Production design is the creation of visual continuity, balance and dramatic emphasis. “Akala kasi ng iba eh basta set lang ang ginagawa namin,” explains Vic Dabao, a long-time member of PDGP (Production Designers Guild of the Philippines). “Syempre kailangan buo ang concept ng istorya kaya dapat me kopya rin kami ng script para malinaw sa amin ang pinaka-tema ng movie.” A production designer should have total control as far as the visual territory is concerned, that’s from the set, costume and even up to the hairstyles of the actors.
One of the unsung heroes of film production, the production designer works by his mind alone. “Diskarte na ang gamit dyan kaya dapat may talent saka exposure din. Kaya nga mahirap pag baguhan ka lang, dapat nag-understudy ka talaga lalo na dito (sa local showbiz), gamayan din yan. Pag kinuha sa project ang isang director, may kakabit na PD na yan,” Vic laments on the fact that local showbiz runs by connection. The production design assignment depends on top production people like the line producer and the director.
The art director is one of the key elements of production design. From the concept of the production designer, the execution of the details is handled by the art director who provides the background settings and ensures that his creation is well photographed and taken in the proper and intended angles. Not only an artist on paper, the art director works closely with the cinematographer and the lighting director.
Vic Dabao in one of his serious moods
“Bale tauhan ng PD ang art director. Kadalasan, umpisa ka muna as art director tapos pag nakita ang galing mo saka ka na lang magiging PD,” Vic humbly adds that art is the priority of an artist and money is only secondary. “Mahirap kasi pag sa pera nakatutok, masisira lang ang diskarte. Kaya lang minsan nagkaka-problema rin kami dahil sa budget.” Indeed, the area of production design is one of the headaches of the line producer. The budget, being the primary concern of the line producer, always gets tangled with the requests of the production designer. “Kaya nga minsan yung art director na lang ang pinadederetso ng PD para makipag-usap sa mga producer. Lalo na pag period film, naku, dapat creative ka talaga. Creative as in matipid,” chuckle trails Vic’s statement.
On the budget side, Director William Mayo has this to share. “Medyo low on budget kami sa shoot ng Lapu-Lapu sa Subic kaya nilapitan ko si ano, yung dating big boss ng SBMA,” the name of Felicito Payumo momentarily escapes his memory. “Nung sinabi ko ang kailangan namin, aba, payag agad pero may condition. Yung pinaka-façade ng barko ni Lapu-Lapu na ilalatag namin sa tabing dagat eh iwan na lang daw namin parang souvenir. Come to think of it, magandang attraction nga rin yun ng Subic, di ba?” And as luck would have it for Direk Mayo, SBMA boss Payumo had even provided diesel fuel for the production’s generator.
But in contrast to lucky guys like the amiable William Mayo, there are inauspicious shoots that sometimes lead to disaster. Although Vic declines to relate a specific incident, he makes a general opinion on the war movies of the olden times. “Makita mo yung mga Hapon, iba-iba ang costume. Tapos minsan mabubuking pa na yung isang Hapon eh patay na yun sa previous eksena pero eto na naman at ginamit ulit,” Vic laughs mischievously, perhaps his way of showing ridicule to a co-designer. “Matagal na yung mga war movies, hindi ko na rin inabot talaga yun sa production kaya mabuti wala nang ganun ngayon. Pero nakakatawa talaga pag nakita mo kasi mga simple ang mistakes. Yung sa mga fantasy naman, dyan maraming sumasabit lalo na pag merong lumilipad na parang superman… minsan kita ang tali,” Vic chuckles again. In a sense, blunders like those given examples are mainly due to tight budget.
Vic entered showbiz via his artistic inclination. “Mahilig kasi ako sa drawing kaya napalaban ako sa storyboard. Malakas kasi ang storyboard dati pero ngayon yata wala nang director na gumagamit nun.” Storyboarding is the illustration of important scenes of an upcoming project. So similar to the illustrated komiks, a storyboard now costs from 100 pesos per drawing (regular bond paper size) to a high of 300 pesos. Although Vic said that most big projects then (before the arrival of the computers) require a full storyboard such that an art director (or a production designer) would come up with sometimes up to 2,000 drawings. “Pag humawak ka ng storyboard, naku, hindi puwedeng hindi ka mahasa sa mga sketches at drawing. Saka andun ang pera.”
