It was a labor of love crafted on two continents, explained Janice Y. Perez, whose feature debut “The Muses” is one of eight movies showcased in the ongoing CineFilipino Film Festival.
When she started writing the script three years ago, Perez was still based in New York. “I had to rely on my imagination and memories since the story was set in the Philippines,” she related.
Fortunately, Manila-based rock singer Kitchie Nadal was around to develop the concept with her.
“The long-distance script-writing method somehow worked,” recounted Perez, whose work, “Sabongero,” was shown at the Cannes Short Film Corner in 2009.
From the get-go, Nadal was part of the creative process. In December 2009, Perez, who is originally from Cebu, met Nadal, who was headlining a concert in New York.
They instantly hit it off. “We found that we loved the same indie artists and bands: Lykke Li, Kings of Convenience, Sigur Ros, Brazilian Girls.” A month later, they collaborated on a “random, no-budget but unforgettable” music video for Nadal’s song, “Beautiful Jesus.”
They shot the music video, guerrilla-style, in the Big Apple. “NYPD cops chased us for shooting without a permit,” she recalled. “After running almost two blocks, Kitchie asked if I wanted to work on a film. After catching my breath, I said: I’d love to!”
The movie in their minds was called “The Muses.” It chronicles the travails and triumphs of two sisters as they aspire for rock stardom.
Three years into the journey, Perez almost threw in the towel. Every time it was about to take off, something would pull the project hurtling back to the ground.
In spite of the disappointments, Perez persevered. “I held on to this story, which was gifted to me for some reason. This film is a testament to resilience and the grace of the Divine.”
By the time they won the grant from CineFilipino this year, a third collaborator had joined the core group: Janelle Jamer, former “Wowowee” host, who signed up to portray Nadal’s older sister.
Early this year, when Perez and Nadal hunkered down for a major rewrite, “Janelle came on board as the third screenwriter.”
“It made everything flow smoothly,” Perez recounted.
They holed up in a secluded resort in Zambales to work on the script. “Kitchie and Janelle acted out scenes for me. They were passionate and down-to-earth and super-talented.”
That writing session served as dress rehearsal for the actual shoot in Cebu. “It helped us a lot when we finally got to our set.”
In spite of the birthing pains, they survived the shoot, Perez said, because they “loved each other as friends and respected each other as colleagues.”
She tapped Cebuano actors and crew members (Above-the-Line Productions) for this film. “It was a joy to discover the actors who auditioned for us. I felt electrified working with independent bands and singers in this movie. Having their music in our film is a huge thrill.”
Perez felt strongly about shooting in her home province. “I hope audiences will look beyond Metro Manila, where Filipino movies are usually shot. This film is proof positive that there’s a wealth of talent and resources outside of Metro Manila.”
“The Muses” combines two of her passions: music and the movies. As bonus, it tells the story of a Filipino family. “When Kitchie first presented the idea to me, she mentioned that she wanted a family-friendly film,” Perez said. “I want to convey the dynamics of familial relationships that, at first glance, looks integrally Filipino, but is actually very universal.”
She also hopes that this rock-themed film will reignite the local music scene. “My wish is that it would push people to appreciate Philippine music. By Philippine music, I mean, our country’s diverse talent pool, like the amazing bands and performers in this movie—most of whom have not received radio airplay yet.”
This early, Nadal, Jamer and Perez are toying with the idea of a “back-to-back screening and benefit concert” all over the country and abroad.
“That would be cool,” Perez quipped. “Since this is a film about music, we are in talks with the guest artists and bands to release a soundtrack, too. I’m excited about that prospect.”
Nadal and Jamer whipped up new compositions for the movie.
CineFilipino Film Festival, at the Newport Cinemas of Resorts World Manila, Lucky Chinatown Mall and Gateway Cineplex, ends tomorrow. Apart from eight feature films, 10 short films will also be screened during the fest.