Warner Bros. partners with Mentorque to distribute Piolo Pascual’s horror-thriller
The horror-thriller “Mallari,” which wouldn’t have pushed through if actor Piolo Pascual turned down the offer to play the title role, cost a whopping P40 million to make, according to its producer John Bryan Diamante.
The film, directed by Derick Cabrido, is based on the story of Severino Mallari, the only documented serial killer in the Philippines. It is one of 10 official entries to this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).
“The first thing that Piolo asked when he sat down with us to discuss the project was how much its production value was. It cost at least P40 million because we gave all of Direk Derick’s technical requirements, including a state-of-the-art camera that has never been used here in the Philippines before,” he told Inquirer Entertainment during a media gathering that formally announced the partnership of his film outfit, Mentorque Productions, with Warner Bros. Pictures.
Shooting “Mallari,” the story of which partly took place in the 1800s, also required building sets in Batangas and Bulacan, as well as on sound stage in Manila, Bryan added.
“Mentorque gave them all that they needed because I don’t want them to come back to me and say, ‘Bryan, this happened because you didn’t listen to us.’ Through the years, I’ve learned how to handle creative people. I also think it’s my intuition that’s telling me this movie is something else. We didn’t cut back on the costume design, prosthetics and graphics,” he recalled.
“This was also why Piolo was amazed when he arrived on the set. He said it would be embarrassing not to give the film his all. We also made sure that everyone involved in this project had the best working environment. I didn’t want them to feel so constrained while working that they would be forced to settle on doing mediocre work.”
Bryan also said that had Piolo refused to play Mallari, he wouldn’t have taken on the project, as well. “This was really written with him in mind. I’m not an expert when it comes to casting, but I go by my intuition. This is really his,” the producer pointed out.
Bryan said he has heard of numerous stories on how professional Piolo is when it comes to work and was able to confirm them himself. “The stories are all true. I never had a hard time handling him. He made sure that his delivery was accurate. Piolo was surprised when he learned that we got him an acting coach. He thought he could just wing it, but he later realized that he could unconsciously let go of his hold on his character without someone to look after him.”
Bryan continued: “Also, he is the type who doesn’t want his co-actors to wait. If he needed to bathe and get dressed right away, he would do it with no qualms. Since he is portraying three different characters, he had to change fast. We all saw how professional he is.”
Reaching far and wide
During the weekend, Mentorque Productions signed a partnership deal with Warner Bros. Pictures in relation to the nationwide theatrical distribution of “Mallari.” Also present during the contract signing was Warner distribution director Rico Gonzales, who said that the go-signal to finally embark on strategic local ventures came all the way from the Warner offices in Burbank, California.
With the partnership, Bryan said he expects that “Mallari” will be screened in more theaters during the MMFF run. “Warner is always distributing international films, and it’s always the priority of cinema operators. I think that would be one of our advantages,” he explained. “Actually, more than the distribution partnership, I know that ‘Mallari’ is also capable of piquing the interest of the Filipino audience. I confidently think it will grow on its own. I’m not an expert—I’m actually a newbie—but I’ve seen the movie and shown it to a lot of people, including people from Warner. I don’t think they will give it their seal of approval if the movie is not good. If you watch it, you will see that it’s not only a well-thought project, but also one that we worked hard for and spent so much resources on.”
Even before it got picked as an MMFF entry, Bryan said he and his team were already studying how to dub “Mallari” in different languages and release it abroad. “We’re looking strategically for other regions that will really be interested in this kind of movie. Warner is also helping us pinpoint these particular territories,” he said.
Another goal is to get involved in international coproductions, Bryan said. “We ventured into this partnership not just for the sake of partnering with an international company like Warner, but also to learn from the company and eventually broaden our audience,” he declared.
Bryan’s first project as producer was Bobby Bonifacio Jr.’s drama “Tahan,” featuring Cloe Barretto, JC Santos and Cannes best actress Jaclyn Jose. This was followed by “Influencer,” “Fall Guy,” the 2022 MMFF entry “My Father, Myself,” and the yet-unreleased drama “Sa Kanto ng Langit at Lupa.”
“I have always wanted to make films even when I was young. I’m a political officer and Vilma Santos is my boss. Technically, I started last year. Luckily, I was able to push the limit this year. I said someone has to do it because it’s really possible,” said Bryan, who added that Vilma’s son, Ryan Recto, is his childhood best friend. “I grew up listening to Ms Vilma’s experiences about filmmaking. I learned so much from her when it came to work and professionalism. Since she also has a festival entry, we help each other promote. We’re happy that both of our films got in. My ultimate dream is to be able to make a film with her. But since I’m new in the business, I feel that I still have to work on my confidence to pitch to her.”