Why director Chito Roño hasn’t been making films lately

Why director Chito Roño hasn’t been making films lately

/ 12:10 AM June 23, 2024

Chito Roño


“I’m depressed,” said award-winning filmmaker Chito Roño as a way to explain why he has been inactive in making movies for quite some time now.

Roño’s last big-screen project, the horror film “Ang Mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan,” was released last year but was filmed back in 2020. “It’s true that I receive so many scripts. I’m lucky because I get to choose my projects. I also choose my writers. The reason I’ve not made movies for years now is that I’m kind of depressed. All they (producers) want for me to do is horror. I’m so sick of these people—that’s just a joke!” he said, laughing. “Seriously, I’ve found interesting material, but I want to go back to the days when I was doing drama.”


However, Roño said he understood where the producers are coming from. “It’s hard to sell films these days aside from those that people obviously want to watch, like love stories and horror flicks. I can relate to them. I would sometimes say, ‘Let’s just sell barbecue to make money!’ Some films, like ‘Firefly’ and ‘GomBurZa,’ are lucky because they got included in the Metro Manila Film Festival. If you put them on a regular [screening] day, I doubt if they will make much. That’s the reality of life,” said Roño during a recent roundtable discussion on filmmaking and screenplay writing that was also attended by directors Jun Robles Lana, Mae Cruz-Alviar, Pepe Diokno, Sigrid Bernardo, Joel Lamangan and Zig Dulay.


The good ones

“That’s why when I work with writers, I choose the good ones, the legendary ones. I don’t change much [the materials they’ve written]. I’ve worked with almost all of the good writers we have, from Lualhati Bautista to Roy Iglesias to Rody Vera,” said Roño, adding that his first three projects, “Stella Magtanggol, “Private Show” and “Olongapo: The Great American Dream” were by National Artist for Film Ricky Lee, and his fourth, “Itanong Mo sa Buwan,” was by the late Armando “Bing” Lao.

Roño has also worked with Gina Marissa Tagasa and Jose Javier Reyes, currently Film Development Council of the Philippines chair, he pointed out.

While Roño said he has done more films than he can remember, he could recall collaborating with Bautista on at least two important projects—“Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?” and “Dekada ‘70.” He added: “I guess I did change one or two in Lualhati’s scripts. I suggested the ending of ‘Dekada’ to be the death of Ninoy Aquino because this marked the end of a whole era, from the declaration of martial law. She agreed and rewrote it.”

“Dekada ‘70’ was based on Bautista’s novel that was first published in 1983.

Roño said that with Roy Iglesias’ “Dahas,” he suggested to open the film with a scene featuring “people stabbing each other in the middle of Olongapo while they’re eating spaghetti and burger at a restaurant.”

Joshua Garcia in a scene from Roño’s recent horror film “Ang mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan”

Joshua Garcia in a scene from Roño’s recent horror film “Ang mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan” —REGAL ENTERTAINMENT



Directors’ footprint

Roño continued: “My process is neither complicated nor controversial. Even with ‘Private Show,’ it wasn’t difficult. I’ve managed because I also write scenes. I would just ask permission. For example, in ‘Itanong mo sa Buwan,’ I noticed that lighting was beautiful when the camera is under the house, so I suggested to Bing (Lao) that we add bits here and there. I’ve managed to insert things.”

For Roño, if a director does not have his own impression on a story, then it will end up becoming “generic.” He explained: “A director’s footprint has to be seen in our film, otherwise, it will not matter who made it. You have to make your mark. Dapat tatak Chito Roño,” he declared.

In order to achieve this, Roño said one has to “always coordinate with your writer so that the project does not become a Bible. It has to be from the heart of the director, too. It can’t just come from the writer alone. There’s a reason you also choose a director who is good at love stories, or horror, or action,” he said.

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“When you write the script, you can already imagine, ‘Sylvester Stallone will be good for this,’ so you already have your lead star. You also say, ‘For the director, I want James Cameron.’ You have an idea as to who will interpret the material for you. A movie isn’t just from the writer. You know that half of the film’s heart is from the director. If your actors are great, they will own the material, too. That’s what a movie should be. It’s art. It’s an expression of everyone, not just of one person.”

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