The (horror) movie in Mikhail Red’s mind
Being a young filmmaker is always challenging, claimed 27-year-old Mikhail Red.
“It’s hard to balance demonstrating authority and admitting that you feel intimidated by your actors, who have already worked on far more films than you have,” he pointed out.
Mikhail leads the team behind the horror-thriller film “Eerie,” which features Charo Santos-Concio and Bea Alonzo as main cast members.
“I have to make them trust me and assure them that I know what I’m doing. At the same time, I also need to show them that I have so much respect for them as artists,” Mikhail told reporters during a media gathering for “Eerie,” which is now being shown in cinemas nationwide.
“I actually learned a lot from the two. They’re perfect as actors. On the set, repeated takes happen not because of them, but because of errors in lighting, camera angles and other technical details,” said Mikhail, who began making films when he was 15.
“Eerie” follows the mystery behind students’ deaths in Sta. Lucia Academy, a conservative, all-girl Catholic high school. Bea is Pat, the guidance counselor who tries to solve the case as she suspects the culprit to be the school’s fanatical overseer Sor Alicé (Charo).
The key witness who can provide answers to the string of deaths is the ghost of Eri, a student who committed suicide on the school grounds more than a decade ago.
Asked which role is more eerie (Bea’s or Charo’s), Mikhail replied: “As a storyteller, I’m fond of characters that are morally ambiguous. There’s no bida-kontrabida here. In a way, we all make decisions depending on our morals. This is science vs faith. Pat is very modern. She talks to the students, while Sor Alicé represents the traditional. That’s where the conflict lies here—they’re polar opposites. Their characters are both eerie.”
The film is a coproduction of Star Cinema and the Singapore-based Cre8 Productions. “This is not just for local audiences,” Mikhail explained, recalling the time when he was still pitching the story. He said the Singaporeans liked it so much that it also earned for Star Cinema a six-picture deal with Cre8.
“This has become a catalyst for something new for Star Cinema … to go into international coproductions,” he added.
As a director, Mikhail said he wanted his work to cross boundaries. “I want to continue making films that will be enjoyed by local moviegoers, but also have certain elements that can work beyond. That’s the new gauge for films these days, with all the streaming services making their presence felt around the world. It has to have that flavor that will suit audiences outside the country.”
Mikhail, Charo and Bea attended the movie’s world premiere at the 2018 Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) in December. They were joined by costar Jake Cuenca, producers Malou Santos and Micah Tadena.
“For a film like this, we wanted a world premiere outside the country. It worked for us because that’s where we sealed several sales deals,” he explained, adding that the film has simultaneous releases across Asia. “And this is not just the usual route that targets the Pinoy diaspora abroad. It was picked up by international distributors.”
From March to June, it will be released in countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The 2018 SGIFF was only the first of many festivals where “Eerie” is included, according to the young filmmaker.
Mikhail is the son of award-winning indie filmmaker Raymond Red, as well as nephew to renowned production designer Danny Red and film and TV director Jon Red.
“I’m lucky to have been exposed to world cinema very early on,” he said. “My father didn’t force me, though. Coming from this family, exploring the medium came naturally.”
He enrolled in a workshop under the late filmmaker Marilou Diaz-Abaya when he was 15. His first short film, “Rekorder,” debuted at the 2009 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival.
He said it was in Abaya’s workshop where he learned the fundamentals of film. “She taught us that storytelling began in the olden times from a group of uncivilized people sitting in front of a bonfire, telling each other about their catch for the day. We tell stories because we want to be remembered, and to share our experiences.”
“As a director, I’m like that,” Mikhail said. “I have this need to share with the audience the experience that I have in my mind. Storytelling is being able to articulate this vision to your crew and actors, who are far more talented and experienced than you.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.