Sockie Fernandez and ‘Gulong’
Even over the phone, Sockie Fernandez’s energy is irrepressible and never more so than when she’s talking about filmmaking – or, more specifically, the making of “Gulong,” her first full-length feature film.
An official entry in the 2007 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, it was Sockie’s second foray into film directing, her first being the award-winning short, “Liyab,” which bagged the Best Short Film prize at Cinemanila in 2003 and was screened at Cannes.
“I never thought I’d become a filmmaker,” she shares, “but I have always loved films.” Sockie cut her teeth in producing and directing TV commercials and had already built a successful career in advertising before venturing into moviemaking.
She explains, “How I got into filmmaking was something of an organic process. I had experience in marketing, producing and directing commercials, so I was asking myself, ‘What haven’t I done yet?’ Then, opportunities presented themselves – and I just said yes!”
When the script of “Gulong,” written by Jeanne Lim, came to her attention, Sockie says that the positivity of the material was what made it stand out to her. “I was attracted to what I call the ‘dark side’ at the time, so when I read the script, it was so bright and happy – a big contrast!
“Then, I met Jeanne, who was so positive about everything despite her health problems, and I thought, ‘Optimism does still exist in this world’ – and that’s when I decided to commit to it. After that, things just fell into place – I got support from Butch Jimenez, among other people – so, it was meant to be.”
Unlike many other first-time filmmakers, Sockie already had a working knowledge of the technical aspect of the process through her background in advertising. “I was able to bring the discipline and technique that I learned in advertising to film directing. I think they complement each other – in advertising, you tell a story in 30 seconds; in film, you tell it in 90 minutes – but, whatever your time frame or format is, we’re all storytellers.”
Having been exposed to state-of-the-art technology early on, Sockie’s know-how resulted in stunning visuals for “Gulong,” where scenes sometimes seem to be lit from within. But, while the streamlined processes she had come to rely on in advertising were advantages, she now realizes in retrospect that they weren’t always so.
“Because our schedule was so tight, I asked others to check out locations for me, but I would do it myself now,” she says. “You have to get involved from the start, and in everything! Sometimes, the best directors seem so prissy about every little detail, but that’s because they have to be. God is in the details!”
Despite the difficulties of independent filmmaking – sticking to the budget, balancing creativity and logistics – Sockie says she would do it all over again. “Directing ‘Gulong’ was like one big film-school crash course, and it was a fun ride. I enjoyed being on the set, and dealing with all kinds of people. In film, you plan things, of course, but you also have to be open to changes along the way, and everything evolves in an organic way.”
For would-be filmmakers, Sockie has this to say: “Prepare. Do your homework and know your story inside-out, because you’ll have to deal with a lot of realities and practical issues.
“It’s also important to choose your team well. Don’t just choose the best people, choose the ones you get along with. And, pray a lot, because there are a lot of things that are beyond your control – like the weather!”
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