The indie filmmaker’s savior: call center generation
MANILA, PHILIPPINES - If there’s one thing Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) returns have proven for the past 7 years, it’s that the male populace no longer dictates how the household money is spent.
In the ’80s and the ’90s, it was the father or the older brother who usually came home tired from a day’s work and looked for a movie to titillate his senses ― thus the emergence of “ST” ("sex trip") and action flicks.
Today’s money earners are no longer of that demographic.
Boom, there they are
Back then, a father would bring his young kid to watch a Fernando Poe Jr or a Lito Lapid movie and then, after treating the family, might watch a sexy flick for his personal enjoyment.
However, a recent study showed that those earning P15,000 to P20,000 a month these days are not the macho workforce but women and gay men who comprise 70% of the booming call center industry.
These groups are now the ones financially able to dictate what movie to watch or which artist to spend their hard-earned money on.
Thus, the Pinoy movies that have been making a killing at the tills are those that speak the language of the ladies and the pink community.
Such movies tend to have a feminine or effeminate icon in them, ergo the Vice Gandas, Eugene Domingos, Ai-Ai delas Alases, and Judy Ann Santoses, as well as the many motion pictures about “the other woman” becoming box-office hits.
To wit, the MMFF moneymakers in recent years include "Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo," "Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo," the "Tanging Ina" trilogy, and most recently, "Sisterakas" ― movies that catered to the large women and 3rd-sex markets.
Watch the 'Sisterakas' trailer here:
This is likewise why, in the past couple of years, there have been many independently produced films catering to the gay audience ― often low-budget fare that show little acting skill and more acting skin.
So it’s no surprise that the indie film section in video shops teem with films about gay relationships, gay love, even softcore gay porn.
What women (and the like) want
Say you’re a hardworking woman or gay man spending 8 hours every night answering phone calls and irate messages from overseas clients.
Come payday, juiced by excess cash, you’d want something to titillate your senses ― something not starring Bong Revilla or Vic Sotto.
So maybe you’d go to a non-SM mall to catch the newest, little-known gay film. You bring with you two to 3 friends from work.
You’re all giggling and shrieking at what you’re seeing. After watching, you go online and rave about what you saw.
Because gays are more united than men, what you write would influence people who might want to watch the movie, too.
They will then bring their own friends to the same movie, then will blog or post on social networks about it and then influence yet another set of people ― making that little movie into something of a big hit.
Feminine film festival
Indeed, with the recent MMFF, it was the female or gay family member who decided what to watch.
Because they have the capacity to dictate which film to see, they decided to treat each family member to a movie that catered to their sensibilities ― making "Sisterakas" the Philippines’ highest-grossing movie yet.
This also explains why "Praybeyt Benjamin" and "Petrang Kabayo," topbilled by Vice Ganda, held the same “highest-grossing” record.
Thus, the demise of MMFF franchises "Enteng Kabisote" and "Ang Panday" is imminent ― for not even the special effects in the world can measure up to a united gay front!
What about "One More Try," MMFF 2012’s second-biggest moneymaker?
"One More Try" follows the trending topic of last year’s other cinema smashes: mistresses.
Watch the 'One More Try' trailer here:
Why the sudden interest in other-woman movies?
See, many gals in call centers or other high-paying jobs are either single but in an “It’s complicated” relationship or single moms raising kids ― types who might get trapped into becoming “other women,” abetted by social-media room for connections with long-lost flames or alternatives to a difficult spouse.
People in extramarital affairs, extra relationships, complicated situations, et al see themselves in the likes of "One More Try" ― the made-up drama speaking to their real-life condition or offering platonic pleasure.
Watch the 'Thy Womb' trailer here:
Even if it’s Nora Aunor who starred in "Thy Womb," the CCG youngsters don’t know her, much less her contribution to local cinema. Ask them to name 5 La Aunor films and chances are, they will only correctly give you "Himala" since it’s being advertised on TV.
But ask those kids to name 5 Eugene Domingo movies and chances are they’ll give 5 correct answers.
"El Presidente" also faltered at the box-office because of 3 no-nos in Pinoy film nowadays:
- It has all macho actors in it and no gay icon
- It doesn’t have a mistress in distress
- It’s a historical, thinking-viewer movie
Watch the 'El Presidente' trailer here:
What is Pinoy indie cinema, anyway?
