Snapshots of people I met (2006-07)

Each picture tells a story about the people I met. Mostly people who are filmmakers or involved in film-making.

Me with Walter Murch

I met Walter Murch at a Master Class for editors held last February, 2006. For those who don’t know, Walter Murch is one of the greatest Picture and Sound Editors in the history of film. He is the person who invented the position Sound Designer. That’s how legendary he is. He won 3 Academy awards, one in 1980 for Best Sound for “Apocalypse Now” and in 1997 for Best Editing and Best Sound for “The English Patient” – the only person in the history of the Academy awards to be awarded Best Editing and Best Sound at the same time.

He has been nominated 6 times on 1975 for Best Sound for “The Conversation” and for Best Editing on 1978 for “Julia”, on 1980 for “Apocalypse Now”, on 1991 for “The Godfather: Part 3” and “Ghost” and on 2004 for “Cold Mountain”.

For me, it was like meeting one of your idols in person. Awesome stuff!!!

Me with Romeo Candido

The picture was taken last November 5, 2006 after the screening of “Ang Pamana: The Inheritance” at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival. I first met Romeo Candido at a party last May, 2006 when I was attending the first Cinemanila filmmaking workshop organized by Tikoy Aguiluz. After the workshop, Tikoy invited the class to a party held at the Manila Hotel organized by the Japanese consulate during a conference for Asian film and TV content. I was the only one from the class who attended the party. There, I introduced myself to Romeo and we talked for a few minutes until Abraham Lim, an American filmmaker and the guest speaker of the film-making workshop joined us.

Romeo and Abe immediately hit it off. They talked for hours about their experiences as filmmakers and I was the odd man out. Even though I didn’t have much to contribute to the conversation, I was happy just to be able to listen to their stories. After the party, we hanged out in the lobby of the hotel. I don’t know, I think we spent 2 hours just sitting there talking. Well for the most part, it was the two of them who where doing most of the talking. Romeo mentioned he’s currently doing post-production on his second feature film “Ang Pamana” and how they found an investor to invest $650,000 to their film. He was also sharing his experiences working in Manila as a commercial director and how much money he was making in a week compared to what he makes in Toronto. Abe in turn was talking about his experiences working in LA and some inside scoop on the filmmakers working there.

Around 11PM, Abe invited me and Romeo to his room. They were talking about Romeo’s film and if Abe would be interested in working as a post-production supervisor since Abe works as a freelance editor in LA. Romeo was saying he was having a hard time with the post-production workflow and needed help. After that, I can’t remember anymore whether it was Abe or Romeo who pulled out some weed and started smoking in the room. With that, I knew it was time to go. Remembering those conversations last May, I’m happy that I was able to see the completed film 6 months later.

On a side note: I asked Romeo at the festival if he and Abe did work together on the movie. He said, they weren’t able to come into an agreement on his salary.

Me with Philippe Rousselot ASC, AFC

I met Philippe Rousselot at the New Filmmaker’s Day film forum during the Vancouver International Film Festival (Sept. 29, 2007).

My passion is cinematography and my goal is to become a cinematographer. For me I look up to cinematographers like the way a sports fan looks up to his sports idols. So you can imagine my excitement when I had the chance to meet him. Philippe was at the film forum as a guest speaker for a topic about the Blissful Union: DOP (Director of Photography) and PD (Production Designer). The production designer with him was Alex McDowell, who is an accomplished PD in his own right. Philippe and Alex worked together on the film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. But during the entire forum, the one that I wanted to meet was Philippe.

After the forum I waited outside to get his autograph and hopefully get a picture. When I talked to him, he was very down to earth and surprised to meet a fan of his work. Philippe was very humble when I praised him for his previous works. I asked him for some advice to an aspiring cinematographer and he asked, “Do I have a camera?” I answered, “Yes, I have an Arri S 16mm camera.” Then he replied, “Just film as much as you can.”

I was also able to ask him about how he started and why he moved from France to Los Angeles. He said after the first few films he DP’d in France, he was offered movies to DP in America. So he first moved to New York but as more offers came that asked him to work in the west coast, he decided to permanently stay in Los Angeles. I asked him if I could take a picture with him and that I admire his work and for me, meeting him was like meeting a great basketball player. He happily obliged and mentioned that he too likes to play basketball.

