Lawrence of Rotonda
Hot on the heels of the acclaimed Cinemalaya entry “Amok,” independent filmmaker Lawrence Fajardo crosses over to the mainstream with “X Deal,” a production of Viva Films and ALV Productions, which opened last September 7.
He moves from the tough streets of Pasay Rotonda to a shadowy, sultry boudoir.
Fajardo related that his work in the indie scene has primed him well for his first “commercial” movie: “Indie filmmaking has taught me to work quickly, efficiently and within budget.”
Fortunately, his producers gave him creative freedom. “They just told me to make something edgy.”
He has no illusions about “X Deal,” which was rated “X” by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board before getting an “R-18.” He explained, “I knew it could get an ‘X.’ But as a director, I’m used to showing, not telling.”
This is where his training as editor proved beneficial. “I had to edit out what shouldn’t be seen and discovered by the audience.”
In the end, it’s about the story. “That’s what every filmmaker hopes to achieve, regardless of genre. This is a sexy film, but I really want the audience to perceive it as a well-told erotic story.”
He admitted that the biggest challenge was shooting the love scenes. “It’s amazing that we finished them all in six days,” Fajardo recounted. “One scene was set in a staircase. I didn’t realize how difficult it was to block the actors. It was a nightmare.”
In a way, it was like a striptease act for the director, too. “I had to show them how to move. It was as if I was revealing to them how I do it [in real life].”
It helped that he conducted a workshop with the three lead stars—Jon Hall, Paloma Esmeria and Jamilla Obispo—“to gain their trust and ensure commitment to their roles.”
“Amok” actor Roli Inocencio, who’s also in “X deal,” joked that he had so much faith in Fajardo that he’d gladly disrobe for the director.
Inocencio didn’t do the full monty in “X Deal” Fajardo said. “But if he wants to, I’ll reshoot.”
Fajardo isn’t daunted about following up “Amok” with “X Deal.”
“I don’t pressure myself to top ‘Amok,’” he said. “I like challenging myself by venturing into new territories. I work on what interests me as an artist. I prefer different kinds of stories, different levels of filmmaking.”
Fajardo is raring to screen “Amok” in Busan next month, where it is part of the fest’s Window on Asia section.
“I hope Filipinos in Korea will watch our little contribution to Philippine cinema. I hope to get invites to other festivals,” he said.
Another hope is that, after watching “Amok,” foreigners will recognize that Filipinos are survivors. “Not everything’s okay. Filipinos usually suffer in silence. We wanted to show how hard it is to live in the city.”
Fajardo dreams of a theatrical run for “Amok.” “It’s expensive, but we’ll figure it out.”
His next dream movie is on animal rights. “The idea cropped up during the shoot of Jobin Ballesteros’ ‘Colorum,’ where I was assistant director and editor two years ago. I’ve started writing a few scenes. It’s still a work in progress.”