The long road to Hollywood
Filipino filmmaker Yam Laranas admits that he feels like the lead character in a romantic-comedy film. “It’s like a typical love story. You look everywhere for something, only to find out that what you were searching for was in front of you all along.”
He was referring to his big dream of penetrating the Hollywood scene.
Laranas almost did when he got the chance to remake his 2004 thriller “Sigaw” as “The Echo,” which was top-billed by Hollywood stars Jesse Bradford and Amelia Warner (with Filipino actress Iza Calzado) in 2008. Alas, “The Echo” was hit by the economic downturn in the United States.
“Although it was shown in Europe, Asia and South America, I got depressed when ‘The Echo’ wasn’t released in theaters in the US,” he says.
Laranas felt he would have grabbed the brass ring with a US run.
Little did he know that his wish to have a film of his shown in US cinemas would be fulfilled with his latest work. Locally produced by GMA Films, “The Road” has been picked up by Freestyle Releasing for distribution in the US and Canada.
The movie stars Rhian Ramos, Marvin Agustin, Derek Monasterio, Luis de los Reyes, and Alden Richards.
The Los Angeles-based firm is eyeing at least 50 commercial moviehouses for “The Road,” beginning May 11. “The film will be shown at the AMC chain, Loews, Regal, Landmark,” Laranas relates. “These are mainstream cinemas. If we do well, the number can go up to 100 screens.”
The film will hold its grand premiere at LA Live on May 9, Laranas says. “It’s in the same complex as Staples Center and Nokia Theater, where they hold the Grammys, the Emmys and the ‘American Idol’ finals. I am definitely going to be there because I want to see the audience’s reaction.”
Producer Annette Abrogar, who will also grace the event, says: “GMA Films is excited and honored to have the premiere at the LA Live. This news is significant because it’s a full-fledged commercial distribution deal.”
Laranas recounted that three distribution firms expressed interest in “The Road,” but Freestyle offered the “best deal matched with a sensible plan.”
Apart from the theater run, Freestyle will release a digital home video simultaneously. “The movie will also be available on other distribution platforms: video-on-demand (VOD), iTunes, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, as well as Facebook, YouTube, xBox, and PS3.”
Laranas feels it’s vital to pursue other revenue streams apart from the theater route. “At present, 20 to 30 percent of revenues comes from theater, and 70 to 80 percent from VOD,” he explained.
Laranas thinks this development is a good beginning for local cinema.
Although there have been other Filipino films that have been screened in art houses and cinemas abroad (from the time of Gerry de Leon, Cirio Santiago and Eddie Romero, to Kidlat Tahimik and Lino Brocka, and now Brillante Mendoza), “The Road” is the first local film in the age of iTunes and Netflix to have a commercial theater run in the US.
Meeting world standards
Laranas says that all the hard work and insistence on meeting world standards have paid off: “It was a smart decision to shoot on 2K resolution, to use Dolby 5.1, and to have it subtitled from the outset.”
He reports that “The Road” is in the official competition section of the 30th Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival, set in Belgium from April 5 to 17.
It was also in Brussels where Laranas won the Orbit Award for “Sigaw” in 2006.
“The Road” will likewise compete at the 8th Fantaspoa International Fantastic Film Festival in Porto Alegre, Brazil, from May 4 to 20.
GMA chairman and CEO Felipe L. Gozon remarks: “This will show the world that Filipinos excel not only in boxing and singing, but in filmmaking as well, and hopefully will inspire other local artists to aspire to greater heights.”