Cinemalaya Competition Chairperson Laurice Guillen recalls that the last time she talked with Emerson Reyes, they had already come to an agreement regarding his entry titled MNL 143.
Emerson wanted to cast Alan Paule and Joy Viado in his film but the Cinemalaya organizing committee asked him to reconsider his choices.
Emerson’s entry was supposed to compete in the New Breed category of the 8th edition of the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival that would take place this July 2012.
"I spoke with Emerson. Okay na, nagkaintindihan na kami, maayos ang usapan namin.
"Then one week later, they went back again to the original [cast].
"If you are a partner, you should be open [to suggestions].
"In a span of one week, I don’t know what happened," said a puzzled Laurice during the March 6 press conference held at the Phat Wong restaurant in Makati City.
REQUIREMENTS. Every year, Cinemalaya chooses ten aspiring filmmakers who will be given a grant of P500,000 to produce their submitted scripts.
In the memorandum of agreement, it is stated that the amount of P500,000 will be made available to the finalist "in 6 tranches, subject to satisfactory submission of the second party of the required documents."
During the said presscon, Laurice explained that the chosen finalists have to submit six requirements before the first installment (worth P200,000) is released.
These six requirements are:
1) signed memorandum of agreement
2) final production schedule
3) final budget and counter financing
4) sequence breakdown
5) major cast and staff list
6) synopsis of film
Emerson and the Cinemalaya organizing committee did not agree when it came to casting Alan Paule and Joy Viado in MNL 143.
For this reason, Emerson has been replaced by Gino Santos and his entry titled The Animals.
Despite their creative differences, Laurice still believes in Emerson’s talent.
The Competition Chairperson pointed out: "He is young and I don’t want to say anything... he still has a future."
She explained that there is a need to compromise especially when it comes to creating a project that would require financing from institutions such as Cinemalaya.
"When you are doing a project like this and there is a grant involved and there is a competition, you have to be more flexible but without sacrificing your integrity.
"Sometimes you can be set on someone who may not be right [for the project]."
FORMAL LETTER OF DISQUALIFICATION. At this point, Laurice revealed that it was Mr. Nestor Abrogena himself, the producer of MNL 143, who asked for a formal disqualification letter from Cinemalaya.
"After ng usapan namin, tinanong ko si Emerson, ’Nagkaintindihan ba tayo?’
"Sabi niya, ’Opo.’ It was very amicable.
"I did not tell him who to cast. I just told him, from one filmmaker to another, yung pointers about casting.
"After one week, Robbie [Tan, Cinemalaya monitoring head] called me and said parang nag-impasse [deadlock or stalemate] sila.
"’Pag hindi na-approve ang [casting nila], hindi kayo matutuloy. Either you back out...
"Then Mr. Nestor Abrogena, whom I have never spoke with, sent me a text that was kinda rude.
"They were asking for a written disqualification letter."
Laurice revealed that this was the first time in the eight-year history of Cinemalaya that a finalist asked for written proof of being disqualified from the film festival.
"Ito pa lang ang first case na humingi ng ganyan," disclosed Laurice.
"I saved the text message.
"Since I am the head of the competition committee, I have to take the responsibility for Robbie and myself.
"So I called again the organizing committee. It was decided earlier [that they would be disqualified] and it was up to us to communicate it.
"Ako nag-communicate and it was cleared with our lawyer."
(CLICK HERE to read the said disqualification letter.)
FREEDOM TO CHOOSE. Because of this issue, critics say that the Cinemalaya organizing committee is trampling upon the right of the filmmaker to freely choose their cast members.
"If that’s the way they feel, they should make their film pero ’wag na lang sa Cinemalaya," said Laurice.
"Kung hindi nila matanggap ang proseso na ’yan...
"Kasi once [final na] ang agreement, then you can put your creative juices at work. Hindi na kami makikialam.
"Siguro titingnan namin ang rushes, sabihin namin, ’Medyo madilim ang shots mo, kulang ka sa shots.’
"Kasi nung baguhan rin ako, sabi ng editor ko sa akin, ’Bakit puro tuhog ka?’
"Sabi ni Danny Zialcita [veteran filmmaker], ’Kahit hindi mo kailangan ng shots, kumuha ka pa rin ng ibang anggulo para ’pag humanap ka ng material, may materyales ka.’"
Laurice believes that there are other people pushing Emerson to do the things that he is doing now.
"I understand what he is going through and I really feel that he was incited by other people.
"That’s the reason why I don’t want to comment on Emerson because I feel the future is still open for him.
"Ayokong magsabi ng anything until he has made his first full-length film."
Is Laurice angry towards critics of Cinemalaya?
"Hindi ako nagagalit, nasasaktan lang ako," she admitted.
"Dalawang questions lang ang naiisip ko.
"Number one, totoo nga ba na ang mga bagong filmmakers: are they monsters? After makagawa ng pelikula, are they monsters?
"Ito ba ang klase ng mentalidad na magse-shape ng kultura ng Pilipino?
"Because that is the role of film. It should be and it is.
"Number two, bakit yung mga hindi naman nagkaproblema at yung mga natulungan ng Cinemalaya ay hindi nagsasalita?
"Naisip ko, baka iba na ang panahon [kumpara] sa panahon ni Lino Brocka. [People would have] risked incarceration to speak the truth.
"Ang sa akin naman, hindi ako titigil.
"I would continue for the sake of those, kahit isa o lima ang maging mahusay o mabuting director, masaya na ako na hindi nasayang ang sakripisyo namin.
"Sakripisyo iyan, e, dahil wala naman kaming kinita rito."