May 04
REFLECTION by Jose N. Carreon  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Wed, May 4, 2005

Turning Things Around

In a timely and decisive move to arrest a further decline in the attendance and gross receipts of the Metropolitan Manila Film Festival Philippines, the festival’s executive committee has acted on some of the comments and recommendations generated by three groups of film industry leaders, craftsmen and technical people during the productive MMFFP consultative assembly last April 23.

In a meeting on Friday, April 29, the execom, headed by Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Bayani Fernando, discussed the feasibility of adopting a seven-point list of urgent measures which may turn things around as far as the income-generating aspect of the popular and long-ongoing festival is concerned.

Three groups were formed during the consultative assembly, each one discussing with the help of facilitators from the Asian Institute of Management a particular topic regarding the festival. Group A tackled the problem of how to increase the number of applicants to the festival. Group B handled the problem of improving the selection process of film entries. And Group C dissected ways and means to increase festival revenues through effective promotion.

The execom discussed the seven-point summary of the comments/recommendations, hammered out during the consultative assembly, hereinunder quoted in full:

Determination of the basic criteria in the submission of entries as to whether scripts or the finished films will be required from the producers/applicants.

Assign 50% of the slots for the official entries of 2005 MMFFP to big production companies and the other 50% to independent and small production outfits, provided that the latter are able to comply with the requirements for commercial viability.

How to strike a balance between the objectives of the MMFFP to develop the Filipino movie industry, and promote quality films, etc., vis-à-vis the need to generate funds for the MMFFP.

The Selection Committee should be different from the execom and the board of judges.

Conduct a research/study on the factors/indicators for the success of the 1992 film festival as a guide for this year’s event.

Adopt a market strategy to promote the festival by inviting the viewers (audience mobilization) and by holding regional festivals.

Need to strengthen communication linkages between MMFFP and the different sectors of the industry.

The finished film vs. script debate proved to be the most contentious issue tackled during the assembly. But the recommendations from Group B came up with the consensus that finished films must be the basis for the final selection.

During the execom meeting, some members still insisted that scripts are still the most viable and practical basis for selecting entries. They reasoned out that producers who are assured of participation will not hold back on their budgets to come up with films worthy of the festival. They added that the earlier announcement of entries will enable them to start their promotion earlier.

But to stick to this provision will clearly negate the spirit of the consultative assembly where Group B had recommended otherwise. Chairman Fernando came with a Solomonic decision to settle the issue. He asked for mechanics to be drawn up that will enable the festival to select the first five or six entries through submitted scripts while the remaining entries (possibly four or five) will be selected after finished products are submitted.

By this process, producers who failed to enter the festival by virtue of their submitted scripts have a second chance to re-apply their projects, but now in the form of a finished print. This will also leave open the possibility that some producers might forego the selection through scripts and just submit their prints later on. This is also welcome news to producers who are not yet ready with a script and might come up with one when the deadline for submission of scripts is already over.

The fifty-fifty percent assignment of slots to bigtime producers and the independent and small production outfits will still need a deeper study. A more viable alternative, it seems, is to allot two or three entries from the independent and small producers. The question of new producers is another matter to be clarified. Will the execom still require that a producer must have produced a minimum of three films to be able to participate?

The third comment/recommendation drives a clear division between quality films and commercial films. Throughout the history of the Metro Manila film festival, the selection of entries has created a niche for both kinds of films. This, I believe, is still the best policy to follow.

The late Director Ishmael Bernal, a national artist for film, had always contended that a film is irrevocably and undeniably commercial if it is a box-office hit. Therefore, he always declared, a quality film that struck it rich at the box office is a commercial film.

As things stand, there is already a balance between the objectives of the MMFFP to develop the industry by producing quality films vis-à-vis the aim to generate a bigger revenue at the theater tills.

As for the fourth comment/recommendation, a drastic change is the prohibition of members of the execom and the board of judges to sit in the selection committee—the group which will pick the scripts, first, then the finished prints, to come up with the final list of entries.

Group B recommended an 11-man selection committee (but nine will constitute a quorum). The members will include a theater owner, a film critic, a director, a scriptwriter, an actor, a producer, a cinematographer, and a representative each from the MMDA, the academe, the bookers and the advertising-marketing sector. Chairman Fernando decided to raise the membership to 13 or 15, with the additonal members coming from the MMDA.

Comment/recommendation number 5 calls for a research/study on the factors and indicators re the success of the 1992 film festival as a guide for the 2005 MMFFP.

MMFFP statistics show that in terms of attendance (but not in actual gross since the admission price has gone up through the years), the year 1992 outstripped all the years between 2000 and 2004.

In 1992, the total attendance reached 6,898,482 in a comparative study of the figures from 1986 to 2004. The comparative study also shows that 1991 (with 5,751,075) and 1994 (with 5,469,949) ranked second and third.

In 2003, the attendance was pegged at 5,438,186. In 2002, it was 4,500,000. In 2004, it was 4,138,588. But some execom members contended that the figures were incomplete because the attendance breakdown in the provincial spots was not included.Another factor for the decline was the shorter festival period of 12 days for 2004.

Other important comments/recommendations included the one-director-one-film policy and the second-batch policy where two or three of the film entries will begin showing on January 1 to provide a second wind to the festival. This was the case in 2002 and 2003 wherein the films opening on January 1 had even overtaken the grosses of the other films which opened earlier on Christmas Day.

Group C of the consultative assembly recommended, among others, several promotion strategies that included the availability of theater trailers earlier, an increase in the number of entries and a much long exhibition period, as well as daily screening schedules.