Chapter Two: Ready, Set, Cut

35mm movie reel and scissors for the final cut

Sometime early August 2017, I decided to shell out money for something I knew I wanted but I was scared of. I don’t know how that mix of feelings exists or why it does. But I just did it. I faced this because at a certain point I know I will regret not doing so, and regret is something I hate more than fear.

This made me basically stop buying fries, burgers, pizzas, shakes and other comfort food just to cut on my spending and make up for the money I spent paying the registration fee for the first Rebelde Non-linear Editing Class. Because you see, I’m an adult who doesn’t want to ask money from my parents and who insists on relying solely on my humble entry-level job pay. But hey guess what, I don’t care about it. All I can think about that time was my love for film. Film was taking over my life and I don’t care whatever it takes just to get to know it better. I was in love.

That sounds foolish, right? Just like any other love, it’s hard. But it’s beautiful.

I’ve been making short films since college and the part of it that I like so much but didn’t have the courage to take on yet was film editing. I love everything about it; the way it looks like a puzzle, the quiet environment while you work on it, the way music complements it and many more aspects of it. Sometimes I even think I love it more than writing because the fulfilment of seeing its end product is different from just reading a finished script.

I do direct, write, shoot, but when it comes to editing, I always pass it on to others because I always thought I’m not good at it. But I figured out that learning film editing is something that will complete me as a filmmaker. So why not step up my game now?

It was a month-long getting to know stage with film editing and with the people who love it as much as I do. There was Angela, Carlo, Rolls, Alyanna, the Rebelde peeps and most especially Direc Thop Nazareno, who was our instructor for the class. Thop has been an editor and director for indie films such as the 2013 Cinemalaya short film Eyeball and the 2017 Cinemalaya full-length feature Kiko Boksingero.

I think it was especially easy and comfortable for me to learn film editing because it was Thop who taught me. He was this small dude sitting quietly at the end of the table when I first entered the lecture room and it was difficult to read him. We were sitting far from him and the first thing he told us was to come closer because he said he was this ‘shy person,’ and just with that, I identified with him already which then continued on throughout the course. I especially saw a great deal of his love for filmmaking which was totally cool. He knows the struggles of an aspiring filmmaker and it felt like he really understands someone like me and so it was especially interesting to learn from someone like him.

I hope he knows he’s a great teacher. I wish someone told him.

Because I didn’t, so….yeah

But nevertheless, everything he imparted to us will stay with me.

The first thing he taught us was that every cut should have a meaning behind it. The Kuleshov effect shows the movie magic in which partnering a shot with different other shots can create many different meanings. I firmly believe that films should be created not just for the sake of creating one and making money. Every part of it should tell a story and should give out a message one way or the other.

He also said that time and tempo are important. You should know when to go fast, normal, and or when to take it slow. You can’t always be too fast. Give the story time to breathe. You can take it slow but be sure you know when to peak. But whatever it is, let the story and feeling guide your pace.

He stressed out that an editor should cut and put pieces together based on logic. Even if you don’t have the script as a guide, or maybe you don’t know the whole story yet or the director hasn’t given any directions, you as an editor should tell the story in your own way first, in the way you perceive it. You may not know, the director may like your take on it. If he doesn’t, then that’s when you change it the way he wants. Anyway, directors always have the last say. But at least you tried to have your own input. You have a vision of your own. Remember, you are an editor, not a clicker or a robot who just follows everything the director says without contributing any creative ideas.

The last part of Thop’s editing lecture was about continuity. An edit should be fluid. Every cut should connect well with the next one. It is advisable to cut on action to avoid awkward or very eye-stealing cuts or transitions. But really, there are many ways to connect one shot or scene from another and some of them are like magic to me.

I really believe that film editing is like magic. It gives life to the story. It can make you see impossible things happen. It can show you wonders you’ve never imagined.

I’m glad to have learned how to make this magic and I want to be a master of it.

Thop made me want to be a master of it and stop hesitating doing things I want to do. I have always waited for things to happen to me because I always thought I’m still not ready. But I remember him telling me I will never be ready and so all there’s left to do is to keep going no matter what. Just shoot. Just make more films. Just do it. That’s the best thing I learned from him and from this wonderful class.

