Winning young Pinoy director: Story is kingBy Jodee Agoncillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Faith is a big abstraction—expansive, limitless and vague.
But Singapore-based filmmaker and scholar Juan Paolo Reyes, 18, squeezes in the message of faith across various cultures in a three-minute film that bested several countries that competed in the Faith Shorts, a global film competition hosted by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
Reyes received his award on December 6 at the British Academy of Film and Television and Arts (Bafta), an organization in the United Kingdom that hosts annual awards shows for excellence in film, television, television craft, video games and forms of animation.
Finalists in the family category, which came from Lebanon, India, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Singapore, talked about faith, devotion, hope, love of nature and mother Earth. Among the judges in the competition are actors Jet Li, Hugh Jackman and Prime Minister Tony Blair.
“I had my own story to tell, and that fit well with the global competition theme of ‘Let Me Show You How My Faith Inspires Me,’” said Reyes, who is currently taking film studies at the Lasalle College of the Arts in Singapore.
His film, titled “First Steps to Recovery,” talks about faith in the eyes of a young cancer patient who becomes an inspiration for a journalist to undergo chemotherapy after an interview with him.
“I was going through a pretty tough time personally. Then I remembered mom telling me a story she heard about a boy dying of sickness but was always smiling. I wrote a story based on that.
“But on a personal level, I was writing about who I wanted to be—someone who trusts God completely and knows that He’ll take care of me no matter what happens.”
Reyes said he spent S$75 (approximately P2,500) for his winning film, which covered equipment costs and rental of the location. The members of his cast were his good friends.
The young filmmaker has come to believe that the hardest part of his job is finding contacts and pitching his projects.
“It’s not like other jobs where you can apply and they’ll accept you based on your grades. You’d be blessed if you get a big gig right away. Most of the time, it’s being humble and accepting the small jobs and doing them excellently. If they hire you as a coffee boy, then make the best coffee you can. It’s just a matter of hard work and humility.”
He added that there are funding problems as well, aside from the lack of platforms for young, independent filmmakers to showcase their work.
In the future, he plans to put up a production house that would produce quality films and eventually help finance local filmmakers.
A good story
Among the films that have impressed him recently are “Real Steel,” “Midnight in Paris” and “The Lion King.” He is also inspired by filmmakers Woody Allen, Martin Scorcese and Alfred Hitchcock—whom he regards as “great storytellers.”
“A good film has to have a good story,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s wonderfully made or beautifully shot but if it lacks a sincere story, then it’s not going to work out. For me, it’s always substance over style.
“I believe the greatest stories come from the most human experiences and that’s where I like to squeeze my stories from.
“Many of the films I write deal with human emotions and relationships. I do believe that the stories coming up from these two are universal and many people can connect with it.”
A short film he did back in high school sparked his interest in filmmaking. “I put effort in creating this really small film that didn’t really look very good, but it got a good grade. I remember telling myself that I finally had something I can be proud of.”
His portfolio in Tumblr comprises his own film creations that are Filipino-staffed, mostly written in our language.
“It’s an advantage I have here since the Filipino culture is very different from Singapore. I love how our language sounds and I just feel very comfortable working with it. I’m also a very proud Filipino and I do my best to share my culture through film.”
Reyes hopes to direct an award-winning feature film and an episode in “Maalaala Mo Kaya” in the future. “That would be awesome,” he said.
Access Reyes’ film at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIBvokvatWg
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