The toughest aspect of short filmmaking (part 2)
When the 2021 and 2022 full-length filmmakers were not able to finish their entries due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cinemalaya committee decided to push through with the country’s biggest indie film festival anchored on short feature films.
And it was a good decision. It puts the spotlight on short films.
In the past, short films are often relegated to the sideline. But with the changing attention span of content consumers, there has been an increased appetite for short-duration videos. The pandemic period has seen growth in short films, both in quality and quantity.
This year, there are 12 short feature filmmakers competing for the coveted Balanghai trophies. Six of them were featured in my last column (check out the story on the Manila Standard website or on Pressreader). This week, we continue the conversation with the other six filmmakers.
Glazing Life (GL): Why did you want to tell this story?
Kyd Torato (KT): For my film “Si Oddie,” I was inspired by my past experience as an intern in a food delivery company. I saw how hard it is to become a delivery rider because their working environment is very dangerous and sometimes they are not compensated fairly. In the process of writing the script, I interviewed a couple of riders and realized that they are our unsung heroes during the pandemic.
Nena Jane Achacoso (NJA): I just wanted to shed light on this particular topic to tell the story from the perspective of the characters. Through this, we uncover the gray areas by showing the character’s dilemmas and struggles. I want to tell a story that is very real in our society today, in order to give voices to them and understand them beyond how we are told to.
Gabriela Serrano (GS): Philippine folklore was and is very dear to me and my co-writer Mariana. Growing up as sisters in a superstitious family with roots in the province, we always held a deep respect for our ancestors’ tales about unseen creatures and the metaphors they stood for. We deeply resonated with one such creature and wondered how she and her unique physicality would exist in today’s world. Informed by our individual experiences of isolation during the pandemic, we thought it would be interesting to explore themes of self-identity, sexuality, and companionship – real things that are often frightening to think about as a young adult in this day and age – through the lens of mythological horror.
Mark Moneda (MM): Most of my short films are inspired by the unheard voices of unseen people. Like the protagonists, I’m also a medical front liner. I understand their pain, and where they come from. This short film is based on the actual real-life situation of my colleagues during the very height of the pandemic. I am blessed to have access and consent to tell their story. All they really want is not attention nor gratification, but representation.
Zig Dulay (ZD): Bagamat hindi ko naiwasang maglagay ng socio-political issues, ang Black Rainbow ay isang inspirational film. Kuwento siya ng pag-asa at pangarap, in the midst of pandemic. Gusto ko ipakita sa pelikula na nandiyan pa rin ang pag-asa at ‘wag tumigil sa pangarap. At isa pa, gusto kong bigyang diin ulit ‘yung importansya ng edukasyon hindi lang sa mga kabataang Aeta kundi sa lahat, ‘yung pagkatuto sa mga bagay-bagay ay isang mabisang kasangkapan pa rin para maabot ang mga gusto natin sa buhay at kasangkapan para ipagtanggol ang ating mga sarili at mga kapwa, lalong-lalo na ‘yung mga iginigilid o nasa laylayan. At syempre hindi natatapos sa edukasyon lang, kaakibat nito ang pagkamulat at pagkakaroon ng pakialam.
Dexter Paul De Jesus (DPJ): Distance came from all the pent-up frustrations I had during the earlier parts of the pandemic when lockdowns were implemented. This is most felt by all migrant laborers being unable to return to their families, resulting in the lack of physical and emotional support for their families in our country.
GL: What are the toughest aspects of making a short film?
KT: Producing a short film is quite challenging because of the financial and material constraints that coincide with it. Especially during the pandemic, it’s really difficult to look for sponsors and find people who are willing to work with you despite the meager budget for their professional fees. However, these limitations should not stop a young filmmaker from telling a good story. Our film landscape is continuously evolving, hence, one should explore different techniques to maximize the available resources and create an impactful film.
NJA: I guess it’s much about the financial as well as mental. Because in order to make an indie film, you really have to be tough and delusional enough to believe that you can make it. Despite the odds being not in your favor, you have to overcome that — the self limiting beliefs and the scarcity mindset. Because at the end of the day, it’s not the money that will make the film, it’s you. But of course you still need to secure those funds.
