PEP EXCLUSIVE: The late Celso Ad Castillo was supposed to be part of Sineng Pambansa All Masters Edition

Text: Melissa de Quiros Interview: Jocelyn Dimaculangan
Mar 18, 2013
Some of the filmmakers who will participate in the 1st Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival All Masters Edition are: (from left) Gil Portes, Maryo J. de los Reyes, Romy Suzara, Joel Lamangan, Mel Chionglo, Lore Reyes, Peque Gallaga, Jun Urbano, and Tikoy Aguiluz. Peque and Lore will be co-directors in one project. The other veteran filmmakers (not in photo) are Chito Roño, Elwood Perez, Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, and Jose Javier Reyes.

When the masters of any craft are gathered under one roof, you know it is one rare treat that you wouldn't want to miss.

A dozen of the country’s award-winning directors were chosen to participate in the Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival All Masters Editiona brainchild of the Film Development Council of the Philippines’ (FDCP).

The veteran directors chosen by the FDCP are Elwood Perez, Romy Suzara, Jun Urbano, Gil Portes, Maryo J. de los Reyes, Peque Gallaga, Mel Chionglo, Tikoy Aguiluz, Joel Lamangan, Carlos Siguion-Reyna, Jose Javier Reyes, and Chito Roño.

Lore Reyes will serve as the co-director of Peque in his project.

(CLICK HERE to learn more about the directors who will take part in Sineng Pambansa All Masters Edition)

The FDCP will provide a P1.5 million seed capital or grant to fund the films of the crème de la crème of Philippine cinema. Should they need additional film funding, they are also permitted to source capital from potential partners or co-producers.

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In a statement, FDCP chairman Briccio G. Santos said that, “with the Masters Edition, officials of the FDCP see this as a means to recognize the artistic contributions of these filmmakers, allowing them to create personal works, as they explore the possibilities of digital filmmaking. Moreover, having them shoot on location in their respective provinces is seen as a boon to regional filmmaking and can serve as a springboard for the promotion of their locales as potential shooting locations and film development.”

The chosen filmmakers are all set to film their dream projects in their respective hometowns. It was revealed that Tikoy Aguiluz will shoot his film in Davao Del Norte, Joel Lamangan in Cavite, Maryo J. de los Reyes in Bohol, Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes in Bacolod, Jun Urbano in Bicol, Gil Portes in Quezon, Mel Chionglo in Lucena, Carlitos Siguion-Reyna in Metro Manila, Romy Suzara in Nueva Ecija, and Elwood Perez in Pampanga. Meanwhile, the shoot locations for Direk Chito Roño and Jose Javier Reyes remain undisclosed.

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As of this writing, the Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival All Masters Edition is scheduled to take place from September 7 to 16, 2013.

The working titles for the projects are: Lihis for Joel Lamangan, Sonata for Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, Sangandaan for Gil Portes, May Tinik ang Huwad na Bulaklak for Romy Suzara, The River for Maryo J. de los Reyes, Lauriana (formerly titled Lorenzita) for Mel Chionglo, Oro for Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, Eman for Tikoy Aguiluz, Badil for Chito Roño, and Proserpina de Manila for Elwood Perez.

For a more in-depth look at this film festival, conducted an exclusive interview with FDCP executive director Teddy Granados:

PEP: What is the idea behind the Master Directors Edition?

Granados: Last year, we had a national scriptwriting competition. We received more than a hundred entries and out of the more than hundred entries, we produced 36 films. So the first batch was presented last June in Davao. For the first batch last year, since they are new breed, we gave P600,000 seed fund per filmmaker. For the Master Directors Edition, we gave P1.5 million seed capital. From last year’s results of the Sineng Pambansa, we decided to bring out the old masters like Elwood Perez, who has not done any film for the past ten years, and he will be bringing in an actress who has not done a film for nine years—Ms. Amalia Fuentes. We are bringing back veteran directors and getting them to produce a film or a story from their heart, and a location more familiar to them, which is their hometown. Basically, that’s the idea. They will be filming in different parts of the country. Meron sa Bohol, sa Samar, Manila… different parts [of the country]. The stories that they will be making are very close to their hearts.

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PEP: How was the reception of the first and second Sineng Pambansa?

Granados: Last year, we had the first Sineng Pambansa—the first batch and the ikalawang yugto, they are both in Davao, held in June and the other in November last year. Yung una we produced 18 films, 18 din sa second. Yung mga film na ito are comprised of feature films and animated shorts. But this time, these are all feature films, all full-length.

