Gov’t support, lots of money needed to get an Oscar nod | Inquirer Entertainment

Gov’t support, lots of money needed to get an Oscar nod

By: - Reporter
/ 06:54 PM November 13, 2011

“BABAE sa Septic Tank” faces a bumpy ride to the US Academy Awards.

“Raise as much money as you can. You will need lots of it.”

This is director Soxie Topacio’s advice to filmmaker Marlon Rivera, whose “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank” is among the 63 films in the running for a slot in the best foreign language film category of the Oscars.


“Septic Tank,” which chronicles a day in the life of three wannabe filmmakers, is coproduced by Quantum Films and Martinez-Rivera Films.


“You have to create a buzz, make some noise,” said Topacio, whose “Ded na Si Lolo” was the country’s Oscar foreign language film bet last year. “But how do you do that if you don’t have the resources? While I may have felt disappointed when my film was not picked as a nominee, I knew it wasn’t because the judges didn’t like it.”

One of six

“Ded na si Lolo” tells of the death of a family patriarch and the complications brought about by the superstitious beliefs about death observed by his typical Filipino family. The film was one of six films that APT Entertainment Inc. produced in 2009 for the Sine Direk benefit project of the Director’s Guild of the Philippines Inc. (DGPI).

Each year, the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP), Philippine counterpart of the United States’ Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, picks the local entry to the Oscars. According to FAP director-general Leo Martinez, “Septic Tank,” starring Eugene Domingo, was chosen from a shortlist of 10 films by a seven-member committee headed by National Artist for Film Eddie Romero.

Recalled Topacio: “When we learned that we were in the lineup, the first thing that APT Entertainment (owned by Antonio P. Tuviera) did was to send for Dante Garcia.” Garcia directed and coproduced “Ploning,” the country’s entry to the Oscars in 2009.

With Garcia’s help, Topacio said, film director Mike Tuviera, also the producer’s son, flew to the United States to hire a publicist and schedule TV guestings. They scouted for people to reproduce the film on DVD, for promotional giveaways. “They stayed in Los Angeles for a week,” the director recalled. “Imagine the amount of money they spent on that trip. A few weeks later, it was my turn to go for the TV a


ppearances that were booked earlier.”

APT also hosted parties and scheduled film screenings in various venues. “Our contact at the UCLA suggested that we show the film to a group who were friends with the Oscars people in the hope that they’d give positive feedback,” Topacio said. “There was another screening in a cinema known for featuring Third World Asian movies. The audience consisted mostly of old people, who were said to have been teachers of known Oscar jurors—meaning, influential.”

Topacio continued: “We did all this, but still, nothing happened. What’s good about getting nominated is, you’ll get buyers. If you win, you’ll be able to sell the rights to distribute your film at a much higher price.”

Huge honor

He added that the group also tried to make its presence felt at the 2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival. “Any country may host a party during the seven-day festival. Mr. Tuviera hosted one for the Philippines. I told him, ‘Sir, ang laki na ng gastos mo.’ He said he’d just ‘charge it to experience. I’m grateful to have met someone like Mr. Tuviera. To him, being the country’s representative was already a huge honor, enough to spend his hard-earned money on.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the list of entrants to the competition on October 30. Only five out of the 63 films will receive nominations, which will be announced on January 24. The Oscars will be awarded on February 26.

Topacio said he learned a lot during the three-month campaign. He said he couldn’t help but feel jealous about how the Korean government supported its film entry. “The help it gave in promoting its movie was tremendous. It’s so unfortunate that we got very minimal support from our government. We relied greatly on the private sector.”

He pointed out that during the campaign for “Ploning,” lead actress Judy Ann Santos, who was also one of the film’s producers, had to organize celebrity auctions and food festivals to raise funds. “Mr. Tuviera simply used his own

money,” Topacio pointed out.

Time constraints

The director said it didn’t help that the competing film was chosen only in October. “There was very little time to work on the subtitles, distribute promo materials and raise funds for

RODERICK Paulate in “Ded na si Lolo,” the country’s bet last year

the campaign. When we made ‘Ded na si Lolo,’ we didn’t think it would be sent to compete in the Oscars,” he explained. “A private individual with very little resources would be helpless. Imagine having to compete with 62 countries!”

Topacio also said it was unfortunate that the government does not see the potential of film as an export product. “The Koreans have seen it,” he said. “While our government is focusing attention on tourism, which harms the environment, the Koreans are saying, in effect, ‘We don’t need you to come to our country. We will bring our products to you.’”

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He added: “Now, Koreanovelas are doing very well even in Los Angeles. They made their culture a selling point. They’ve made a mark. Here, there’s hardly any producer dedicated to promoting culture. Wala kasi silang mapapala from the government. That’s what’s sad about the whole situation.”

TAGS: Ang Babae sa Septic Tank, cinema, Entertainment, Philippines

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