Award-winning director bares tricks of the trade
“Keep it low” is how award-winning director Jeffrey Jeturian advises budding independent filmmakers on how to handle production budgets. “If your film is interesting enough, you’ll be able to recoup your investments just by joining festivals abroad.”
Jeturian says programmers and distributors look for themes that best reflect the country, which was what they saw in his film “Kubrador.”
The film, which participated in festivals worldwide soon after its release in 2006, went on to win numerous awards and bag distribution deals both for theatrical and home video releases.
“I noticed that filmmakers in the provinces now have interesting stories to tell,” the director observes. “Through their films, we get to know their beliefs and way of life.”
He cites films like Zamboanga City’s “Halaw” and Cebu’s “Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria” as examples.
Indie to mainstream
Another positive development in the indie film scene, Jeturian says, is how an indie star like Coco Martin was able to cross over to the mainstream.
“I hope he will maintain his ties with the indies so that this industry can benefit from his being a celebrity,” Jeturian adds. “I also hope we can help more indie actors cross over.”
Jeturian, who was with the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival screening committee in 2004 and 2005, says joining the film fest is his way of supporting the indie movement. His drama “Bisperas” is part of the ongoing festival’s Directors’ Showcase.
“I’m not looking beyond the competition. I’m not even after winning,” he points out. “It’s enough for me to be part of the event. If you come to think of it, the P500,000 [seed grant from the Cinemalaya Foundation] is something directors like me can raise on our own. This event is really to help young filmmakers make their dream movies.”
Jeturian says “Bisperas” is based on a real-life incident that happened to writer Paul Sta. Ana. It’s a story of the Aguinaldos, a middle-class Filipino family, who come home after hearing Mass on Christmas Eve and find their house ransacked. The incident sets off a series of confrontations among the family members.
“The next day, they hear Mass again and receive Holy Communion as if nothing happened,” he relates. “It’s actually a dig at how Catholic our country is.”
“Bisperas” stars Tirso Cruz III, Raquel Villavicencio, Julia Clarete, Jennifer Sevilla and Edgar Allan Guzman, among others.
Jeturian says it took him 12 days to shoot the film since there are a lot of night scenes and he had to shoot in chronological order.
“I also had to employ continuous shots, which took time,” he explains. “To achieve this, I had to rehearse with the actors several times. On top of that, the house we rented for the film was constructed in such a way that it’s impossible to shoot night scenes during the day.”
Choosing the perfect set for the film had also been tough. Jeturian says they had to look for a homeowner who would allow them to mess up his house.
“For continuity purposes, we cannot recreate the mess every time we resume filming,” the director says. “It was good that a friend was able to hook us up with a willing homeowner, who is already based abroad.”
Jeturian adds that he’s very pleased with the cast, particularly young actor Guzman, who auditioned for the role that required a kissing scene with another man.
Guzman says he has full trust in Jeturian, whom he describes as a “serious” director.
Cruz, who plays the Aguinaldo family patriarch, agrees: “Jeffrey is very detailed and very meticulous, from his framing to the costumes. He tells you how he wants your lines delivered, what your facial expression should be and even your body language. He really knows his job.”
The Cinemalaya Film Festival, ongoing at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City and at the Greenbelt Cinemas in Makati City, runs until July 24.