How ‘Birdshot’ hit the bull’s-eye
From the get-go, young filmmaker Mikhail Red wanted to veer away from the same path taken by his contemporaries. After all, the current glut of festivals on the local scene can be both a blessing and a curse.
“I am proud to be part of this generation of filmmakers,” Red explained. “There are many opportunities for us … there are many local festivals that give out grants that allow us to make our dream movies.”
But it’s also easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle, Red conceded. “At the same time, the challenge for you, as a filmmaker, is to stand out from the crowd.”
With his second feature film, “Birdshot,” he sought to break free from tried-and-tested practices. “We looked for a different route. If you join a local festival, you are locked in and under obligation to finish a film at a certain time.”
In any case, he remarked, he had already experienced the “boot-camp,” baptism-of-fire method, in his debut feature, the Cinemalaya entry “Rekorder” in 2013.
For “Rekorder,” they often had to shoot round the clock. “We packed up the next day. We shot for 27 hours,” producer Pamela Reyes looked back.
“This time, we wanted sensible working hours, fair talent fees and the right equipment, too,” Red volunteered.
The secret turned out to be simple and complicated, because it entailed having the courage and wherewithal to “pitch” your script to various agencies, foreign and local.
“We went around … looking for funding and found it in Qatar (Doha Film Institute), South Korea (CJ Entertainment) and France and Thailand (Produire au Sud),” Red recalled.
Apart from Red’s PelikulaRed, TBA Studios, the team behind “Heneral Luna,” also got in as majority producer. CJ Entertainment awarded “Birdshot” with a prize in Busan, while Produire au Sud gave study grants to Red and Reyes.
Its local distributor is Solar Entertainment, while Globe (yes, the telecom company) is on board as the marketing arm. It really takes a global village to create a film these days.
“While attending different pitching fora, you’re able to garner attention for your project even before filming begins,” Red related. “So some festival programmers are already waiting for you by the time you’re done.”
“Birdshot” won best film in the Asian Future section of last year’s Tokyo fest. It premiered at the Cinemalaya last week and will have its local run, as part of Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino, from Aug. 16-22.
As coup de grace, “Birdshot” recently earned a rave review from industry bible, Variety.
In an essay published on Aug. 7, Variety critic Richard Kuipers described Red’s sophomore outing as a “gripping combination of police procedural and coming-of-age drama … a compelling study in the loss of innocence while … offering potent commentary on the state of things in the Philippines.”
Kuipers hailed the film as “wonderfully directed and performed,” singling out neophyte Mary Joy Apostol for her “magnetic screen presence” and for holding her own “in the company of reliable pros, Arnold Reyes and John Arcilla.”
“We’re very proud that we got strong reviews from reputable sources like Variety and Screen International,” Red told the Inquirer.
Red reported that he had just accepted invites to join five international festivals. “We are booked until 2018!” he disclosed.
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