The Year That Was, And The Year That Will Be

Date posted on February 14, 2012

When I came back in 2010 to semi-permanently re-settle in Manila after a couple of years in London, I set up a new blog to chronicle the progress of my graduation film, Tuksó.

It had two main purposes. I wanted to start the habit of writing about my my profession, and I wanted to build material for my graduation journal – the final requirement for my MA in Filmmaking.

That went quite well for a while. Despite the rigors of writing, directing and producing a 35mm all at the same time, for the first time, I managed to write some insightful posts (to my mind at least).

I only looped in a handful of friends to the existence of the blog. Mostly my friends from school and some others in the Philippines who cared to know how my project was doing. Come journal time, it served me well and became the salvation of my crammed final paper which I wrote in the span of two days amid partying in London. When I got my final evaluation a month after, it was confirmed that I was to graduate with Distinction.

Now, I’m back in the Philippines for good. I have been for a year now in fact but it seems like I’m only embracing it now.

My 2011 was all devoted to reestablishing myself in the local film and television landscape. My last engagement was back in 2008, when my A Very Special Love screenplay was produced for the big screen. After that, I had a minor exposure in the 21st Gawad CCP (Independent Film & Video Festival) when my short documentary, The Filipino Student’s Guide on How To Be Invisible in London, won the 3rd Prize.

Other than that, it was all about sending resumés and getting the attention of my former bosses in Star Cinema.

It worked out for me. I got my first ever project for the ABS-CBN News Channel – a two-part documentary called The Business of Energy that looked at successful sustainable practices in different sectors of the society. I also got a ‘script doctoring’ stint for Star Cinema, resulting in my latest screenplay credit, My Cactus Heart.

Most importantly, these efforts yielded my directing break.

I was given the opportunity to direct an episode for MMK, or Maalaala Mo Kaya, the longest-running drama anthology in Asia for the biggest television company, my home network, ABS-CBN. It was my first time to direct a drama for television, a chance made even more special by the fact that it was for this titan of a show which I’ve been a fan of since I was a kid. Despite the jitters you’d expect from this gargantuan break, that episode entitled Make-Up, about twin brothers who had a falling out because one was gay, topped the weekend ratings that week and led to an even bigger break.

After the Creative Head and Managing Director of Star Cinema watched that MMK episode, I was called in for a meeting. At the time, they’ve already approached me for the renewal of my writing contract. They also wanted my real return to writing via the third of the Laida-Miggy film franchise that I had started in ’08. We had started meeting on it, in fact. A huge project indeed.

But that meeting turned out to be for an even bigger project, personally at least.

In that meeting with Inang, she offered my first feature film directing project.

It was a mere nine days since my MMK episode’s airing (amid preparations for another MMK episode that eventually featured Direk Laurice Guillen and was entitled Tumba-Tumba). It was a Monday. The following days, I frantically attended preprod meetings to finalize the script. On Friday of that same week, I met my lead actress for the first time for her look test.

Six days after, it was a meeting with both my leads-to-be for the story conference.

And finally, two weeks after my meeting with Inang on August 8, with only two script drafts, we broke production.

Three quick short months after, amid hordes of fans and audience’s screams, I was walking down the red carpet beside Sarah Geronimo & Gerald Anderson for the premiere of Won’t Last A Day Without You.

The next day, the film opened in over 120 cinemas over the Philippines, earning PhP20 million on its first day.

***

That summed up my 2011 – certainly a year of many, many, many firsts. And as my dearest friends know, I’m one of the most sentimental people ever. And for someone as self-indulgent and emotional as me, firsts are most important. Tangentially, it contributes to the drive to make myself better, and to reinvent. I’m sure to make milestones out of molehills, and it excites me to no end to embark on another year of filmmaking, if only to see what new firsts will be coming my way.

In light of that, I wanted to make a commitment to remember and be grateful for these anticipated milestones I expect to come my way, if I may be bold and presumptuous. I wanted to relaunch my blog to be a… well, a log of all my experiences working in the film industry. I want it to chiefly be a record of all my feats and failures, a repository of my thoughts and sentiments on what it is like to work in this field I’ve chosen.

As I’m about to embark on another film project, and because I just recently signed up for a screenwriting workshop, and because I’m also working on another episode in MMK (for which I’m about to sign up as one of its regular directors), it feels like the best time to make this renewed commitment to blogging. It may be a little late to be posting an opening blog two months after the year’s commencement, but I wanted to make sure that it mattered when I did.

What finally pushed me, I think, is this new-found confidence and feeling of finally finding rooting in this industry. It took a while before I got here, but I’m here now.

So do watch out for more posts in this space as I try to make it an online journal of what it is like to be a filmmaker in the Philippines.

Here’s to the year that I expect 2012 will become.

Cheers!