GS: The biggest challenge for me is the limited amount of time the short-filmmakers get to effectively tell a story. As a writer-director pouring everything into a film, you want to make sure you say everything you want to say. Especially since I tend to approach every project like my last and only chance! But of course, I have to remember that some of the best shorts don’t always tell the full narrative. Capturing a moment or a feeling is enough, and if I can do that in 5, 10, 20 minutes, then I succeeded as a storyteller.
MM: For me, number one is the “stigma.” Some people would think that shorts are just made overnight because of its length. During conceptualization stage, there’s always a lot of stuff running around my head, and putting them all together at a minimum amount of space and running time is never easy. But this “tough” aspect of making a short film is never an issue for me. I treat it as a fuel to run my engine.
ZD: Hindi ko na babanggitin ‘yung pera bilang isa sa mga challenges, dahil laging challenge ‘yan pagdating sa pagpepelikula. Pero mas napaigiting lang ‘yung pangangailangan ng pera sa panahon ng pandemya, kailangan ng budget para sa mga swab test, tapos limited ang laman ng service kaya mas lumubo pa — pero nagawan naman ng paraan, konti lang kaming mula sa Manila na nagpunta sa community para mag-shoot. Kailangan lang sigurong makapag-create ng circle of safety in a way na kailangang maramdaman at makita ng mga tao sa team na hindi lang ‘yung pelikulang ginagawa n’yo ang importante sa’yo bilang direktor kung mas mahalaga pa dito ‘yung kapakanan lalo na ang kalusugan ng bawat isa sa team. Lalo na sa amin na sa IP community ang setting namin, extra careful talaga. Isa pang challenge ay logistics, dahil puro bundok siya, magkakalayo — struggle talaga. Pero nandun ‘yung buong community na umampon at umalalay sa amin. Hindi nila kami pinabayaan. Para sa akin nga it’s a community project, sa kanila talaga ‘yung buong pelikula dahil kung wala sila, hindi magagawa ‘yung pelikula.
DPJ: As a filmmaker, generating funds is one of the most complex parts of making a film especially now that we’re in a pandemic. It takes a lot of connections and a great story to pitch to earn funds and make your idea to reality. Additionally, one problem of mine is to tell a complete story structure in a limited amount of time. However, I treat it as a challenge to make my story worth telling with what’s available.
GL: Do you see this short as a standalone piece or would you like to expand it into a feature?
KT: I consider my film, Si Oddie, as a standalone piece because the story itself is already complete as it is. I don’t plan on expanding it to a feature film but I’m looking forward to create more films about our labor sector in the country because they really have interesting stories to tell.
NJA: Duwa-Duwa is a boundless world. Even before when I was conceptualizing it, the story just revealed itself to me as I was writing it. It’s as broad as where the story can go. It can be developed as a feature and it would be fun to explore that possibility.
GS: I’m totally open to exploring Dikit as a full-length story! We’ve actually drafted a longer and more spacious plot. As a silent short, literally so much was left unsaid, and we would jump at the opportunity to really delve into our characters thoughts and explore the world they inhabit together – maybe even this time with dialogue!
MM: I definitely see it as a stand-alone piece. It was really my honest intention to make it short. Considering the amount of running time, I would like the audience to see and perceive it as it is. I don’t want to spoil too much. After making this film, I’ve already served my purpose of telling the problem and issue. Now it’s their turn to write the conclusion. When or how? It’s up to them.
ZD: Stand alone piece ‘yung short film, pero sa kasalukuyan nagsusulat ako ng isang feature na inspired sa mismong short film. Sa kasagsagan kasi ng proseso ng paglikha ng naturang pelikula, marami akong nalaman at natutunan at gusto kong maibahagi sa iba ito sa pamamagitan ng pelikula. Mas na-inspire pa akong magkuwento tungkol sa buhay at kultura ng mga aeta o ng mga IPs sa kabuuan.
DPJ: I think with what I made, I presented the film in its right form and duration. However, if given a chance, I am open to exploring the deeper parts of the relationship of the characters.