By Manny Rodriquez
The Indies or independent filmmakers have burgeoned into a potent group and are now proclaiming in unison that digital filmmaking is the new wave of the future. Even mainstream movie producers agree that the digital revolution will surely change the face of local cinema and are making plans of their own to spin off digital film divisions within their established film companies.
In 2005, the Independent Cinema Association of the Philippines joined forces with the City of Manila to stage the recent 7th Cinemanila International Film Festival, the first time ever it was held in the premier city. Again the ever growing numbers of young Filipino filmmakers joined the said festival—actually eight full-length feature finalists in the festival for local competition.
The festivals’ theme, Buhayin ang Pelikulang Pilipino, offered an alternative to mainstream filmmaking in an effort to give the ailing movie industry a much-needed shot in the arm, considering the astronomical costs of raw stocks and taxes that today hound our mainstream film producers.
The Indie films at this point in time are slowly inching into the territory of mainstream film production. Indies now spearhead local film participation in global cinema festivals, as well as the development of fresh talents and new independent producers.
The new challenge, which budding filmmakers are grappling with, is to enhance their ingenuity and craftsmanship to create quality films thru the digital process. Their main goal is not only to revitalize the movie industry but also to promote local films as a medium to awaken social and national consciousness, as well as to provide a showcase of artistry and cultural awareness.
The digital films annual festivals (there were at least three major fests last year—the Cinemalaya festival, the Cinema One festival and Cinemanila) undoubtedly inspired every young Filipino filmmaker to contribute his talent, creativeness, perseverance and commitment to lift the country back to its former pedestal as Asia’s premier film industry once.
Movies are mirrors of life, events and history, teaching viewers, young and old alike, lessons which are not learned in schools or in everyday life but can be gleaned from moving pictures inside dark cinemahouses.
Cinemanila’s prime mover, Director Tikoy Aguiluz, believes that digital filmmaking is the best technology for the third world, the best tool for young Filipino filmmaking talents.
Indeed, digital equipment had given young filmmakers flexibility, widening the directors’ room for creative control. It is now slowly convincing mainstream producers to adapt the process because of its low-cost requirements, thus, reduced production budgets.
Indeed, the production cost of a digitally-processed full-length feature is way below the traditional film budget. A P700, 000 to P1 million budget will be enough to meet the required cost of a digital film, unless a big star is included in the cast.
A conventional film requires an average of P5 million to P7 million budget, which is actually still in the category of a low-budget movie.
If we try to put in details, the comparison of digital and traditional films in terms of production aspects is so vast that we have yet to elaborate on the aspects of equipment, camera and lighting requirements, the phases of processing, editing, scoring, dubbing, interlock, etcetera. To movie production buffs, the comparison of digital and conventional production can be easily understood. But on the technical aspect, it is really difficult to quantify that even the same experts of mainstream movie production cannot fully comprehend this matter in detail.
Our focal point is to illustrate to the ordinary moviegoers the comparison of digital movies and traditional movies in terms of creativity and commercialism.
Digital movies are synonymous to short films, documentaries and non-commercial or what we call alternative films. People who are fully involved in digital films claim that story and screenplay is more original, creative and has more leeways in artistic expression. In some points it could be true but traditional film production people still strongly believe that producing a film with tremendous budget stick to trend to recoup investments and make profit.
Formula films are always the box-office winners. Even low-budgeted traditional films intended for art’s sake can hardly or may not make a profit. A shrewd investor cannot just throw away his investments unless he is indeed a fanatic film art advocate who can afford to throw his millions just to satisfy his ego or search for prestige. This was true even before digital films were still non-existent.
Digital full-length films have yet to prove their commercial viability by posting blockbuster gross figures in the box-office though some Indie films have won awards in international film festivals.
In the technical aspect of image sharpness, the conventional films still reign supreme on the silver-screen. Digital films, of course, have yet to develop its audience in a general sense, like mainstream films whose box-office patronage and supremacy have been proven year in and year out.
The proliferation of Indie films truly enhances the ailing and almost moribund film industry but they have yet to discover a formula that will enable non-commercial films to become blockbuster hits in the box office. But as of today, the Indies filmmakers must still transfer their digitally-made films into 35 mm. celluloid films to show them throughout our archipelago. But don’t lose hope. Races must made stride by stride—actually one stride at a time. At least, we are off and away from the starting block.