Asked of his connection to the more popular Davao family, Vic gives a curt smile and a joking repartee, “Eh iba naman ang spelling nung kanila. Boy yung Dabao ko, yung sa kanila victory naman.” But after a little more of a friendly inter-rogation, Vic finally breaks down and confesses, “Kapatid ng father ko si Charlie Davao kaya first cousin ko si Ricky. Talagang boy ang spelling ng Dabao namin, ginawa lang nilang victory para mas may appeal daw.” But Vic hastily adds that cousins Ricky and Bing know him but Charlie may have already forgotten his face since their families have not been really that close in the past years. That’s one way of affirming his declaration that he came into the movies via his own credential as an artist and not thru his affinity with the famous character actor (Charlie Davao).
Vic’s primary occupation and first love is that of a visual artist. “Drawing, painting, iba-ibang medium. Basta may naisip ako, sige lang, tira agad pag may materyales.” A painting kit costs around P2,000 that includes the canvas and a set of oil paint. But he warns that a picture frame is one of the most expensive part of the painting program. “Depende kasi sa material ng frame. Pag mumu-rahin kasi ang frame syempre nakakabawas yun kahit maganda ang painting, di ba? Kaya nga madalas pag pang-regalo ko ang painting, walang frame, bahala na silang bumili,” Vic chuckles again to profess his love for clean mischief.
Painting used bottles is a new genre of visual art. “Acrylic lang at ordinary bottle lang. Pero mas maganda yung mga bote ng alak na iba-iba ang korte. Konting pasada lang at puwede nang ilagay sa gallery. Walang biro pero sa gallery libo ang presyo ng mga painted bottles ko,” Vic beams. He was once interviewed in RPN-9 about his bottle painting which practically, for non-artists, is easier than painting on canvas. “Eh mura nga kasi ang bote kesa sa canvas.”
He also does that thing called mixed media. “Ano yun, bale painting din. Halimbawa painting ng mukha tapos nilagyan mo ng kuwintas pero yung kuwintas nung portrait ay hindi na pintura… puwedeng mga butil ng mais o kaya yung katigbe,” explains Vic of the mixed media style which is getting in vogue. He had done a bird’s eyeview of an urban city in mixed media using acrylic paint plus a computer’s motherboard chip, memory card, diskette and a chopped CD. “Ganun yun. Kaya mixed media kasi halo-halo. Kung ano lang ang maisip na material, sige lang basta may hilatsa lang.”
To complement his knowledge in film-making, Vic dabbled in scriptwriting for a while. “Member din ako ng SGP (Screenwriters Guild of the Philippines) kasi nga nagsusulat din ako ng script. Mas madali kasing mag-PD kung nakakaintindi ng script kaya nag-aral na lang akong magsulat para dagdag kita rin yun.” Vic had written several movie scripts but he was not able to mention the movie titles due to his haste to air his complaints on SGP. “Nakakatawa nga eh. Kasi yung dating mga officers na maraming nagagawa, kinasuhan nila. Dati nga may mga workshop, contest at kung anu-ano. So nung nabuwisit yung mga dating officers at sila na ngayon ang pumalit, eto, wala naman pala silang kayang gawin, walang activities kasi wala raw pera. Eh ano ang nakurakot nung mga dating officers kung wala pala talagang pera ang guild, di ba?” It is obvious that Vic hates politics since it destroys the artists and spoils the art.
Vic looks forward to the day that he would be able to handle the computer with ease. Adobe Photoshop or perhaps Corel Draw? “Konting practice pa kasi katatapos ko lang ng Basic. Baka next month mag-enrol na ko sa Advance.” Technology is the waterloo of many oldtimers in the movie industry so Vic is taking his sweet time in learning how to operate the computer. His dream of using a graphics editor for his drawings may yet be realized with the ongoing computer education program of the Film Academy.
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