Mar 14
THE ART OF MOVIE-MAKING by Alex J. Socorro  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Wed, Mar 14, 2007

Concoct a story, select the casting, gather the artistic staff, get a capable crew, and armed with a reasonable budget, a producer can come up with a movie. Easy to say for one to make a movie but you cannot say the same for making a good movie.

Irrefutably, a movie is a work of art. And a work of art is certainly a creation of an artist. The visuals, as some people call the movie, is a complicated art of story-telling by way of moving pictures and delicately crafted audio. Adding to the complexity is the expense involved in making such an artwork. That’s why the movie is also considered a business although there were some producers who had attempted to get the best of both worlds – business and art.

Madam Violett, the person behind Violett Films, dared to dip her finger in the cookie jar by producing Magnifico. Probably enthralled by the good storyline, Madam Violett gave her all out support to the director, the hardworking Maryo J. Delos Reyes, in manufacturing a work of art. An ordinary but tragic-laden story of an ordinary young boy from an ordinary poor family, Magnifico had succeeded in proving that good story-telling makes a good work of art. Complementing the light casting, especially so that the lead star Jiro Manio was a newcomer, was the embedded artistry employed in unweaving a simple story that didn’t fail to delight the movie critics.

Magnifico holds the record of 39 trophies and plaques in countless award-giving bodies, from here and abroad. The success of the said film was unprecendented but the producer, Violett Films, couldn’t deny their dismay. It is a fact, financially speaking, that Magnifico was a flop!

Using the same method but with a different approach, Cesar Montano had also tried his hand to mix art with business. After being smitten by the script of Cris Vertido, Cesar gathered several investors to produce Panaghoy Sa Suba. Although not really that too popular anymore, Cesar is undeniably still popular with the masses such that some showbiz reporters had branded him as the male Nora Aunor. Convinced and quite excited, the investors agreed for Cesar to star in his own film to be produced by his own CM Films outfit and to be directed by no other than himself.

According to the accounts of Cris Vertido, the shooting of Panaghoy Sa Suba showed the other side of Cesar Montano. He was very meticulous in shooting the scenes and left no stone unturned in getting the shots that he wanted. Considering that the movie was done on location in Bohol, the expenses shot up to unimaginable figures. But Cesar and the excited investors threw caution to the wind since the movie they were making was an entry to the grandest festival of all, the Metro Manila Film Festival.

As history tells us, Panaghoy Sa Suba went the way of Magnifico. Cesar won the Best Actor and Best Director of different award-giving groups. As a bonus, Rebecca Lusterio, a native lass of Bohol whom Cesar had entrusted a supporting role also won the trophy for that category. But in the face of the awards and accolades, the investors exhibited their drooping shoulders because Panaghoy Sa Suba had turned into Nanaghoy sa Box Office. One thing that went against Cesar’s award-winning film was its overly-artistic style of having the dialogue in Boholano dialect and just settling for English subtitles for the benefit of the movie-going majority.

Regal Films has its own sentimentality with Mano Po (The Family), the first in the series. Gathering a bevy of bankable stars, so to speak, Mother Lily Monteverde didn’t hesitate to shell out an investment big enough just to produce a well-meaning movie that would feature her beloved Chinese culture. The casting could fill a long pad with the names of Eddie Garcia, Boots Anson-Roa, Richard Gomez, Maricel Soriano, Kris Aquino, Ara Mina, Jay Manalo, Tirso Cruz III, Amy Austria, Gina Alajar, Eric Quizon and some others, giving the impression that Mano Po would be a sure winner in the box-office. Fortunately for the Feng Shui soothsayers, Mother Lily’s Chinese classic had gained more money than she had shelled out. But in spite of the cultural backdrop, the movie’s adopted matriarch’s masterpiece was far from the likes of Magnifico and Panaghoy Sa Suba.

GMA Films’ Jose Rizal, incidentally another Cesar Montano starrer, was proclaimed the movie of the century. With an immortal story focusing on the celebrated execution of our national hero, Jose Rizal had won, not only awards but also the nod of the Dep-Ed in requiring the students to see the movie. A classic in its own fold, Jose Rizal was reputedly the best movie in terms of quality and gross sales until, last year, when GMA Films admitted that their highly-touted classic did not recoup its big investment.

Gil Portes is one director who also tried in mixing arts with business. His recent films were products of his marketing savvy, getting financial support from anyone who would be willing to bet on his projects. Typical to a low-budgeted film, there was no heavy casting and Gil Portes had only depended on the strength of the story which was “napapanahon,” to borrow his words. Mga Munting Tinig, a story with Alessandra De Rossi portraying a typical teacher, had also won some awards and had regained precious investments. Thanks to the support of the Dep-Ed. But Gil’s follow up movie, Homecoming, with the SARS-stricken Alessandra De Rossi again, failed to duplicate the revenues of Mga Munting Tinig. Worse for the daring director, his latest project, Mourning Girls, really mourned at the tills since it was reported, and later admitted by Gil Portes, that some actresses were not paid their talent fee until now.

With the emergence of digital films, movie-making is getting less expensive. Given life from the script of Michiko Yamamoto, Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros was produced by an independent filmmaker with the assistance of a grant from the Cinemalaya. In the footsteps of Magnifico, the shoestring-budgeted film earned raves from abroad before getting long overdue recognition in our native shores. As for its commercial success, it really couldn’t be compared with the traditional films in the genre of Mano Po and Mga Munting Tinig.

However, Maxi became a legend and inspiration for other independent film makers to follow suit. Tilting the favor on the side of the digitals is the prevailing economic hardship which forces producers to be choosy in their projects because traditional film production requires a minimum of 5 million but digital films can be produced for a much, much lesser budget. Also, actors and directors have a lower rate when asked to join a digital film.

A few days ago, an aspiring director revealed his plans of an experimental production. The experimental part is not on the artistic aspect though. Owning an HD (high definition) digital camera, all he needed, according to him, is a location since he had already called on his actor friends to fill up the casting. “Lahat paki lang muna,” he beams with confidence on the agreed setup that would not require any down payment for any services rendered. After securing a script via his glib tongue, the ambitious director-to-be had scheduled the production as soon as possible. “Kakasya yun,” he assures everyone that the budget of 100,000 pesos would be enough to cover the location fees and other operational expenses.

But everyone would be paid when the movie was sold to a cable network. There was a presumption that cable networks pay P750,000 for a full length movie, be it digital or the traditional film. As for his friends who would star in his movie, “Hindi na sila kilala pero magagaling sa acting yung mga yun,” explains the would-be director regarding the has-been cast. Truly, his intended project with a pittance of a budget is experimental in the sense that it has only a grain of a chance to reach completion stage. With further assurance, post-production will be taken over by his editor friend and the marketing would be handled by another friend. And so that experimental project is turning out to be a producer-friendly endeavor. “Abangan mo na lang sa cable TV, mga three months from now, sabihin ko sa iyo kung anong channel,” says the aspiring director with determination and air of confidence.

This we’ve got to see!

Comments to this article can be sent to ajsocorro@yahoo.com