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Take Five : ‘Philippines best Asian location for movies’

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BRICCIO Santos, FDCP chair (file photo)

Not since “Apocalypse Now,” “Platoon” and “Born on the 4th of July” has the Philippines played host to a major Hollywood film production. So the current buzz surrounding the ongoing shoot of “The Bourne Legacy” in our country, along with the massive support being extended to the production company by the government, is understandable.

Taking the lead in orchestrating this landmark undertaking is the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), the foremost government agency for film that is tasked with, among other responsibilities, promoting our country as a location for foreign film productions.

FDCP chairman Briccio G. Santos, himself a filmmaker, fervently believes that the Philippines is the best and most competitive venue in Asia to shoot films.

Why do you think the Philippines was chosen as the shooting location for “Bourne Legacy”?

I would like to believe that the improving sociopolitical conditions in the country was a key factor. Our President is pushing for a more vigorous promotion of our country as a film location. Another factor is our ability to speak English. I must also note that Asia has, of late, become a big market for Hollywood films. In the future, we shall see a real convergence between market and content where more Western-based productions choose Asia not only as a location but also for its unique culture. This is happening now, with Asian characters being integrated more and more into storylines.

What incentives are being offered to foreign producers who wish to shoot here?

The financial incentives are minimal. However, an inter-government group has been convened to assist filmmakers and producers in getting permits, in bringing equipment and personnel in and out of the country, in the proper coordination of location shoots and other logistical requirements. The main advantage is our country itself and our people. Not only are we friendly and hospitable, but we can also be a reliable local partner for any film or TV production coming into the country, what with our pool of creative talents such as actors, technical staff and post-production facilities that are at par with international standards. The variety of scenery and the many locales they can choose from is also a plus.

What really makes our country an ideal filming location?

Because we are in the tropics, the scenery is very attractive for film locations. We are also a melting pot for diverse cultures where locations can be depicted as Asian, Hispanic, Western or even pre-war American. There is also now a growing willingness among local government units—such as in Camarines, Ilocos, Iloilo, Davao, and Cebu—to participate in our efforts by infusing subsidies and incentives like cheaper rates for hotels, transportation, and other amenities a production would require.

Are we expecting more foreign film projects coming to the Philippines in the near future?

The FDCP has received several inquiries from small European productions slated for this year. But we are optimistic that after “Bourne Legacy,” other productions will follow.

The project will definitely put us back on the map and we intend to put leverage into this great opportunity to actively promote our country as an ideal location for big film productions. We will do this through FDCP’s participation in major film marketing events in cities like Berlin, Tokyo, Cannes, Los Angeles, Pusan and Toronto. We will also coordinate with the Department of Tourism and Department of Foreign Affairs to see how we can work together to best promote the country as a film haven, which their respective offices abroad can help advertise. “Bourne Legacy,” once completed, will be seen potentially by hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide. This, in effect, will be the best advertising platform the country can ever hope to have, and we see in this a convergence of film and tourism, or even trade.

At present, we are still building the necessary institutions that would ultimately provide tangible assistance and incentives to these big productions. Our end goal is to professionalize this industry which would ultimately benefit our nation as a whole in job creation, tourism and in furthering the skills of our local filmmaking talents.

So the prospects are bright for the future of filming here in the Philippines?

I believe so, but we have to do more. One option we are currently studying is a rebate system from 10 to 15 percent of a foreign film company’s production cost. We also have to improve in areas such as more efficient equipment handling and excellent coordination with all agencies. Such measures are necessary, if we are to be highly successful in competing with other Asian countries.


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