After a festival volunteer took our picture, I was still too star struck to notice that Philippe was looking the other way when she showed me the picture she took of us. I guess that’s what happens when you’re trying to be calm in front of someone you admire. You lose objectivity. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, because I was so happy afterwards to notice it.

A little bio about Philippe Rousselot, he won the 1993 Academy award for Best Cinematography for his work on “A River Runs Through It” and he was nominated in the same category 2 more times on 1991 for “Henry and June” and on 1988 for “Hope and Glory”. Among his best works are “Dangerous Liaisons”, “Interview with the Vampire”, “Ours, L”, and “The Emerald Forest” just to name a few. The letters after his name signify he is a member of The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) and The Association of French Cinematographers (AFC). The ASC is one of, if not, THE most prestigious cinematography society in the world. It is a distinction and an honor to a cinematographer’s career to be a member of the ASC.

Me and Brillante Mendoza

The picture was taken last September 30, 2007 after the screening of “Foster Child” at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF).

I first met Brillante Mendoza 2 years ago when I saw his movie “Masahista” (The Masseur) during the 2005 VIFF. A few days later I got to interview him for a local multi-cultural program. He was very gracious and accommodating during our interview and answered every question I asked. I gave him my demo reel and calling card in the hopes of getting to work with him in the Philippines. I asked for his email or his contact number in the Philippines so that I can contact him when I go back to the Philippines. But he replied, “He will just email me”. I know from that answer that I won’t hear back from him again.

What can I do? I’m a nobody and most of the time people don’t contact someone who is still starting out in their career. But that won’t stop me from handing out my calling card to every filmmaker I meet. You never know if you’re going to get a reply. I was impressed by Brillante’s first film “The Masseur”, the story is simple, the acting is good and the director has a command in his filmmaking – qualities that I rarely see from most Filipino movies.

Around 2006, I was in Manila trying to jump start my film-making career. I attended a screening of a short film titled “Kagat ng Dilim”, (Directed by Cesar Hernando) which was showing at Greenbelt. For those who haven’t been to Manila, Greenbelt is a mall that caters to the upper class to upper middle class located in Makati city. At that time, I was struggling financially living in Manila. For me going to that mall is like me having not eaten in a week passing by a buffet table at a 5 star hotel. Surprisingly, there was a buffet table set up outside the theatre which I happily helped myself to. Anyway, I saw Brillante Mendoza there with what appears to be his entourage. I didn’t introduce myself because I figured he won’t remember me and I doubt it if he would let someone he doesn’t know work on his next film. But thinking back, maybe I should have introduced myself. You never know if you don’t try, right?

Now back to 2007, Brillante has 2 movies showing at VIFF. One was “Tirador” (Slingshot) which pissed me off because the movie, about the lives of people living in a slum area in Manila, was exploitative in its presentation of poverty. I’m open to watching movies with difficult subject matter and to experimental film-making but the movie for me was like a chef using a chainsaw to cut a turkey in its subtlety. The movie started of well and the premise was interesting but the execution of the director fucked it up. The director who also camera operated in the movie kept on hammering images one after the other of how poor and degenerate the lives of the people living in the slums. For me, you don’t have to repeat the message again and again. I get it! Their poor and their lives are fucked up. But the director just focused on the situation and environment of the characters and forgot about the story and character development.

During the Q and A, I was the first person to ask Brillante a question and my question was, “WHY DID YOU MAKE THIS MOVIE?” I did not shout the question but that’s how I felt inside. Some of the audience turned to me and gave me a weird look. But I honestly wanted to know the directors intentions. He replied, “He wanted to show the living conditions and what the situation is like living in Manila, especially for someone who is poor.”

For me, I don’t mind showing poverty and squalor and the hardships living in the Philippines but at least tell me a good story that goes with your images. Tirador was just all style and no substance.

After the movie, I went up to him and introduced myself. That we met two years ago at the screening of his movie “The Masseur” at VIFF and that I interviewed him for a TV show. He appeared to have recognized me but honestly I highly doubt he would remember a brief interaction two years ago. Anyway, I told him my thoughts about the movie. He took it in stride, though I can sense a little defensiveness when he heard my criticisms. I also made a point to praise him for his daring filmmaking. I said, “I may not agree with the film that you made but I give you props for your vision. Right now, it is rare to see any Filipino filmmaker to be doing the kinds of movies that you make.” I also commented that I liked his previous movie “Kaleldo” (Summer Heat) which was awesome, especially the acting of Cherie Pie Picache.

