gift to his friends. “Pero pili lang ang binibigyan ko nyan (painted bottle).”
A member of the PDGP (Production Designers Guild of the Philippines), Vic is also the vice president of SGP (Screenwriters Guild of the Philippines).
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