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My First Baby

Hi there! This is a short film I made with my college friends for fun three years ago. I never got the chance to put this out and now I figured out I should just post it on YouTube for people to see. This film is my very first baby in college and so I’ve been very protective of it for years. But now I’m ready to let it go. I hope you like it.

Synopsis: A struggling writer overhears a conversation in a cafe that would eventually inspire her to write something.

Directed by: Kimberly Ilaya and Joanna Reyes
Written by: Kimberly Ilaya
Edited by: Angelica Fae Redita
Starring: Ralyn Belay, Cholo Damian, RM Miclat and Trisha Perez
Music: Rosie by Janica De Castro, Taste by Cholo Damian, and Ragtime by Paul Casiano
Cinematographers: Angelica Fae Redita, Louise Litonjua, Pam Asis and Ann Margaret Miguel
Production Manager: Adele Oqueriza
Special thanks to: Macky Macarayan and Florence Rosini

Chapter One: Ready, Set, Write

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Sunday afternoon in the company of sunshine in my room, I sit there listening to different kinds of music from old to new, from classical to rock. I’ve got my pen and notebook on my lap. I let the music get into me, into my mind, heart and soul. Then I create a short story based on what I feel right then and there. This simple writing activity has been a routine for me since joining Sir Clodualdo Del Mundo’s script development and writing workshop organized by the Film Development Council in an attempt to nurture the talent of current and aspiring screenwriters.

Sir Doy, as what we call him, is a well-known Filipino screenwriter, director, and author. Some of his famous screenplays are the classics such as Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag, Itim, Kisapmata, and Batch ‘81.

We were required to send a resume for pre-selection of the participants and I swear to God I didn’t actually expect to be chosen. Up to 20 participants was the limit and I told myself there are a lot of good writers out there who already have more advanced experience than me, I’d probably be lucky enough if I even get in the top 50. I heard nothing from FDCP for ten days after I signed up but I kept waiting with a bit of desperate prayers. You just don’t give up your dream that easy. You just don’t.

And then there it was, 10 days before the workshop, I got that congratulatory email saying “You’ve been selected blah blah blah!” Imagine me jumping up and down on my bed!

Now fast forward to August 18, the first day of the two-day workshop, I pretty much entered Cinematheque Manila thinking if I should really be there. You know that self-doubt moments just before important events, well, that happens to me. A lot. Sure thing. But one thing I never do is back out when I’m already there.

Who will be my classmates? Will they be super good? Will I look pathetic? Will I be able to impress them? Is Sir Doy a good teacher? Is he too strict and hard to deal with?

These were the questions filling my mind while biting my lip and patiently waiting for the class to start because apparently, I was too early. Those were nonsense questions that I shouldn’t have bothered myself with because thank God, I realized they were actually nothing to worry about.

Listening to Sir Doy was like listening to my grandpa on the balcony telling old stories. I felt very comfortable learning from him. The first thing he taught us was to write stories that bring out humanity. Stories that affect people, move people, and make them counter things like the prevalent violence and killings everywhere in the world right now. He also pointed out that films should create and not destroy.

Right at that moment I missed being a student. Terribly. Everything felt the same. It’s just that my classmates were not of my age. There were different types of people in that class. A screenwriting professor, a news writer, a founder of a film camp, a television show writer, a simple girl who just writes stories in her bedroom, and many more who have the same writing passion as me. This was actually my first professional writing workshop and it felt surreal being in the same room with people who could understand that writing weirdness others may not.

I’ve always believed that if you have real passion, you don’t need much for other people to like you. That’s why I was already in awe of those people around me despite just meeting them for the first time. I was in awe to learn that screenwriting really has no definite format, you just need to make it easy for the people involved in the film to understand how the story should go, how it should look like and how it should feel like. I was in awe to learn the limitations of a writer; that sometimes you do not have to give too much detail; just let the cast and crew have the creative freedom to interpret the screenplay on their own. I was in awe to realize that you will write and put your heart and soul into every story but not all of them will be turned into film.

That’s okay.

That’s reality.

What’s important is that you are creating something you love and you never know, maybe the right time for it is just yet to come. Stories never grow old anyway.

