12-year uphill climb for ‘Saving Sally’ culminates at the MMFF | Inquirer Entertainment

12-year uphill climb for ‘Saving Sally’ culminates at the MMFF

By: - Reporter
/ 12:32 AM December 15, 2016

Enzo Marcos and Rhian Ramos in “Saving Sally”

Enzo Marcos and Rhian Ramos in “Saving Sally”

The line, “Pinaghirapan po namin ito,” is perhaps the most overused by local show biz personalities when promoting a new project. But when visual artist-director Avid Liongoren uses it to describe his first full-length feature, the live-action/animated film “Saving Sally,” it isn’t merely lip service.

After the screenplay for the movie was written in 2002, the 12 years that followed had been a series of stops and starts in shooting and postproduction, as Liongoren sought and courted investors to keep his moviemaking ship afloat, and dealt with a major change in casting.


This year, “Saving Sally,” a coming-of-age story that melds romance and science fiction, will finally hit theaters on Dec. 25, as part of the revitalized Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).


“We have been keeping our expectations low; we didn’t even think our movie will see the light of day. And now, we’re here,” Liongoren told the Inquirer in a recent interview. “We’re all very excited and nervous.”

The film was first shot in 2005, with actress Anna Larrucea in the lead role of Sally, a gadget inventor “with abusive monsters for parents and a d*ck for a boyfriend.” Liongoren went into postproduction for two years, but only went as far as creating “70 to 80 percent” of the movie, because of budget constraints.

Luckily, a clip of “Saving Sally” that the filmmaker uploaded online was picked up by film blogs, and was eventually noticed by people from the international movie distribution company, Wild Bunch. Unfortunately, when Liongoren was set to finally finish the project, Larrucea was no longer available to do it.

The then 19-year-old Rhian Ramos, now 26, stepped in and took over the role in 2010.

“Having a new star meant that what we were working on for the past years had to be thrown away. We had to start over,” recalled Liongoren, whose past work included shooting ads for television, as well as music videos for Yeng Constantino, Kamikazee and Sarah Geronimo.

With investors helping him fund “Saving Sally,” Liongoren thought that things would be relatively easier from then on. Not quite. Although the people from Wild Bunch worked hard trying to score for him a deal with a big, reputable production house, Liongoren being unknown in the business was too big a setback.


“They had the machinery, they had the contact—it was I who was the weakest link. It was hard for them to sell my work, because I’m still unheralded as a  filmmaker,” Liongoren, also an illustrator by profession, admitted.

“So, while the money they gave us sufficiently covered our shooting expenses, it wasn’t enough for postproduction. We didn’t get a lump sum. Instead, we got smaller amounts, in batches. So, we weren’t able to plan big,” he added. “Usually, our mindset would be like, ‘Right, we have a budget for three months. Let’s make the most of it.’”

They did slug it out. So far, the new trailer of “Saving Sally,” which was inspired by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s “MirrorMask,” has been getting positive feedback on social networking sites. And for Liongoren, the fact that the number of people in his core team could be counted in one hand, makes the film’s inclusion in the MMFF sweeter.

“Though we have had interns and freelance animators helping us for some time, the main group was composed of me, three other animators, a tech guy… and two dogs,” Liongoren said. “Big companies like Pixar, for example, would have hundreds of animators working at a given project for four or five years.

Soon after the initial exhilaration of being part of MMFF comes yet another challenge for  Liongoren: promotion—a field he has no experience in, he admitted.

“Nakakaiyak. While everyone else has a promotion team working for them, we don’t even know how or where to begin. I haven’t got any clue about the business side of things,” he related, adding that, fortunately, Erik Matti, director of the MMFF entry, “Seklusyon,” has been giving him some valuable advice and support.

The days leading to the 25th are crucial. At the moment, Liongoren is doing it all—from booking promo guesting for his stars, Ramos, TJ Trinidad and Enzo Marcos, to finding sponsors and vehicles for the Parade of Stars. These are all new and daunting for Liongoren, but he pushes on.

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“I’m not a businessman. I’m an artist. I’m compelled to finish what I started, and see all the hard work come to fruition,” he said. “It’s a commitment to the craft.”

TAGS: Avid Liongoren, Entertainment, Enzo Marcos, Indie Films, MMFF, Rhian Ramos, Saving Sally

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