PEP: What were the criteria used in selecting the directors this year?

Granados: Actually, we have a committee that made the selection. This is just an initial selection. There are many more pioneer directors that we plan to tap. But since government office kasi kami, our funding is only enough for this size of filmmakers. So for next year, probably if funding becomes available, we will be able to produce more films, even with a bigger budget. For the selection, there’s no specific criteria, pero makikita mo na masters talaga ito. And the selection committee is [composed of] some of our consultants in the industry.

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PEP: Are you planning to do this annually?

Granados: Yes, kasi we would like to impart a lesson to the young. Many of the young filmmakers na may hawak na camera kasi ang presumption, “Ah, I’m a Lino Brocka already.” So ganun ang nangyayari. They produce films, tapos parang walang nanonood. So we are now trying to do this in another way. We are selecting the masters—getting them to produce stories that is similar to what most independent filmmakers are doing, giving them the artistic liberty to do it the way they want it, with a limited budget. From there, makikita nila sa mga bata na this is how you tell a story.

PEP: What is the goal of Sineng Pambansa All Masters Edition?

Granados: We want them to improve the quality of filmmaking, kasi we have a floodgate of independent films. Like last year, there were more than 200 independent films produced, and barely 10 were shown in the cinemas. So sayang! There are a lot of materials out there, but walang venue. Kasi kahit ilagay mo sa sinehan, walang nanonood. Although we try to find a way to develop an audience for them, we have our Cinematheques all over the country and show everyday films by independent filmmakers and from classics, to films from foreign countries that are provided by the embassies. We have regular Cinematheques in Baguio, Iloilo, Davao, Marawi, and we are doing one in Zamboanga this May. And then Bacolod, we are already talking to the local government. We have already a designated area where we can build our Cinematheque. And Baguio is going to have a huge property where we can build our Cinematheque and multiple cinemas na pwede mag regular screening of materials na ‘di mapapalabas.

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PEP: How much is the grant for each chosen filmmaker?

Granados: For the All Masters [Edition], P1.5 million. This is just a seed grant. This represents 40% of our equity in the film. So we have 40% of the right and 60% for the filmmaker. So they can invite other producers to co-produce the film, because P1.5 million is not enough.

PEP: What about if the produced films are shown abroad?

Granados: Kasama na rin ’yan [film rights] both domestic and foreign distribution, as well as DVD, cable, and TV rights. May agreement naman kami diyan.

PEP: Did you select the filmmakers first or did you select the story first?

Granados: We selected the filmmakers first. Actually it’s more like of we courted them to come out and make the film. And once they agreed, “Okay, so this is my story line, my cast.”

PEP: So you selected 12 directors?

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Granados: Namatay kasi si Celso Ad Castillo, kasali siya dapat. He was already finishing his script for the film. Actually, he almost finished his film. So nagkaroon ng vacancy, so we added one director. Buo na sila ngayon.

[Ed's Note: Direk Celso Ad Castillo passed away in November 2012]

PEP: Most of these filmmakers are used to using film. Did anyone hesitate to accept the project because it involves using digital technology?

Granados: Like director Elwood Perez has never done digital and he has done any film for the past ten years. So sabi niya “Parang retired na ‘ata ako.” But eventually when he started doing his legwork, maya’t-maya, tatlong beses na kung pumunta sa opisina. He’s very excited.

PEP: Did the FDCP receive flak for excluding several veteran filmmakers from this All Masters Edition?

Granados: Wala naman. Meron pa kasi kami next year. Karamihan kasi sa kanila have been idle for quite some time, and when we announced the All Masters [Edition], they started receiving projects. Some of them have done two or three films already since we announced the lineup.

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PEP: So this project really aims to pay tribute to the masters?

Granados: Yes. But unfortunately, Celso Ad [Castillo] could have been part of this. But even the other directors are saying that “This will be my last film” while others are saying “I will do more.”

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Some of the filmmakers who will participate in the 1st Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival All Masters Edition are: (from left) Gil Portes, Maryo J. de los Reyes, Romy Suzara, Joel Lamangan, Mel Chionglo, Lore Reyes, Peque Gallaga, Jun Urbano, and Tikoy Aguiluz. Peque and Lore will be co-directors in one project. The other veteran filmmakers (not in photo) are Chito Roño, Elwood Perez, Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, and Jose Javier Reyes.
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