On our second day, August 25, we read and discussed the short screenplays we developed during the workshop. There were different kinds of stories. There was drama. Comedy. Action. Experimental. Some were deep. Some were just above the surface. Mine was in between. It was the first time I allowed my screenplay to be projected on a white screen for people to read at the same time. I felt kind of naked for a while, but proud afterwards. It was nice to see people talk about your story, your characters, your made-up world and you. I thought it would hurt. But it did not. So you, who’s still afraid to let people see your masterpiece, stop keeping your greatness to yourself and go take the pleasure of learning from the praises and criticisms of your readers. Because why not.

It also helps to think you are great. It makes you open yourself to possibilities. And when your idea of greatness gets shattered afterwards, which has a hundred percent probability by the way, get back up. Find another view of greatness, or maybe, make people see another view of greatness. Writing takes a lot of twist and turns, but it’s very rewarding when you get there.

I’m still on the road and is not yet at my destination. As I get drained, an experience like this is a station stop to get me filled up again. What a nice fuel fill indeed.

Thank you FDCP for initiatives like this that nurture aspiring filmmakers like us. Lastly, thank you Sir Doy for your films, passion and experiences. Thank you for your writing. Thank you for sharing it. I hope to do it as well in time. Again. Thank you.

THIS IS NOT A REVIEW OF LOVE YOU TO THE STARS AND BACK

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As what the title of this article reads, do not expect any expert opinion about the said film. This is me telling you how it felt watching Love You to the Stars and Back as a normal, regular, film viewer. Actually, a film enthusiast. No, actually a sucker for films.

Let’s go back from the very start. There are two reasons why I watched this film, it’s because it is an Antoinette Jadaone film and it has a good promise.

Jadaone is one of the filmmakers I look up to right now with works such as Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay, That Thing Called Tadhana, English Only Please, and those Jadine TV series such as On The Wings of Love and ‘Til I Met You. Because let’s be honest, you may not like all of her works entirely, but the sure thing is if you watch one, you’ll always see something new and refreshing.

The whole idea of the film seemed fresh as what its marketing suggested. The stars of the film, Joshua Garcia and Julia Barretto, already starred together in another film called ‘Vince, Kath and James.’ But there’s still so much to see and people are still curious about them. I am so sure of the potential of their chemistry that I quickly ran to the theaters after work. No high expectations actually. I was just really interested to see how an expert love storyteller and a promising love team collaboration would turn out to be. It turned out to be a classic.

During the first part of the film, I thought it was just a common story I’ve seen before with boy-meets-girl-and-turns-out-one-of-them-is-terminally-sick-and-will-die kind of plot. But what I like about how the story was crafted is that the style of the filmmaker is very much present in the whole film. It was Jadaone telling A Walk to Remember and The Fault in Our Stars in a Before Sunrise style. She has proven she’s good at this storytelling style, in which there are two people doing things together and talking in just a short period of time, with her film That Thing Called Tadhana. I also love the fact that the story has a very strong Pinoy flavour in it with the whole family involvement and Filipino rural life detours. Tasted like home indeed.

The most utterly unforgettable and best scene of the film is that freakin’ dramatic bridge meltdown. It was Joshua blaming the world, God, his estranged father, his sickness and even Julia for all the pain he was feeling right at that moment. And there was Julia being pushed away by Joshua and probably finally realizing the difficulty of trying to give care and love for someone who doesn’t want it, just like what her family was experiencing with her. I do not relate with the things the characters were going through but with such acting from Julia and especially Joshua, you couldn’t help but feel what the characters were feeling. Julia has already come a long way from just being that girl with a pretty face and a famous family name; and this Joshua right now is far from that PBB guy who was only known for flirting. Because admit it, he got on your nerves back then.

So all throughout at the end, I was just there sitting alone in a dark cinema trying to stop the silent crying from becoming a loud sobbing. I never imagined a Star Cinema film could make me feel that way. It was a first and that says a lot.

I left the cinema feeling inspired as a filmmaker, a hopeless romantic and just a normal person with worries, pain and desire for happiness. I wish more films would make me feel that way. I wish more films would try to tell a simple story in a different way. I wish more actors will affect more people. I wish more filmmakers would always make good films. I wish and wish always the best for the Philippine cinema.

Thank you for a good watch. I’m ready for another one.

Sunday Beauty Queen Film Thoughts

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One thing about documentary films is that every story takes a really long time to develop and a filmmaker always has to guess what will come next. He or she does not need any special talent but just an ability to see right through the subject and capture not only its façade but its inner truths as well. That’s what Babyruth Villarama has achieved in Sunday Beauty Queen.

