Short films ‘nurture young talent’

Credit to Author: Nika Roque| Date: Tue, 24 Dec 2019 16:12:36 +0000

As the 45th Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) unveils today, Christmas Day, the focus will be on the eight entries competing in the full-length category, with their dazzling array of big-name stars and fan favorites.

Few movie buffs, however. are aware that the filmfest also showcases short films, considered to be the breeding ground for young, promising talent in the cinematic arts.

The MMFF has been nurturing short films since 2016. As the category suggests, a short film is a compact work that lasts from three to five minutes and have a common theme.

This year, the MMFF has adjusted the length of the entries to up to 20 minutes, with the theme “Philippine Mythology and Regional Stories.”

The short film competition accepts concept papers, sequence treatments and scripts from students all over the country, including films that may have been previously submitted as class assignments.

Out of 110 student short film submissions, 16 semi-finalists were shortlisted and the field narrowed down to eight finalists that will be shown alongside the full-length features.

Direk Jose Javier Reyes

Receiving a grant of P50,000 each, the finalists are allowed to shoot with their mobile phones or any available equipment, as well as to have the film in their regional language, but with subtitles. The story’s originality and the message it wants to convey make up the sole criteria for the grant.

MMFF selection committee Jose “Direk Joey” Javier Reyes said that because this year’s theme focuses on aswang and manananggal among other folkloric creatures. “Ang tawag namin dito ay ‘Shake, Rattle & Roll’ edition of the short films.”

In an exclusive interview with the The Manila Times the noted scriptwriter-director said he sees short films getting the attention they deserve in the near future because of the new entertainment platforms ­­­ — seen to become the template of short-term entertainment very soon.

“[Short films] mean a lot because it’s the training ground [but aside from that], it’s an entry point for young filmmakers to have their names noticed. I’ve always felt that the short film is like a calling card to the much larger business aspect of filmmaking. The platforms are arising now that the whole habit of film viewing and filmmaking is changing, and they’ve got a lot of opportunities for short films,” Reyes said.

His dream “is for our country to have a flowering of short filmmaking and documentary filmmaking because these are two areas which certainly need more attention. And if you know how it is in the market, you know that these are two areas that can really give you a steady and a very focused inroad into the world of filmmaking itself.”

Short films are important to the MMFF is because it involves students or young artists who will eventually be the heirs to Philippine cinema, he said. By giving them the creative freedom, a larger platform, and exposure in the industry, creating short films will serve as their motivation if they want to make it big one day.

Reyes, a professor in the Communication Department at De La Salle University and head of the Film Department at the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, wants to give the students a chance to express themselves and let their talent grow.

“Ang dami-dami kong mga estudyante na nagiging frustrated. It’s not that easy because the world of filmmaking is highly competitive. It’s not enough that you’re good, you have to be able to sell yourself. You have to be able to prove to the much larger market, the entire industry itself that you’re worth their attention.”

The best way to go about it, he said, is to come up with films that could be submitted to student or international film festivals, as well as to find a platform to promote the film for the larger mainstream viewers. These are just some ways to have more opportunities for a place in the industry.

For Reyes, filmmaking “is not a job, it’s a passion. It’s somehow masochistic to stay in filmmaking because the jobs are sometimes few and far in between. There are a lot of challenges. There’s real life to deal with — their bills to pay and their parents who would demand that they find a job which would yield a regular pay. But if it’s for you, then it’s for you.

He exhorted the short-film student: “You will not give up, you will not surrender it, and you will hold on to it. Because as I always told my students, it’s not enough that you’re successful. At the end of the day, what is important is that you’re fulfilled.

“If you are able to show them how much joy there is in filmmaking and how much fulfillment you can get out of it, then perhaps we are able to foster from this group of kids the next generation who will hopefully be better than the ones we have right now,” he said.

A ‘very interesting’ selection
For this year’s competition, the committee cast its net wide, receiving entries from the Visayas, Mindanao and the rural areas.

“And these are not the big schools [of the areas] – these are the small colleges and there you can find extremely different kinds of stories being told by the students,” Reyes said.

“It helps a lot that you give an opportunity to the kids from the province — who otherwise would not have the same access as those who belong to Metro Manila — to be able to find their voice and their platform.”

After mostly receiving pitches from college art majors, Reyes also mentioned that senior high students under the arts strand have also submitted entries, where one group managed to get to the finalists level.

Asked what his thoughts were on the submissions, but without giving any spoilers, Reyes answered, “Very, very interesting. Natatawa nga kami kasi may isa na R-13 tapos student ang gumawa.”

The finalists in the 2019 MMFF Short Film Competition:

– Bronze, Silver, Gold at Anting-anting,” directed by Angelique Veridiano, produced by Paolo Veridiano, and written by the two alongside Gillian Navarro from the De La Salle University-Integrated School Manila will be played before “Mission Unstapabol,” which stars Vic Sotto and Maine Mendoza.

– “Dating App,” produced and written by Edison Balilla who also co-directed the short film with Joaquin Bedayo from the University of Makati will be screened with the horror film “Sunod,” starring Carmina Villaroel.

– “Hipos,” directed by Cyrus Carano-o, produced by Junmarl Alconga, and written by Jo-ane Pitogo from the Sagay National High School-Negros Occidental will be alongside the Filipino remake of “Miracle in Cell No. 7,” with a star-studded cast led by Aga Muhlach and Xia Vigor.

– “Huling Kembot ni Fernando,” written and directed by Jon Diez and produced by Monina Austria from Centro Escolar University-Makati is going to be shown with the Ricky Lee-helmed “Culion,” about the leper community in Palawan and stars Iza Calzado, Meryll Soriano and Jasmine Curtis-Smith.

– “Manggagalaw,” directed by John Bolivar, produced by Sheena Malquisto, and written by Monina Austria from Centro Escolar University-Makati will be shown alongside “3pol Trobol,” which is directed by and stars Coco Martin also with a cast of big stars.

– “Pamana ni Lola,” directed by Regin de Guzman and Bradley Pantajo who is also the writer, produced by Antiparas Productions from the Polytechnic University of Manila-Santa Mesa will be screened alongside Brillante Mendoza’s “Mindanao” starring Judy Ann Santos.

– “Tabako,” directed and written by Alfredo Bayon-on from the University of St. La Salle Bacolod, who also served as the producer will be shown before the Vice Ganda and Anne Curtis comedy “The Mall, The Merrier.”

– “The Lost Sitty,” directed by Julius Custodio, produced by Graciella Dichoso and Angelica Basco, and written by Junicca Quirante from Adamson University will be screened before “Write About Love,” a romantic comedy starring Miles Ocampo and Rocco Nacino.

Reyes said the audience can learn from the MMFF, especially students or aspiring artists.

“They can learn that they can do it. Maybe if they see these and they think they can do something better than that, then go do it. I think all these people who have a chance to show their short films, they should provide the challenge to other students to be able to match it, if not supersede what they have done. [The full-length features on the other hand,] it [can help them distinguish] the films from the movies. Movies are products, films are creations.”