ILOCOS NORTE, Philippines – The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) National Committee on Cinema vice head Butch Ibañez presented to the House committee on creative industry and performing arts on Tuesday, January 17 a number of steps to further elevate the current landscape of the Philippine film sector.
At the House hearing, Ibañez said these steps would help Filipino filmmakers produce quality work and increase the chances of local actors in achieving prestigious film awards. According to Ibañez, the government must respond to a lack of financial incentives, piracy issues, and high movie ticket prices.
This hearing commenced in the midst of Filipino actress Dolly de Leon receiving a series of international awards. On Tuesday, January 24, De Leon won as best actress in a supporting role at Sweden’s Guldbagge Awards for her performance in the Ruben Östlund black comedy Triangle of Sadness.
In December 2022, De Leon also won the Best Supporting Performance prize at the LA Film Critics Association Awards, and made history as the first Filipino actor to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award. She also earned a nomination from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
De Leon’s recent collection of awards makes her one of the few local artists to be noticed in the international film scene.
What should be considered in implementing the steps Ibañez mentioned? Some resource persons at the House hearing gave their thoughts. Rappler also spoke to award-winning director and University of the Philippines Visayas professor Kevin Piamonte about the realities that Filipino filmmakers face.
On grants, taxes, and incentives
In his presentation, Ibañez mentioned the need for travel grants for filmmakers participating in film workshops and festivals.
Entering a national film festival is not as affordable as it may seem. According to a 2017 report from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, filmmakers who plan to enter the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) must pay P30,000 for script submissions and P50,000 for completed movies.
If one plans to dabble in the international scene, quality work alone won’t always suffice. Major events such as the Tribeca Film Festival will cost up to $500 or around P27,315. Plane tickets to fly to the film fest in New York would cost more than P45,000 at the lowest, based on a quick Skyscanner search for cheap flights as of Wednesday, January 25.
In an interview with Rappler, Piamonte, who has received an award from the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences Awards (FAMAS), said that getting noticed by international award-giving bodies can be very expensive, as it requires screenings outside the country and support from the government.
“If you are talking about big game international award giving bodies, the government will have to step in and help promote local films. And promotions to get noticed in the international scene can be very expensive. You have to screen your films in cinemas abroad,” said Piamonte.
“Naturally, you need bucketloads of funding to be able to do this. You also need to hire an international public relations firm to position your work to get noticed. It’s really a campaign, and as we know, campaigns need a lot of funding,” the Iloilo-based director added.
In Ibañez’s presentation, he pushed for tax breaks and incentives to ease the burden of filmmakers when it comes to the extravagant funds required to produce a film.
Former Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) chairman and CEO Liza Diño said in a July 2021 Variety story that the median production cost of an average production in the country is around P8 million.
Taxes in the film industry is a great dilemma as they take up a huge chunk of their filmmaking expenses, Philippine Motion Pictures Producers Association (PMPPA) member Joji Alonso said in the House hearing.
Pangasinan 4th District Representative Christopher de Venecia, the committee chairman, brought up the issue of piracy in the hearing.
According to the YouGov 2022 Piracy Landscape Survey, 61% of Filipinos admitted to consuming pirated content, making the Philippines one of Asia Pacific’s leading consumers.
De Venecia pointed to the situation in Indonesia, where there was a 55% drop in piracy consumption between 2019 and 2020, also according to YouGov. This was made possible by the blocking of 2,300 piracy streaming sites and illicit streaming devices by Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in collaboration with the Video Coalition of Indonesia.
Alonso said that although the suggestion may have worked in Indonesia, she was unsure as to how it could work in the Philippines, because pirates spread illegal streaming links on different social media platforms. Some 44% of the Filipino respondents in the 2022 YouGov survey said they consumed pirated content through social media platforms like Facebook and TikTok.
“That would be a most welcome move if we could block those piracy sites but unfortunately, the technology right now of the pirates is not just limited to those piracy sites but the sell or share via Telegram, Viber, and Messenger,” said Alonso.
“So I really don’t know what can be done in terms of accessing all these social media sites or messaging sites – if there’s any way to block also the exchanges of links, because that’s how it’s done,” Alonso added, adding that an MMFF movie can be streamed for as low as P10.
Luxury of big-screen viewing
In his presentation, Ibañez called for more affordable ticket prices to cater to a wider audience demographic.
Along with the rise of the country’s inflation rate comes an increase in cinema ticket prices. Popular malls’ movie ticket prices are at least P300, according to information from entertainment and lifestyle website ClickTheCity. In comparison, Filipino blog Para Sa Pinoy posted that ticket prices of cinemas in Robinsons Malls in 2018 started at P240.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, cinematheques like micro-theater Cinema ’76 in San Juan were not allowed to operate due to quarantine and health restrictions. They were later forced to shut down.
The NCCA vice head also pushed for the establishment of more small cinemas located in different parts of the Philippines to give all Filipinos a chance to screen local films and alternative content.
“We would also like to give access to people, so if there’s a way to have more microcinemas accessible to the public that can support alternative content, because cinemas already have that market,” said Ibañez. – Ryand Ugalde/Rappler.com
Ryand Ugalde is a Rappler volunteer studying at Mariano Marcos State University. This article was done under the supervision of Rappler staff, and his copy was vetted by editors.
$1 = P54.63