Purpose and priorities: Weighing in on the Summer MMFF | Inquirer Entertainment

Purpose and priorities: Weighing in on the Summer MMFF

/ 12:10 AM May 07, 2023

Brillante Ma Mendoza

The author (left) on the set of one of his films

As we are still at the tail-end of the pandemic, the resumption of film festivals and other entertainment events is a very welcome thing. The threat to our lives is not yet eliminated, but it is great to see a lot of recovery — some things are returning to normal, even though our lives will never be the same as before.

Recently, I was asked about what I thought and noticed about the 2023 Summer Metro Manila Film Festival. What do we mean when we say an event is successful, and how do we gauge it?


I think there was no problem with the films and choices made by the organizers. Filmmakers were recognized, and viewers—though certainly fewer compared to the numbers before the pandemic—did go to the screenings.


However, if the success of a festival is measured by its financial aspect or box-office earnings, I think it failed. Even the most-awarded films, the ones with the most famous stars and those that used the so-called formula, whether a love story or rom-com, did not earn that much. So just imagine how a culture-related film would fare in that aspect. If commercial films make a small profit, smaller and independent filmmakers earn even less.

Of course, the entertainment landscape has changed not just locally, but also globally. Streaming platforms that offer local and foreign films have become more favorable and affordable for most people, with or without the pandemic.

Clearer priorities, purpose

Through such sites, one can instantly watch different films and genres any time. The pandemic certainly programmed us to stay home, spend more wisely, and exert less effort in seeking outside entertainment. It’s just only been two years or so, but two years is two years … and it has really left a mark on us.

Returning to the Summer MMFF topic, if I must comment, I will say that the priorities and purpose of the event should be clearer. There are factors that should be examined and considered, like the date of the festival—I think more people would watch if it is adjusted.

As to the ticket prices, perhaps it should be made more affordable and uniform in all cinemas. It is understandable that most viewers will think twice about paying for expensive tickets. At a film festival, we can expect a regular moviegoer to buy one or two or maximum of three tickets.

Even if a person prefers a certain film, chances are they will pay to watch the one that is cheaper. It is also confusing when tickets are priced differently across theaters in the country. These issues quite defeat the purpose of the festival, which is to have its film entries easily accessed and paid for by more people.


Also, as it is an event connected to the government, it can help lessen filmmaking taxes and subsidize the amount paid to the cinemas. Movie houses and producers usually share 50-50 of the earnings.

As a small producer, even if I want to place my films in the cinemas, even if a hundred malls agree to screen them in their theaters, it means I will pay high taxes to the government, pay the cinemas and their ticket sales cut, pay for publicity, promotion and other requirements.

Film industry needs saving

None of that is cheap, so if few people go see it, the malls can decide to pull it from their theaters after a day. Many cinema owners do not care if filmmakers or producers do not earn. Some would rather close their cinemas than sell tickets at a lower price.

It is true that we cannot always expect support and fairness from the system that we have; and it can be discouraging. But asked if I will continue to make films and join festivals in spite of the issues surrounding it, I will say yes. Maybe because I’m stubborn.

I want to earn, but my purpose in creating films is bigger than that. As long as I can get the resources, funding and investors, I will continue to make films. When I think of it, I’m still here in spite of the odds and losses, or the difficulties in being an independent producer. In a way, I hope that would encourage other artists to pursue filmmaking and keep working on their craft.

As I’ve said in my previous articles, the film industry needs to be saved. Yes, it can do things for its own sake, though at the same time, many do not have the urge and objective to serve the interest of the industry. So, the best thing is for the government to help it, and the industry should also make an effort to reach out to it.

Middle ground

The government should create rules and regulations that will lift the unnecessary burden from creators, talk to cinema owners about having a middle ground where the filmmakers will not lose and feel helpless. Otherwise, in addition to all the other issues in the industry, almost all films will go straight to streaming because a theater screening has become too expensive, and there is never an assurance that people would still come to pay and watch it.

There was a time when filmmakers and producers could still hope to find success in their films because there was always a chance that they would hit the big time. But that was many years ago. We try to hope, but these days, chances are, nothing great will happen in our favor.

Often, I feel like we are in a losing battle because few people seem to care about it enough to do something. It feels like many are just watching and waiting for someone else to move, so years go by and nobody bothers to analyze the problems or finds the means to make the situation better.

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It may sound pessimistic, but it’s also reality. And if we aren’t brave enough to closely look at the current reality and make a change, that reality just might become permanent.


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TAGS: brillante ma. mendoza, Summer MMFF

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