In one scene, you would see all these beautiful OFWs all dressed up and glamorous on a beauty pageant stage where they battle for recognition. But what are their real battles beyond the stage?

In the film, Hazel Perdido, a domestic helper in Hong Kong for eight years, watches her daughter’s graduation on her phone while fighting back tears. Cherrie Mae Bretana, who has been in Hong Kong for four years, spends more time taking care of her young charge Hayden than his parents ever do; and the boy’s obvious attachment to her makes it difficult for her to leave to another country with greener pastures. Mylyn, on the other hand, is taking care of an entertainment industry mogul who lives alone despite having several daughters and grandchildren. Meanwhile, Leo, a sassy lesbian, is dedicating his life in helping OFWs in Hong Kong by organizing beauty pageants that raise funds for them.

The subtle editing cuts back and forth between the subjects and clearly balances the ugly and beauty truths of living and working in a foreign land. Honestly, these truths are not new to us since there were some films about OFWs already made in the past such as Anak in 2000 and Caregiver in 2008. However, compared to those films, Sunday Beauty Queen presents this story without acting and formulated heavy dialogues. It’s not pretentious. It’s the raw perspective and that’s what makes it feel a genuine and special watch.

The film presents stories of ironies with the Department of Tourism sponsoring these beauty pageants for OFWs to welcome foreigners to the Philippines while its own citizens are leaving the country; and with Filipinas taking care of foreign children like parents when they can’t even take care of their own kids back home. Scorer Emerzon Texon’s gentle melodies perfectly brings the audience to the depths and heights of these realities. I must note that the ending credits song, Panahon ng Pagkakataon by Chlara Bear, is a perfect finale to sum up all the emotions you felt while watching the film from that one day that these OFWs could be themselves and be happy with friends to that bus ride home worrying if they will make it to the deadline set by their employers.

It would be a mistake though to expect Villarama’s documentary to have an entertainment value like the other MMFF 2016 entries have. What I actually mean here is, more than focusing on entertaining, it focused on touching people which I think is what the audience need more than just pure entertainment from films these days.

I know one documentary can’t hit all the important spots of a big social issue like this and Sunday Beauty Queen certainly did not; but Dexter dela Pena’s cinematography was enough to create a picture that evokes the feeling of familiarity and foreignness of working abroad. In the end, the perspective that working abroad is one of the saddest struggles facing many Filipinos today was not lessened or severed; the film just emphasized that each of them can make the best out of their conditions and thus it wrapped on a heartwarming note. It was so heartwarming that I think a lot of OFWs and their families felt a little bit closer even just for a while through these stories.

The Little Prince Film Thoughts

It was two years ago when I first saw the world of the Little Prince in book and last October 29 during the QCinema Film Festival, I re-entered his world through film with a higher expectation. Not only mine, but the eyes of the whole world are all set on this ambiguous adaptation of this well-loved book that’s why everyone hopes it would not disappoint.

I am happy to say it did not.

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The Little Prince turned out to be a respectful and lovable re-imagination of its original source that beautifully uses two different animation techniques in a slow-paced storytelling. It may lack heart-pounding action that the usual animated films have today but it sure appeals to the whole family by effectively translating the life messages and values of Saint-Exupery’s story.

Published in 1943, The Little Prince was inspired by a real life air disaster involving the author in which his aircraft crashed in Sahara desert near the Nile Delta. From there he wrote a tale in which an airman meets an interesting young boy with blonde hair who claims to be from a distant asteroid (#B-612) before he fled away and reached different planets including earth.

Apparently, the film was not a direct adaptation of the book since the material was scarcely long enough to be a feature film. The filmmakers added a disneyfied storyline that weaves the story of The Little Prince. It involves a girl whose strictly monitored life meets a crazily-eccentric old man living next door. He then gives her pages from his notebook that tells the story of the Little Prince complete with Saint-Exupery’s drawings. A few more additional adventures involving the girl meeting the Little Prince made the film more interesting because it took emphasis on the story of the Little Prince and brought it to a closer level of understanding with its audience.

The distinction between the two worlds, the real world and the Little Prince’s world was presented very clearly. With the girl and the old man, the film makers used a big-eyed CG for the characters more like the modern manner of human animation; but when it comes to the story of the Little Prince it turns to a very beautiful rustling paper stop motion technique. I never imagined that the latter technique in animation could be very effective for a film like this. It added magic to whole thing.

