A sizable number of the Directors’ Guild of the Philippines, Inc. (DGPI) members attended a special meeting at the Dulcinea Restaurant on Morato street last September 16.
The meeting was called for one special purpose—to inform DGPI members that the guild has already convinced a film-television producer who is willing to finance seven digital films which will be shown simultaneously as the first ever DGPI Film Festival. The hope expressed is that after the first DGPI Filmfest, others will follow and not necessarily after the lapse of a year.
It turned out that a group of DGPI officers and members had been working without any fanfare in seeking out this special producer in an effort to provide another festival of digital films which, in their words, are more audience-friendly—apparently a new euphemism for commercial or partially commercial.
The group included DGPI President Tony Y. Reyes, Directors Joel Lamangan, Tony Cruz and Rudy Meyer. During the meeting, Joel and Tony C. discussed the project as the DGPI president was shooting the OctoArts Films entry to the 2007 Metro Manila Film Festival, Enteng Kabisote 4.
Joel explained that only DGPI directors can join the festival. And because there are at least 50 DGPI members, the guild leadership has decided to conduct a contest to come up with the seven digital film festival entries. Any one director can submit up to three scripts but only one can be selected.
Joel announced two important must-be for the digital film entry. First, the film must be completed with a budget of just P2 million though another P1 million has also been allocated for each film’s transfer to 35 mm. prints for showing in theaters. It seems that the SM Cinema’s nationwide circuit will be the only or main venue for exhibition. Second, the film must be conceived as an out-of-the-box and audience-friendly digital film.
The contest will be open to all scriptwriters who can submit their scripts to DGPI directors willing to submit them as their entries. At this point in time, the deadline for the submission of screenplays or even sequence treatments is tentatively set for the end of October.
The guild formed a seven-man committee that will oversee the special project. It is headed by Tony Reyes with Director Peque Gallaga as co-vice-chairman (the other vice-chairman being a repreentative of the film-tv producer), Tony Cruz, Soxy Topacio and new DGPI members Dante Mendoza and Ellen Ongkiko.
The guild has also come up with a short list of possible judges who will choose the digital filmfest entries.
The meeting adjourned. The DGPI directors broke up, apparently buoyed up by this welcome development.
I just know that each of the directors who were present and who made up their minds to join this guild undertaking understandably slept an hour or two late that same night. And most of them fell asleep thinking that indeed all of us are now faced with a challenge that is almost like unraveling the riddle of the Sphinx.
The first riddle is to solve the budget constraints.
The second riddle is to come up with a script that is out-of-the-box, meaning innovative, extra-ordinary and not the run-of-the-mill type.
The third riddle is to craft a commercial or audience-friendly digital film out of this out-of-the-box screenplay or film concept.
At first glance, out-of-the-box and audience-friendly are two phrases that seem at loggerheads with one another. They sound like two conflicting adjectives, almost like antonyms. Almost like antithesis to one another.
And I suddenly realized that this is where the challenge comes in. This is where you have to untangle things and lay them side by side on the table to seek the magic formula, the eureka moment.
It is really a tall order.
And I suddenly realized that if National Artist for Film Director Ishmael Bernal is still alive, he will berate us for thinking that a single film cannot be out-of-the-box and audience-friendly at the same goddamn time.
At the height of his directorial career, Ishma made films which were artistic and commercial too.
He was the genuine out-of-the-box director if I know one. He was the only director who can end a dramatic film with a confrontation between Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos with the dialogues conveyed through the intensity of their eyes. This happened in Ikaw ay Akin, one of the films I wrote for him.
Ishma was never daunted by innovation. He never kowtowed to admonitions like Hindi ginagawa yan, direk!, Hindi maiintindihan ng bakya yan, Ishma! or You are really way ahead of your time! That last would bring a smile to his lips, complete with a curtsy and a bow.
I ended up with a brilliant idea. Why not rummage through my files of film projects Ishma and I conjured out of thin air those heady days of the 70s and the 80s, considered the Second Golden Era of Philippine Cinema. Maybe, just maybe, there is an out-of-the-box and audience-friendly script piled there somewhere, buried between sheaves of typewritten (there was no computer copies then) but brittle manuscripts.