Sylvia Sanchez's Nathan Studios acquires rights to 6 films

Sylvia Sanchez’s family-owned Nathan Studios acquires rights to six films

As company inks deal with SG movie outfit
/ 12:10 AM June 14, 2024

Sylvia Sanchez's family-owned Nathan Studios acquires rights to six films

Sylvia Sanchez —MARINEL CRUZ

For actress Sylvia Sanchez, her most recent trip to France to attend the Cannes Film Festival was very productive, especially since her short film, “Silig,” premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight, and the family-owned Nathan Studios was able to acquire six titles at the film market.

Arvin Belarmino’s “Silig,” codirected by Cambodian filmmaker Lomorpich Rithy (aka YoKi), stars Sylvia who plays Mamang, a woman with terminal cancer who returns to her hometown after two decades to plan her own cremation. Her reunion with Sabina (Angel Aquino), an old flame who now works at a funeral home, forms the emotional crux of the narrative.

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People laughing, crying

“Silig,” shot in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte, is one of four short films that opened the Directors’ Fortnight. Also known as Quinzaine des Cinéastes, it is an independent section that runs parallel to the Cannes Film Festival.

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“We could hear people laughing during the screening. When it ended, several people approached me to say the film made them cry. After the Q&A session, someone came up to me to tell me how much he liked our portrayal. I was amazed that people were able to relate to the story even though they’re not Filipinos. I immediately called our director because I know he should be the one hearing all the compliments,” Sylvia told reporters over lunch recently.

Sanchez (right) and Angel Aquino in “Silig”

Sanchez (right) and Angel Aquino in “Silig” —NATHAN STUDIOS

Significant support

The four shorts, produced under Directors’ Factory, also received significant support from the Quezon City Film Commission.

Ruby Ruiz and Shaina Magdayao topbill “Walay Balay” (or “Strange Home”) by Eve Baswel (Philippines) and Gogularaajan Rajendran’s (Malaysia). Maria Estela Paiso (Philippines) and Ashok Vish (India) directed “Nightbirds,” where the mystical Tigmamanukan bird is sent by the bird council to help Ivy (Pokwang) break free from her husband, who wastes the couple’s money on cockfighting, according to a report from Variety.com. Don Eblahan (Philippines) and Tan Siyou (Singapore) directed “Cold Cut,” about auditions for a talent show and a mysterious stranger. Its cast is composed entirely of Dapitan City residents.

Nathan Studios, where Sylvia serves as COO, bought distribution rights to five animated features and a Korean horror movie during the Cannes Film Market or Marché du Film, which also runs simultaneously with the film fest.

Asked to talk about the lessons learned from her trips to Cannes for the past three years, Sylvia said: “Sadly, buying art films is not a financially viable option. The initial goal of Nathan Studios is to become identified as a film distributor of critically acclaimed movies. We bought the rights to three films—one drama and two action—during the first year. ’Di kinakagat (they didn’t click).”

In 2022, Nathan Studios bought the rights to Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Monster,” John Woo’s “Silent Night,” and Mortiz Mohr’s “Boy Kills World.”

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“This time around, we will try to cater to kids,” Sylvia said as a way to explain their purchases this year. “We own the distribution rights here in the Philippines for 10 years.”

Incidentally, the company has also signed a “strategic investment partnership” with Singapore-based Momo Film Co. to collaborate on three film projects. They are set to work on “The Drought” by Locarno winner Nelson Yeo, a dystopian horror project; “Levitating” by Wregas Bhutenaja, the acclaimed Indonesian director’s third feature; and the unannounced next feature by Singapore’s Kirsten Tan, known for her Sundance Special Jury Prize-winning film “Pop Aye.”

Showcasing talents abroad

“I initially met them in Locarno. I’ve gotten positive feedback from other producers when I first asked around about the company,” said Sylvia of Momo. Incidentally, Richard Somes’ “Topakk,” starring her son Arjo Atayde, was exhibited at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2023.

“We had lunch when we saw each other in Cannes. We also had meetings in Singapore and here in Manila. I expect this collaboration to be a learning experience for both of us since we will be working outside our respective countries. We will also be able to showcase local talents abroad,” Sylvia said.

Nathan Studios was created in 2020 when Sylvia coproduced the series “Misis Piggy” with ABS-CBN and Epic Media for iWantTFC. “Work stopped during the pandemic so we were thinking of ways to help film workers in our own little way. I had already expressed my interest in coproduction to Sir Deo’s (Endrinal) Dreamscape, so when they called me up, I took the risk,” she said.

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Nathan Studios’ second collaboration with ABS-CBN was Dan Villegas’ “Cattleya Killer,” the first Filipino drama-thriller series showcased at Mipcom in Cannes.“It was a good start for us because we were able to collaborate with reliable people,” Sylvia said.

TAGS: Sylvia Sanchez

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