The Vision for Filipino movies
The brains behind many Netflix favorites A Faraway Land and Ang Pangarap Kong Holdap recalls how he got started with filmmaking and shares his vision for Filipino movies.
For the last two years, Filipinos have laughed, cried, and seen strikingly beautiful places around the world through Netflix hits Through Night and Day, Ang Pangarap Kong Holdap, Finding Agnes, Ikaw, Will You Marry?, and A Faraway Land. Behind these trending films is independent production house MAVX Productions and its head honcho, Erwin “Lucky” Blanco.
Armed with his love for movies and his desire to produce movies that he wants to see, Lucky tells Village Pipol Magazine how he does his part to elevate the Filipino film industry, one movie at a time.
Village Pipol Magazine (VPM): What got you into filmmaking?
I was a network engineer by profession. Graduate ako ng IT sa Letran nung 2002. Nag-work ako ng seven years sa call center until I became a network engineer. Then nung 2009 feeling ko hindi ako para dito.
Bata pa lang ako, mahilig na akong manood sa cinema. So, I decided to try my luck in the film industry. Meron akong mga kaibigan who worked in the industry, so nakiusap ako na, “Uy ipasok mo naman ako kahit PA (production assistant)”. Ang sweldo ko nun as a network engineer PHP70,000 a month, tapos pinagpalit ko sa PHP1,500 per week sa film industry. Sabi ko sa sarili ko, hindi pwedeng hindi mag-work itong career ko sa industriya, ang laki ng binitawan ko! Pero, hindi ko naramdaman yung difference, kasi I was having so much fun. Dun ko naramdaman na para dito talaga ako.
Nung mga first days ko sa film industry, I worked as a continuity director. Tuwing lunch and dinner, hindi ako kumakain. I asked different people about their jobs. Tinatanong ko sila, “Anong ginagawa mo dito?” Sasabihin nila, “Production designer ako.” Then itatanong ko, “Ano po ba ang ginagawa ng production designer?” Kinabisado ko yung mga duties and responsibilities nila in one film. Pag-uwi ko sa bahay, magre-research pa ako. I made an effort to understand everything. Binuhos ko 90% of my time pag-aralan kasi I felt inferior. Hindi ako graduate ng [film school]. Wala akong alam, at ayokong ma-late in the game.
At malaking factor talaga na ang saya ko dun sa ginagawa ko. Feeling ko naging passion ko siya talaga. Hindi naman mandatory yung malaman ko ano yung ginagawa ng mga tao, but it was something I wanted to know. I personally wanted to understand everything.
What does a producer do?
There are three types of producers. There’s what you call the line producer. The line producer is the one who handles the budget. If the management dictates that we spend PHP10 million only, the line producer needs to make sure that they will not go over budget. Kailangan 10 million lang yung magastos. The line producer also handles the day-to-day activities.
The producer, siya yung mag-iisip or maghahanap ng kwento, mag-ha-hire ng writers at directors, mag-iisip sino yung artista. Producers make sure na from the concept to development, maging totoong pelikula siya. And then, hahanap din siya ng executive producer, the one who finances everything. Basically, the executive producer is the big boss.
Pinagdaanan ko lahat yun. I’m the executive producer, but also the producer who creates and finds concepts and puts together the people to work on the project. Ako na rin yung nag-ba-budget.
What do you think are the most important attributes that a producer should have?
Malaking factor yung sensibility mo as a person—yung kinalakihan mo, yung experiences mo, yung interests mo, and how you view the world. Pero dapat lang laging open-minded ka. Be open to all ideas, even ones that you normally won’t entertain. Don’t limit yourself.
Where and how do you get your story ideas?
A concept can start sa inuman. It can start at a party. Kami, ang gusto namin yung mga stories na hindi masyadong na-ta-tackle. We also do romcoms, but we make an effort na dalhin yung mga Pilipino all over the world, at ma-kwento yung mga kwento ng mga normal na tao dun. Mini-mirror namin yung mga experiences nila.
In your opinion, what do you think makes MAVX movies popular among Netflix subscribers?
With streaming, mas story-based ang mga tao. It doesn’t matter kung sikat or hindi sikat yung panonoorin nila [na artista]. Ang mahalaga maganda ang kwento. Kasi kapag sa sinehan, mas artista-based. Siyempre the more followers an artista has, the better for promotions. Pero sa streaming, you’ll really focus on the execution, storytelling, and kung sino yung bagay na artista sa role.
I think that’s the mainstream naman na ngayon, especially now na marami nang Pilipino na nanonood sa Netflix [and] other streaming platforms. Exposed na sila sa iba’t ibang kwento. Like Black Mirror, ibang-iba yun creatively. Masyadong mataas yung concept nun, but it was still appreciated by Filipinos. I think it’s also because we’re a very good audience. Sabi nga di ba, we’re the best audience in the world, kasi we consume Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Hollywood, Indian entertainment etc. If it’s good, we will watch it.
In your career as a producer and filmmaker, is there something you thought was impossible, but turned out to be possible?
Yung sumugal sa mga hindi sikat na artista, that was a very impossible thing before eh. When we produced Kita Kita, sina Empoy at Alessandra hindi naman mainstream actors, at hindi mo ine-expect na tambalan. Pero maraming nanood. When I choose an artista, pinanonood ko talaga yung mga pelikula niya. Fan ako ng magaling, more than ng sikat, at nakikita ko yung mga magagaling na artista, pero hindi lang nabibigyan ng break.
But again, regardless of your actors, kahit sino’ng lead actor pa ang ilagay mo diyan, ang mahalaga is that first, you make a good story.
What is the goal of MAVX Productions?
Gusto namin sa MAVX na mabigyan yung Filipino audience ng ibang experience, and ibang options. Kung may mainstream audience, meron din naming hindi and meron din combination of both. Okay na yun, at least we grow our audience with every film. And we’re a young company, three years pa lang kami.
We still have a long way to go. Marami pa kaming learnings, at marami pa kaming kwento.
MAVX Productions is a Filipino independent production house that breaks traditional film norms. Their latest movie, Dollhouse, is out now on Netflix Philippines.
This feature article is brought to you by HS Grafik Print, PaperKat Books, and Story Factory.