Saturday, September 21, 2013

Director Pepe Diokno says Korean grants helped his film projects

By JONATHAN HICAP, Manila Bulletin

Filipino director, producer and writer Pepe Diokno says Korean film grants have helped his projects get off the ground and urged other filmmakers to try his experience.
Filipino director Pepe Diokno (Photo courtesy of Diokno’s Facebook page)

Diokno cited his film “Above the Clouds,” which became a beneficiary of the Asian Cinema Fund (ACF) of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) in South Korea.
He said in 2011, he received a $10,000 script development fund from the ACF for the film. He applied for the ACF “with just a synopsis, a treatment, and a copy of my previous work.”
“I’ve never told anyone this, but I had such a hard time cracking the first drafts of ‘Above the Clouds’ that I had already given up on it when I was told I got the US $10,000 ACF grant. In fact, it was the day after I decided to abandon the script that I got the email from ACF,” Diokno said at the 2013 Hallyu Forum held at the Manila Hotel recently.

Diokno was a panelist at the forum where he talked about his experience in the ACF as a grantee and the Asian Project Market as a producer.
The grant became an encouragement for him to continue writing the film’s script.
“But apart from this emotional boost, getting the ACF grant also did something that kickstarted my writing process — it put me on a deadline. See, the funds are released in tranches, with one tranch coming after a first draft, and another, after the submission of a shooting script. So, when it was announced I got the grant, there was no question — I had to finish this script,” he said.
With the fund, he pursued researching for the “Above the Clouds,” a film about a 15-year-old who loses both of his parents and is forced to live with his estranged grandfather, who takes him on a journey up an old, mystical mountain.
More importantly, the fund allowed him to focus writing the script.
“A big problem in the Philippines is that screenwriters are chronically underpaid. Our writers are struggling for peanuts — the ACF grant is perhaps two times the amount of what even the biggest local studios pay. Maybe more. So, I was lucky that I got the funds. It covered my living expenses as I shuttered myself off and wrote — this is the ideal situation; to take one’s time; to focus on one project at a time,” Diokno said.
After the script was finished, Diokno and producer Bianca Balbuena opted to go for international co-production to make the film.
“We also realized that, at the time, it wasn’t the type of material local studios were open to supporting, as it didn’t fit the conventions they’re used to (including) big-name stars, many supporting characters, etc.,” he said.
They used the ACF fund to attend workshops and international film projects including the Produire Au Sud workshop at the Festival of Three Continents, in Nantes, France, and the Berlin International Film Festival’s Talent Campus.
Aside from meeting prospective partners, their pitch won the ARTE International Relations Prize amounting to 6,000 euros (about P350,000).
As a producer for “The Great Desaparesido,” a film directed by Lav Diaz, he participated in the BIFF’s Asian Project Market where they met their co-producer, Bich Tran-Quan of Dissizenz Films.
Dissizenz Films provided funds for them to shoot the film’s 30-minute prologue, which will be screened at the BIFF and the San Sebastian International Film Festival.
He said “Above the Clouds” and “The Great Desaparesido” would not have been possible without the Asian Cinema Fund and the Asian Project Market.
“I thank the Korean Film Council for helping us contribute to the rich make-up of Philippine cinema, and widen the scope of what Filipino movies can be,” he said.
He added, “I must point out that the Koreans do this without any creative intervention, allowing our films to keep a Filipino spirit, and filmmakers like myself to stay true to our intentions — which is usually a struggle, even when dealing with local film grants and film studios.”
If Korean films, TV shows and K-pop music have a market in the Philippines, Diokno said, Filipino films, TV shows and music can be exported to Korea.
“We should look into exporting more of our ‘products’ to South Korea, and again, we can learn so much from them in how to do so,” he said.
Diokno said Filipino and Korean filmmakers can work together.
“To close, there are many ways in which Filipinos and Koreans can work together, and for Filipinos, it would be beneficial for our industries to cooperate. I hope our film councils can work together more and educate each other more in the areas of financing, production, and especially distribution. And for Filipino filmmakers, I invite them to work with the Koreans, as my experience has been completely positive,” he said.
Link to my original article on Manila Bulletin online

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