“Bagati” production stills

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Last weekend, I joined the thesis short film production of one of my colleagues in the UP Film Institute and STAND-UP. It had been a long time since I took part in a film production ever since I entered law school. Interestingly enough, I got invited into one right after I decided to take a break from law. The shoot was held in a peasant community in a barangay in Rodriguez (Montalban), Rizal, near Wawa Dam. It was, surprisingly, just a little more than thirty minutes from Diliman, if one takes the path through the winding Payatas Road.

"Bagati" Production Stills "Bagati" Production Stills

Despite the apparent beauty of the scenery surrounding the community, residents are actually suffering from neglect of support from the government. The hanging bridge that serves to connect the community with the main highway was only built three years ago, and even so, is already on the brink of total deterioration. Many of the residents are also confronted with the threat of demolition in the name of road widening and property development by big landowners. Until recently, the communities in the area were being patrolled relentlessly by soldiers and intelligence personnel.

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The short film features peasant children in communities suffering from military offensives and similar forms of violence.

An unceremonial end

April 7, 2008. I passed by UP last Monday to do some errands. I didn’t have any more undergraduate classes left, only a handful of final academic requirements. I met with some friends at the Batibot in Mass Comm, and hung out for an hour or so. I also argued with my thesis partner one last time, regarding our written thesis. Last Friday, I passed my last academic requirement ever for my undergraduate years in college. It was a final paper for PI 100. After sending it by email and receiving my grade, it felt quite anticlimactic. Was that it? Am I done with BA Film & Audio-Visual Communication? I don’t have anything else to do to complete my course? I had expected it to feel liberating but it wasn’t quite like that.

I also had my entrance interview at the UP College of Law last Friday. I had expected that my panelists would question me with regards to some of my affiliations. They did, but not as harshly as I had expected, thankfully. I’m looking forward to entering law school, but I’m really apprehensive. I don’t know what to do yet, if I don’t pass the interview.

Film thesis almost done!

March 26, 2008. My thesis partner and I defended our thesis short film yesterday morning. It’s finally over. Congrats, James! I’m glad that all the stress and sleepless nights editing and arguing over how our thesis shall develop or look like are over.

Yesterday was quite stressful. I woke up with a headache, and after taking three doses of ibuprofen the entire day, it barely toned down. And I had the luck of having to take a two hour exam for Sociology 101 after defending my thesis. I felt like going on a painful trance. I barely studied, and with a headache, it was quite excruciating how I had to extract whatever stocked knowledge I had regarding the subject matter. After filling up my blue book with words, I couldn’t recognize what I had written.

Anyway, I had just been to the second day of theses defense and screening at Cine Adarna, and I came out feeling proud of everyone in my batch at the UP Film Institute, with their brilliant pieces of work. Ah, I hope our talents will not be in vain when we pursue our careers in the “real-world” media / entertainment industry. Everyone’s works made me feel quite insecure, honestly. Joaqs just had to punctuate the day with his Bulong. It made me feel like my film is crap. High production value, multi-layered material, it’s that excellent.

But before I can say that thesis is finally over, we still have to work on and finish the written hard-bound part and submit them next week. Till then, let us hold on to what’s left of our film student days.

Gusto ko na matapos

March 12, 2008. The last pile of academic work has come upon me. I’m back to drinking energy drinks and 24-hour fastfood delivery to keep me up all night. I’m this close to graduating! To be honest about it, I’m not very interested in my present subjects anymore. Even my thesis! I just want to get things over with. It also feels quite weird that I don’t have to enlist in any subjects anymore. I’ll miss being an undergraduate. I’m just trying to kill time right now by blogging while waiting for a sequence I’m trying to weave and edit to render in Final Cut. In other news, we enrolled Tisay in a neighborhood day care center a few days ago. It was quite a joy bringing her to the center morning, all eager and ready with her tiny lunch box. Ok, back to work. [Photo above taken this morning with Photo Booth while waiting for a professor to arrive].

Tope and Joma’s shoot

Tope & Joma's Thesis Shoot Tope & Joma's Thesis Shoot Tope & Joma's Thesis Shoot Tope & Joma's Thesis Shoot Tope & Joma's Thesis Shoot Tope & Joma's Thesis Shoot

Two weeks ago, I passed by my film blockmates Tope and Joma’s thesis short film shoot in one of the quasi-abandoned building complexes in UP. Their thesis also sort of brushes up on political disappearances. Actually, another blockmates’ film also tackles the same theme. Having similar themes with the other theses don’t really bother me. For me it’s simply a manifestation of the social milieu our films are based and made on. I only stayed for a couple of hours that Saturday morning, as I had other things to attend to, so I was only able to catch the first few takes. Medyo bigatin ang thesis nila. They had Bembol Roco and Jason Abalos as their main actors.

Thesis Shoot Day 1

"Big Bro" First Shooting Day "Big Bro" First Shooting Day

January 28, 2008. First shooting day last Saturday, January 26, went okay. It’s been two days but there’s still a nagging feeling that suggests I am not entirely satisfied with the shots. I think we’re going to call for an additional shooting day to shoot more footage or re-shoot altogether. All our locations were outdoors and semi-guerilla. Our first location was at the Manila North Cemetery. Aside from the usual crowds who watch and make distracting noise, we didn’t encounter much problems.

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The day went by quite quickly. Since all our shots that day were outdoors, we didn’t have any artificial lighting, thus it was easy to shoot and move around. That proved to be quite an advantage when you’re not totally in control of your environment. For example, since we had a protest rally sequence, we coincided our first shooting day with an actual Mendiola rally (instead of staging/faking our own), which on that day was a commemoration of First Quarter Storm. We were, however, not able to schedule our shoot correctly so we had to rush and shoot everything we can before the protest action ended. We encountered some problems with the Manila Police, too, but everything was settled eventually. There’s an inconsistency with our actors’ police uniforms, I don’t know if people will notice.

