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LAWRENCE Fajardo on the set of “The Strangers”: “I hope to make gritty, edgy mainstream films.”

LAWRENCE Fajardo on the set of “The Strangers”: “I hope to make gritty, edgy mainstream films.”

In this December’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), two indie filmmakers will compete with the usual array of “Enteng,” “Agimat” and “Shake” franchise  flicks.

Apart from Brillante Ma. Mendoza, a surprise addition with his “Thy Womb,” another indie director, Lawrence Fajardo, made it to the final list with “The Strangers.”

Last July, in the Directors’ Showcase section of this year’s Cinemalaya, Fajardo won best film  for “Posas.” Earlier this month, “Posas” won the top prize at the Hanoi International Film Festival.

Then again, the MMFF is a big leap from Cinemalaya and Hanoi. “I am excited and pressured at the same time,” Fajardo admitted. “It’s not only my first MMFF; it’s also my first horror film.”

It’s a baptism of fire, in more ways than one. Still, his wish is to bring his style of filmmaking from the indie to the commercial circles.

He explained: “Even in the mainstream, I hope to continue making films in the same mold as my previous efforts—more dramatic, edgier, grittier.”

Role models

He named master filmmakers Celso Ad. Castillo and Peque Gallaga as the horror directors he hopes to emulate. “My favorite is Direk Peque’s ‘Manananggal’ episode from the first ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll,’” he said.

Other favorite horror flicks of his are William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” and Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.”

He described horror as “an exciting genre that generates various emotions among audiences.”

He confessed, however, that he does find horror a bit daunting. “It’s challenging, but I welcome it,” he said. “[With ‘The Strangers’], I’d like to tell a horror story with a unique flavor.”

Although independently produced, “The Strangers” could also qualify as a commercial undertaking, said lawyer Joji Alonso, head of Quantum Films.

Fajardo got to stretch his directing muscles in this one. “We have stunts, effects, prostheses. We have a big cast,” said Fajardo. “It’s a whole new playing field for me. I realized it’s not easy to scare audiences”

On the set of “The Strangers,” Fajardo encountered all sorts of challenges, from inclement weather to the unwieldy schedules of the cast. His stars are among the busiest in the industry—JM de Guzman, Enrique Gil, Julia Montes, Enchong Dee, Janice de Belen and Cherry Pie Picache.

The director was happy to reunite with “Amok” and “Posas” actors Spanky Manikan, Nico Antonio, Art Acuña and Garry Lim via his MMFF entry.

“It was my first time to work with veterans Jaime Fabregas, Tanya Gomez and Johnny Revilla, too,” he related. “I’m thankful that the entire cast was very cooperative.”

He recounted that it was a difficult shoot, “but the actors had no complaints even though we had to shoot at times drenched with rain and mud.”

He was likewise all-praise for his producer Alonso. “She was very supportive. Finishing this movie wasn’t easy, but she remained steadfast and committed.”

Fajardo considers himself a “collaborative” director. He explained: “I have an efficient crew and they helped me achieve my vision. As a director, sometimes you have to attack scenes differently in order to make each one effective.”

He has a simple Christmas wish this year. “I hope viewers will appreciate ‘The Strangers,’ to make all our hard work and sacrifices worthwhile.”

After this brief fling with the mainstream, Fajardo is raring to return to his first love.

“I have a few projects in the works. Balik-indie ulit (back to indie again),” he said.

(bayanisandiegojr@gmail.com)

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