Reel/Real: How movies tackle romantic relationships
MANILA, Philippines – Movies mirror reality.
The film industry is a hodgepodge of stories that reflect actual human experiences, one way or another. This doesn’t strictly always mean they’re based on actual happenings, but also on the ideals, beliefs, struggles, questions, and even wishes and daydreams that people have.
Delivering sincere retellings of these experiences in the movies is a tough yet fulfilling task for storytellers like Jancy Nicolas, a screenwriter and associate creative supervisor at Star Cinema who specializes in romance movies. (READ: What the movies teach us about relationships and real life)
We spoke with Jancy to find out how romance films are shaped and why they are so much closer to reality than people think.
Reel people based on real people
The process of creating a movie from start to finish is long and challenging. But regardless of the plot or purpose, conducting creative research is a crucial step because it helps storytellers craft a screenplay with a genuine story and well-defined, unique characters with strong motivations.
“It is really very important to talk to people so that you get to flesh out the truth in your story,” Jancy stressed.
He explains further at length: “Working with renowned romance director Cathy Garcia-Molina for several projects in the past, she would often require the creative team to gather real-life people to talk to about their stories. We make the interviews very casual and light, hindi ‘yung parang FGD (focus group discussion) format. As in over dinner or inuman, para kumportable ‘yung mga tao.
“Direk Cathy wants to personally talk to these people [to know] their fears, their desires, [and] their belief systems. Their anecdotes sometimes inspire a scene or a dialogue.”
Stories reflect human experiences and desires
“Hindi naman ganyan sa totoong buhay!” someone who sees a grand gesture in a movie—characters singing across the airport, kissing in front of a cheering crowd—might exclaim.
Would you believe it when we say that such fantasies still fit within the narrative of real life?
“Every story that’s told with sincerity will always be grounded and, thus, will inevitably be close to real life—period. But… what we mean here when we say ‘real life’ is how accurate we are in depicting reality in our stories. And I can’t tackle reality without fantasy. They are inseparable,” Jancy explained.
Simply put, fantasy is part of the human experience. It’s our inner desires manifested in the silver screen, or perhaps an answer to a question we’ve always had.
“Real life will always be depicted in every movie regardless of tone, set-up or intention if the characters’ motivations are grounded on truth. That’s pretty much it,” he said.
‘Unconventional’ relationships on the silver screen
The audiences’ tastes and sensibilities are ever-evolving, and our romance movies are a clear testament to this.
“Over the years, we’ve seen a wide array of love and romantic relationship stories portrayed in the media. Mula sa fairy tale [and] more character-driven relationship stories to high concepts, and recently, the mumblecore trend in Pinoy romantic movies, to the tragic endings and open-ended ones, I think the media has well depicted a variety of love stories especially now na hindi na lang mainstream ang gumagawa ng love stories. The indie scene is also now producing different romance movies that introduce a different tone and experience, too,” Jancy said.
Further proof of this is the emergence of films produced by both mainstream and independent studios that bravely portray and celebrate what people might deem “unconventional” relationships like May-December, same-sex, and even belonging to different races or classes in society.
“For me, what triggered this is simply the evolving sensibilities of our audience. The changes of the times. People being more open to new themes and approaches. People embracing new ways of looking at our world. And isn’t that wonderful? That makes my heart smile, actually,” Jancy opined.
Creating these stories, then, is a show of respect to what the audience wants to see and experience.
“If they’re gradually going this way, then I’m more than willing to take this journey with them.. I don’t really label stories as traditional or unconventional. A story is a story. All stories are equal. It’s just a matter of who’s willing to hear and experience these stories. Let’s talk to them and take that journey with them,” he said.
Does he think such movies would help people understand these relationships better? Jancy said yes.
“The movie and television platforms have that capacity and power to make us extend our imaginations and dreams and visions. If they see more and more portrayals of different faces and situations of love, then we could help people embrace and understand these so-called unconventional relationships in real life. That way, we encourage them to be brave enough to make their fantasies a reality,” he explained.
In parting, Jancy expressed his wish of writing and producing a story he has yet to create in pursuit of showing what love truly is.
“I still dream of being able to write and produce a romantic comedy of two Pinoy gay men in the future as part of the LGBTQ sector myself. There are a lot of love stories out there waiting to be told – traditional or unconventional – they all deserve to be seen and heard. They all matter. As I’ve said, the possibilities are always infinite...
“So let’s work on giving the world a better and more expanded imagination of what love truly is. I’d love to live in that world and turn that fantasy into ‘real life.’” – Rappler.com
Closeup’s #FreeToLove advocates for closeness and the freedom to love and help young adults “turn mutual attraction into action, free from self-doubt and judgment of others.” To find out how you can become part of the movement, visit freetolove.closeup.ph
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