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Thesis shoot at Quezon Boulevard

After having lunch with everyone in the production, we went shooting some footage along C.M. Recto. There were still a lot of cops around–good thing we didn’t get into trouble for having a bulky camera around. After waiting for some friends to join us and help, we proceeded to Quezon Boulevard and shot some police chase scene. I was trying to edit the sequence yesterday, and it really made me feel that we didn’t shoot enough. I’ve talked to my thesis partner and we decided to re-shoot this sequence. The stills look okay, though.

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Am I all set for Saturday?

Manila North Cemetery Manila North Cemetery

January 21, 2008. Last Saturday morning, together with my thesis partner and some of our production people, I went to do an ocular on some of our locations for our first shooting day this coming Saturday. The officers in charge of the Manila North Cemetery initially didn’t allow us to enter, which was odd since ordinary people, and informal settlers just freely moved in, out and around the cemetery. They even asked us for money to allow us to just look at the place. After visiting the cemetery, we had fastfood lunch, then we proceeded to a Quezon City police station along EDSA, then to UP Diliman. I’m quite apprehensive about the whole thing. I hope all things work out this Saturday.

Thesis season

January 19, 2008. This time of the year, graduating film students are busy working on their theses, including me, of course. At the beginning of the semester, even during thesis proposal phase, I wasn’t too hyped up about it. I think I was even more excited when I helped out on a handful of thesis short films when I was a freshman, than when I’m actually doing it myself now that I’m a senior. I’ve shared something about this already, in this entry, where I said I sort of lost a passion in creating moving pictures.

UP Film friends

Needless to say, right now, almost all of my film friends are busy with their own theses. You know, there’s something uniquely engaging in film students’ theses. I’m not sure how theses are exactly done in other courses, but I assume it’s largely an individual or a pair effort. In film, however, unless you’re doing an animation, an experimental of some sort or a written thesis, you will barely survive if you work alone or by pair, even. A graduating film student actually works on a number of theses, in varying degrees, for his fellow film friends. Well, unless you’re an absolute altruist, there’s this slight expectation that your film friends and other friends will help you out in your own thesis, as your production manager, your director of photography, your casting director, assistant director, production assistant, even as talent. Most of the time, all the work is pro bono, but it’s not the material return that’s important. Shooting film students’ thesis can be quite rewarding.

That’s just the shooting part. There’s still, also, the pre-production, post-production and the research and written thesis phase. Anyway, good luck, fellow film friends!

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These pictures were taken last Wednesday. I was also trying out a relatively cheap / bottom-of-the-line zoom lens I acquired a few days beforehand. The pictures below are from an UP MCO members-applicants’ acquaintance gathering in Mass Comm last January 14. I wasn’t expecting myself to be able to attend because I was on an ocular trip in Manila, but turns out it was still going on when I got back to UP so I decided to drop by.

UP MCO App's Acquaintance Party 07-B UP MCO App's Acquaintance Party 07-B UP MCO App's Acquaintance Party 07-B UP MCO App's Acquaintance Party 07-B UP MCO App's Acquaintance Party 07-B UP MCO App's Acquaintance Party 07-B

Blumentritt to UP

eatery at Blumentritt corner Rizal Avenue, Manila

January 14, 2008. Before hopping on the LRT back to Recto, I decided to give in to my hunger pangs and ate at one of the eateries under the Blumentritt Station. I hadn’t eaten lunch yet, and it was past 4 in the afternoon. This young boy was looking at me while I was eating my tapsilog. I was too famished to be too generous. I gave him half of a sandwich instead.

LRT along Rizal Avenue, Manila LRT along Rizal Avenue, Manila

After eating, it was just a short half-an-hour trip back to UP Diliman for me. From LRT Blumentritt Station, I got off at Doroteo Jose, then transfered to LRT Line 2 at Recto all the way to Katipunan where I rode a jeepney to Mass Comm. I was exhausted but it felt like a nice spontaneous walking trip for me. I should do it again and discover something new.

On to the Manila North Cemetery

Avenida Rizal corner Recto, Manila Rizal Avenue - Recto Avenue intersection, Manila

January 14, 2008Continued from here. Soon enough I found myself along Avenida Rizal where I was supposed to get on a train to Manila North Cemetery. Since I had no idea where exactly to alight nearest to my destintion, I swallowed my shallow pride and asked for directions. The ticket teller at the LRT told me to get off at R. Papa Station to get to the cemetery. Because as I’ve said earlier, I’d rather get lost than ask for directions another time, I didn’t bother to confirm if I was going the right way for fear of looking like a camera-toting tourist.

When I got to R. Papa I had already felt uneasy as I knew it was too near the end of the LRT line in Monumento, Caloocan. True enough, I was surprised that the cemetery looked like a city of Chinese shrines and all the mausoleums looked like small Chinese temples. Apparently the ticket teller thought I wanted to get to the Chinese Cemetery instead of the Manila North Cemetery. By then, I conceded and finally asked for more directions. I eventually got on a jeepney to Blumentritt. Since it was getting too hot and I was getting exhausted, I didn’t mind that I kept asking if I was going the right way. After walking the entire length of Blumentritt, I eventually found myself at the Manila North Cemetery. I didn’t bother taking photos anymore, however. I was thinking of strolling around the cemetery to scout for a nice spot to shoot. Lest I forget, the North Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries in the country. It even has a system of tricycles to transport people around. After speaking with the officers in charge, I walked all the way back the length of Blumentritt to Rizal Avenue.