The agenda for discussion was serious and urgent but the flow and ebb of our exchange of ideas was very light and surprisingly productive.
Ranged on one side were officials of the Film Academy of the Philippines and representatives of the anti-piracy and theater organizations. Across the table were two solons who may yet turn out to be the knights in shining armor who can for the moment give the ailing film industry a breathing spell.
Congressman Prospero ‘Butch’ Pichay and Senator Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr. met with a delegation of FAP officials—Director General Leo G. Martinez, Chairman Atty. Espiridion Laxa, treasurer Manny Morfe, this writer—as well as Dominic Du, vice-president for administration of the Movie Industry Anti-Piracy Organization, Inc., and Atty. Rolly Dueñas, vp of the National Cinema Association of the Philippines.
The time was high noon which was very conducive to the buffet lunch hour at the coffee shop of Shangrila Makati.
The topic on the block is the parallel efforts of the two solons to calendar and to fight for the approval of similar bills which will cut the amusement tax for films from 30 percent to ten percent—a move which is sure to reinvigorate the slumping local film industry which is expected, sad to say, to come up with a meager 50 or so films for the whole of 2006, already inclusive of the 10 Christmas filmfest entries.
Everything was so light and vibrant and the feeling around the table was that the bills we were discussing are as good as approved. There were talks of a two-tiered amusement tax which will impose 10 percent on local films and 20 percent on foreign films. There was a suggestion that films produced in the Philippines—even if produced by a foreign company—can also avail of the 10 percent tax incentive.
With Congressman Pichay & Senator Revilla (4th & 5th from left) are Atty. Espiridion Laxa, Dominic Du, Leo G. Martinez, Jose Carreon, Atty. Rolly Dueñas and Manny Morfe
But what was evident in our talks was the earnestness and genuine concern exuded by both gentleman solons about the plight of the local films industry. For Senator Bong, it was understandable. He is still an actor and a film producer at heart. Thus, we were more struck by the congressman’s involvement in this undertaking. Slowly, it dawned on us that Rep. Butch Pichay is also an entertainment and movie buff.
Over lunch which the congressman skipped because he will have blood chemistry test within the day, Rep. Pichay bubbled with enthusiasm as he unabashedly talked about his ideas on local films and the need to expand the market for films by targeting the fickle and discriminating audience worldwide.
In between ribbing and teasing each other in bicameral fashion, the Butch and Bong team virtually vowed that they will continue on helping the film industry even after the passage of their particular pet bills re the 10 percent amusement tax.
It was very apparent that the two solons are real buddies and comrades. Rep. Pichay even regaled us with campaign tales where he brought the would-be senator to his sorties in Surigao. “Siya lang ang dinala ko don,” he declared, beaming at the smiling senator.
The talks soon veered towards film production. The senator said he wants to produce a film for a-last-week-of-November playdate He even requested Mr. Du to reserve that playdate for him inspite of the fierce rivalry of Regal Films of Mother Lily and Star Cinema of ABS-CBN to nail down those playdates for their pics.
Not to be out-planned, Rep. Pichay began talking about film plots and concepts he has in mind. As if plucking storylines from a magic hat, he rattled off several plots which can be adapted into films.
To twit the senator beside him, he said a good project is something about a gallivanting husband who is constantly getting in trouble with his jealous wife. “Maganda ito kung yung main character e isang senador,” he roared in laughter. Then he mentioned scenes where the playboy husband gets in trouble. The senator saw a chance to strike back and declared: “Butch, sa iyo siguro nangyari yan. Alam na alam mo e.” All broke out in boisterous laughter.
Turning serious, the congressman opined that there is really a need to expand the audience of local films and that can only be achieved if we begin to produce films which can be competitive internationally. Mr. Du informed the group that some majors (companies such as Warner Brothers, Paramount, Sony, etc.) are actually looking for co-production ventures with local film companies.
Rep. Pichay said the country has many scenic places which can be used interestingly in films. He mentioned Busuanga in Palawan where a story about Filipino and foreign surfers can unfold. He also mentioned the possibility of tackling kidnapping stories by terrorists.
He also mentioned the possibility of making digital films, saying that he has six digital cameras which can be used for this undertaking.
The talks rolled on and on and the feeling was that the bills approval was a done deal. For us, it was a noon where we got a peek into the plans and programs of two solons about their modest way of extending a helping hand to the slumping film industry. And what we saw and heard was encouraging enough.