Today, everybody wants to be a filmmaker, and anyone can be one. Just point a camera at somebody, upload it to YouTube and, voila, a filmmaker is born.
Part of the blame goes to our current indie filmmaking boom: Anyone can earn the title of "Direk" even if he makes one sloppy student film. Convince your groupmates to call you "Direk" on the set and another filmmaker is born.
But then, how much of your flick is rooted in the country’s film history?
Most young kids nowadays know Pinoy indie cinema only from "Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros" onwards, but not "Maximo Oliveros" backwards.
Watch the trailer of 'Ang Pagdadalaga' here:
They don’t know Rox Lee, the Agbayani and the Alcazaren Brothers, the brothers Red ― Raymond, Jon, and Danny ― Nick De Ocampo, or even Kidlat Tahimik.
They don’t know how to honor these elder filmmakers, and would rather get respect that they did not earn. Indeed, naging ‘in’ lang ang indie nang mag-out si Maxi. (Indie became ‘in’ only when Maxi came out.)
What is Pinoy cinema itself, anyway?
It’s sad that other countries have a film identity of their own, while we don't seem to have one.
When we say Chinese films, kung fu movies since the ’60s come to mind.
Indian movies? Hello, Bollywood.
Korean movies? There are the Korean horror movies or their kilig love stories, replete with leaves falling down the trees or snow falling on the cheeks of the romantic actors while the girl is given a piggyback ride on the boy’s back.
Thailand has also found its identity with its Bangkok horror and the Ong-Bak flicks.
As for the Philippines, whose cinema is older than all our Asian neighbors’, we still could not truly tell what a Filipino movie is.
A Vic Sotto movie that looks like a Harry Potter clone or Bong Revilla's "Panday" that looks like "Lord of the Rings" redux cannot define what a Pinoy movie is.
Sure, we know how to shoot and do close-ups, wide shots, handhelds, time lapses, camera tricks and all. But when it comes to the history of our own cinema, we know nothing.
Also, most film classes in schools teach you all the tricks to make you the next Wes Anderson or Quentin Tarantino, but none of them teach about the history of Philippine cinema.
Gone are the days of the old Mowelfund, where film history is taught to every student.
The way to an ‘independent’ triumph
That said, how can you, indie filmmaker, make a movie that can attain at least half the earnings of a "Sisterakas"?
Target the Call Center Generation.
Most call center agents are frustrated artists. Given the chance, they would rather be dancers, actors, photographers, painters, singers, musicians or filmmakers.
But they’re not filmmakers; you are. They have the power to make your film a blockbuster; you don’t.
So what indie filmmakers should probably do is to market their films to call center agents.
Talk to call centers to ask their employees to throw P200 from their monthly salaries to support a local indie film every month.
There’s a call center company in almost all cities in the Philippines and a mall with a moviehouse in every one of these cities.
If indie filmmakers worked hand in hand with call center agents/companies and produced a film that would cater to them or even offer something new, the indies-versus-mainstream battle would finally be won by the independents.
Screening your movie in schools will only earn you a few bucks, for the net earnings from a measly charge of P50 per student will have to be divided between you and the sponsoring school org.
Call center companies, on the other hand, would be a gold mine for the indies.
Given the many employees in a call center, your film can become a blockbuster. And imagine their influence once they write a good review online about your film or even just spread the word within their spheres.
They can also help in marketing your film abroad by suggesting and recommending them to their clients whom they talk to on the phone!
If your film is that good, an extra push by this generation might even help you get an Oscar nod.
If the Philippines has given the world 3 would-have-been Miss Universes in the past 3 years, then the dream of finally making it to the Oscars in the next 5 years may not be impossible.
In return, filmmakers should sit down and discuss their films with call center agents once in a while, and encourage them to build indie film organizations of their own in their workplace and perhaps make their own films as well.
Who knows? By doing so, we might also finally find the true identity of our films.
This generation of indie filmmakers and the call center generation should work hand in hand in finally solving the search for the great Filipino audience and this era’s Great Filipino Film. - Rappler.com
Sigfreid Barros-Sanchez is the writer-director of independent films such as "Lasponggols," "Ang Mga Kidnaper ni Ronnie Lazaro," "In Bangka Ha Ut Sin Duwa Sapah," (The Boat Between Two Rivers) and "Huling Biyahe."