In the course of the 3D Stereoscopic Workshop in Matabungkay last March 2011, which was organized by FSC (Filipino Society of Cinematographers), I had the opportunity to engage some cameramen in a casual conversation.
We talked of many other things aside from their work which gave me the impression that, indeed, the movie industry is rife with undocumented trivia. Most of the items they shared were from their private notes, presumably their first hand accounts.
Few know that Charito Solis was a hygienic freak. That her alalay would wipe with alcohol any item that Charito would hold in the shoot, including the walls and furnishings. For her costumes, Charito herself brings them to the laundry.
Charito would be internalizing before the shoot and she hated delays. “Pack-up yan pag may delay ang take niya,” says an old hand. And when the director shouted “action,” everybody in the set would be mesmerized by Charito’s flawless acting.
Eddie Garcia is the male Charito Solis. Eddie’s flowery dialogue never fails to humor the crew in the set. “Hindi lang yung dialogue, pati delivery ni Eddie, walang kaparis,” adds a veteran. “Cowboy na cowboy yan, walang arte sa katawan.”
Robin Padilla is like Eddie Garcia who is also a cowboy. Robin is very generous with the crew especially during the last shooting day. Robin is also “makamasa” who lends a smiling face to everyone.
Another generous soul was Rudy Fernandez. “Puwedeng lapitan yan ng problema lalo na kung pera,” reveals an oldtimer. Just like FPJ (Fernando Poe, Jr.), Rudy had provided assistance to countless of movie industry people.
For a little controversial item, Alma Moreno’s movie Lumakad Kang Hubad Sa Mundong Ibabaw was the cause of her breakup with Rudy Fernandez. Rudy was against the idea of Alma going bold again after giving birth to their son, Mark Anthony. And after that episode, Rudy’s love for Lorna Tolentino blossomed. “Shooting namin sa Iloilo, shooting sa Naga, andun si Lorna eh hindi naman siya kasali sa pelikula,” reveals a cameraman with a matching grin. “Yun na!”
Director Bert Avellana, who would later on be named National Artist, was very meticulous in the set. “Pag naka-ready na dapat wala nang ibang gagalaw kundi yung mga artista na lang. Masungit si Avellana sa set.”
Director Richard Abelardo was famous for his glass shot. Direk Abelardo was the one who would make the drawings on a panel of glass using ink or paint. That would later be superimposed with the scene that he would shoot. A neat camera trick in the olden times.
Abelardo was the original “walang tulugan” director. “Pag may gagawing glass shot, magdo-drowing yan. Kami namang crew, hintay lang. Oras na matapos sa drawing, take na agad,” bewails Abelardo’s former cameraman.
Another camera trick specialist was Cinematographer Carding Baltazar. He would have 2 sets (scenery), called set A and set B. Carding would then shoot set A with a mirror that was actually showing the reflected image of set B, in effect merging the 2 scenes.
Gerry De Leon, another revered film director, had the habit of using stand-ins. The scene to be shot would be rehearsed using a stand-in. The stand-in should be of the same height and built of the star so as to have an exact framing (of the camera).
Felicing Constantino, the so-called father of comedy movies, had a cornucopia of humor. “Mabilis mag-isip ng nakakatawa. Kahit tingnan lang ang mukha mo, may maiisip agad.” Pepe Pepe Wenceslao, who started as assistant cameraman, learned directing from Constantino.
For some hilarity, Arnold Alvaro relates the idiosyncrasy of cinema-tographer Ben Lobo. One time the camera was on a high platform, Ben would be urinating with no warning, right from the platform.
While shooting Himala, Arnold and Ben were booked in a room together with 2 gay makeup artists. Ben hastily took a bath and lay on the bed with no clothes on. Expectedly, there was a loud scream when the gay makeup artists came in.
Romulo Araojo was a clapper when they were shooting Matandang Damo which starred Eddie Garcia. Assistant cameraman Ramon Marcelino was electrocuted in the beach scene. Since the shoot was on location, Marcelino had to look for a replacement.
Araojo was tasked to assume Marcelino’s job. That was a big break for Araojo who, fortunately, had been observing the work of the assistant cameraman. He had fulfilled the job with the aid of verbal instructions from Marcelino.
For their job, a cameraman should be checking the dolly for bumps and unnecessary jerks. “Dapat siguradong patag ang dolly para smooth ang andar ng camera.” The framing should be to the letter and the lights should also be verified correct.
But the most important aspect of cinematography is the focus. A cameraman is allowed only 2 mistakes. “Magastos kasi ang film pag may mali. Hindi bale artista ang mag-take two o take three pero cameraman hindi puwede. Papalitan ka agad.”
A clarification by Romulo Araojo, the movies has the DOP (Director of Photography) who dictates the setting of the lights. In television they have the Lighting Director.
The cameraman or cinematographer operates the camera but his camera should be in harmony with the environment such as lighting, foreground, background, movements. Capturing a scene is easy if you know how, that is, if you know how.