Change the biz: Internet star brings advocacy to big screen
Does “Juana Change” the movie really want to change the movie industry?
Since 2008, advertising director- actress Mae Paner has been in the forefront of the “Juana Change” movement, which champions “freedom, justice and good governance” in a series of YouTube videos.
Paner has since become closely identified with the “Juana Change” persona—assuming the character’s caustic look not only online, but also in various appearances on television and in political rallies.
“It has been four years since the first ‘Juana Change’ video went viral. It’s the right time to move to another medium—especially because it’s an election year,” Paner told the Inquirer.
Paner trusts that director Jade Castro and producer Raymond Lee—the same tandem behind the indie hit “Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington”—are the perfect people to turn the Internet advocacy into a full-length feature film “Juana C. the Movie.” (“Juana Change” video writer Rody Vera also joined the team.)
“Direk Jade is easy to work with. I can feel how much he believes in the ‘Juana Change’ advocacy,” Paner said. “Raymond took me out of my comfort zone with his crazy ideas … which really made me nervous.”
She confessed that the biggest challenge for her was fine-tuning her comic timing. “As an actor, I have to make sure that what I am doing is funny when it needs to be funny, while presenting the film’s message at the same time.”
The most daunting scene, she recounted, was the one where she had to fly in a harness “while delivering kilometric lines of dialogue.” she also found the kissing and loves scenes “demanding.”
At first, she eyed Dingdong Dantes, Derek Ramsay, Piolo Pascual, John Lloyd Cruz and Sid Lucero as leading men. “I was insecure and wanted to be surrounded by stars, but my colleagues woke me up: We could not afford any of them.”
Paner acknowledged that making the movie is an act of civil disobedience in more ways than one. “But we want to offer to the audience something different from the usual fare churned out by the main players, Star Cinema and GMA Films,” she pointed out. Yes, she wants to change “and influence” the movie industry.
“I hope there will soon be more socially relevant movies to uplift the people’s consciousness, movies that aim for social transformation, not just profit.”
Not that Paner is averse to commercial success. “We want to catch a wider audience, the same people who watch those Metro Manila Film Fest entries. We hope ‘Juana Change’ will become a box-office success so we can have follow-up projects. We want to turn this into a sustainable venture.”
Her big dream is for indie filmmakers to receive “bigger support from the mainstream audience, the government and private funding institutions.”
She plans to invite President Aquino, the Cabinet secretaries, “plus all the senators, congressmen, mayors, bishops, Sangguniang Kabataan officers” to the premiere night.
She has a simple wish for the moviegoers: “I hope watching the movie will make the apathetic care a little more. I hope they feel that they got their money’s worth, too.”