It’s a good thing that the screenwriters did not write a contemporary storyline as endearing or as mythical as Saint Exupery’s tale because it gave the Little Prince’s story the chance to stand-out, well in the first place the film is titled the Little Prince so he should definitely shine the most. The story of the unnamed little girl served both as a thread that carefully weaved the story of the Little Prince and at the same time, a loudspeaker that amplified the tale’s true message and that is to never forget how it is to be a child again. Growing up is not wrong but always remembering the innocence of being a child, that simple and uncomplicated life, and most especially the joy of being one will help you become a better grown up. If you did not have a good childhood it’s okay cause it’s not too late to. You could always learn how to enjoy life through looking at children. This is your time to make up for those lost years.

Accompanied by Hans Zimmer and Richard Harvey’s beautiful scoring that brings dreamlike calmness, this film should be a good watch every night for children or for adults who want to relax.

More than being a good looking film, every adult and child should see this for the societal flaws it tries to present. It is not often that we see animated films for children that tackle adult issues in a …..well…..”cute” way; therefore we should go see one when it does. We need more films like this. But of course the credit goes all to Saint Exupery. Thank God he was lost in that desert. If not, I wonder if we’ll ever get to know that a Little Prince lives somewhere up there.

GO WATCH IT IN CINEMAS STARTING DECEMBER 2!

Above the Clouds Film Thoughts

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Written and Directed by: Pepe Diokno

This much awaited second film of Pepe Diokno had its Philippine premiere last August 14 at the 11th Cinemalaya Film Festival. Compared to Diokno’s first feature film, Engkwentro, a seat clenching gang and crime story which exposes the ugly truth of our society today, Above the Clouds dwells on the adventure of two people for peace and freedom from emotional burden while stunningly showcasing the breathtaking mountainous area of the country.

This artistic work aims to evoke essence and emotion through good visuals but the question is, was it enough?

The story started with a teenager, Andres played by Ruru Madrid, losing his parents due to a natural disaster. He was then forced to live with his estranged grandfather, played by Pepe Smith, who he has never seen for years. The two then embarks on a hiking adventure with an attempt to reconnect to each other as a family.

Basically the plot offers no twists and it isn’t necessary to have so. It’s all about dealing with emotions as one tries to reach out while the other runs away from everything. From time to time, Pepe Smith effortlessly throws humorous lines that sends the whole theater to laughter. It succeeds in this aspect but it still struggles to build up deep tear-jerking moments that would’ve instilled a better impression to the audience as a greatly moving film rather than just a visually successful one.

Symbolism in the film though was often and becomes very interesting and it supported the articulation of the characters’ troubles and grief. Yet, Above the Clouds, despite its artistic value, is honestly predictable. At the latter part, the audience was actually watching more of for the view only and not for its totality anymore. Let’s give credit though to some interesting parts in the film like when Andres ran of to the woods in the middle of the night, you just can’t help but feel agitated for him and for his grandfather who was very worried about his grandson.

I commend the film for raising up the garbage issue in Mt. Pulag. It displayed the ugly result of leaving our dirt in a beautiful creation like the said mountain. I’ve been there myself and though there wasn’t that many garbage there as in the film, the locals are still very troubled about this issue because it disturbs the sacredness of the place.

One thing difficult to accept though is the vandalism in the mountain. It is just not right that they also showed vandalism on the rocks of the mountain in the film, like lovers putting their names there. I know that it has a purpose in the film but I would’ve suggest that it could’ve been altered into something else, like just maybe a hidden letter under the rock. There are a lot of tourists climbing up there every day and it may encourage other people to do the same vandalism, which isn’t a good idea. As filmmakers that could influence other people, you should be careful about even just unintentionally suggesting an undesirable idea to anyone that could result to the degradation of anything especially our natural wonders.

Bottom line is, I do recommend this film and please do watch it. It still is a refreshing film to view without that many characters or things going on it. It aims for the soul rather than the mind. Though I admit, to do this perfectly, the film could have had a better script. It is a one of a kind idea for a film but it still needed more. It took a road less traveled but it still striving to get to its destination. But along the road, it could introduce you to some wonderful things and it did so for me.