In the evening, my mom and I watched his other movie “Foster Child”. The movie was slow, as in slower than an Ozu movie. Maybe it’s somewhat comparable to Gus Van Sant’s movie “Gerry” with the very long takes. The movie’s story is simple. It is 24 hours in the day of a surrogate foster mother taking care of her foster child and getting ready to hand over the child to the adopting parents. The entire movie follows them as they go about with their lives. I felt while watching the movie I was like watching a surveillance camera or a ghost observing these characters. This time the director was more subtle in his approach.

If “Tirador” was all kinetic and violent in its film-making, “Foster Child” was meditative and detached. I felt that the movie could use some editing but the emotional impact of the movie was very powerful. The ending was one of the most heartbreaking moments I have seen in cinema. Brillante again cast’s Cherie Pie Picache in his movie, this time playing the foster mother. Her performance is so subtle yet full of layers.

On a bad note: the movie’s 35mm print did not arrive on time, so they screened a DVD copy of it.

After watching the movie and remembering the other 3 movies of Brillante Mendoza (The Masseur, Summer Heat, and Slingshot) that I saw, I have noticed that Brillante’s style gravitate towards realism almost to the detriment of his movie’s story. After the movie, I introduced my mother to Brillante, telling him that she liked the movie. I asked him what’s next. He said he’s making a movie about people who have sex inside movie theatres in Manila and it is being funded by a South Korean film foundation.

On a side note: the movie he’s making with South Korean money will turnout to be “Serbis” (Service)

This time I did not give him my calling card. Deep in my heart I wanted to work on his film even as a volunteer but I know he won’t ask me because he already has people in the Philippines that want to work with him. One thing is for sure, Brillante Mendoza is a visionary filmmaker that the Philippines need right now.

Me with Justin Lin

The picture was taken last November 3, 2007 after the film forum “In the Director’s chair with Justin Lin” at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival (VAFF). The forum is about Justin Lin sharing his journey from independent filmmaker to Hollywood success and as an Asian-American film-making pioneer. In attendance with him is actor Roger Fan, star of FINISHING THE GAME and many of Justin’s films.

Justin’s big film break came when he made “Better Luck Tomorrow” financed by 10 of his credit cards. It’s a movie about a group of good kids gone bad and it just so happens the characters are played by Asian-Americans. It caused a stir at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, where one audience member objected to its depiction of Asian-Americans. The incident may have gone unnoticed except that film critic, Roger Ebert stood up to defend the film both at the screening and in his column, giving it enough attention to ultimately land Justin a distribution deal with MTV Films. What happened at Sundance became the stuff of indie film legends.

During the forum, Justin was very open in sharing his knowledge and experiences to the audience. The impression that I get after listening to him talk is someone who is very passionate, stands by his principles, smart, and is down to earth. After the forum, I was able to ask him a few questions. He was very accommodating and approachable. I gave him my calling card and offered myself to work for free in his next independent film.

His current film “Finishing the Game” is a movie about the search for a Bruce Lee replacement in order to finish his last movie “The Game of Death”. It is presented in a mockumentary style, in the vein of those Christopher Guest movies. Justin was able to make the movie he wanted by doing it independently. He has been known to empower his crew and give opportunities to less established or starting filmmakers. But he only does this on his independent films. So I hope he remembers me when he makes his next movie.

The day before the forum, I saw “Finishing the Game”. It was okay. It was funny but it wasn’t my thing. What I liked about the movie was the way the director flips the stereotypes of how Asian-Americans are portrayed in Hollywood films. Before meeting Justin, the only movie that I saw that he made was “Better Luck Tomorrow”. The other movies that he made after that (Annapolis, Fast and Furious 3) were studio films. But based on the trailers, I was not too excited about watching any of them.

But getting to know Justin changed my mind and now I wanted to watch those two films just to see his work. It made me realize the power of personal appearances. Most of the time your perception of a person, especially someone who is famous, are based on what you read in articles or the interviews you see on TV. But in fact, once you meet them, your perception changes. Maybe you’re now more likely to check out their work or give them a chance. I guess through personal interaction, one has a good chance to change a person’s mind or point of view.

Me with Roger Fan

The picture was taken last November 3, 2007 after the film forum “In the Director’s chair with Justin Lin” at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival (VAFF). The forum is about Justin Lin sharing his journey from independent filmmaker to Hollywood success and on being an Asian-American filmmaking pioneer. In attendance with him is actor Roger Fan, star of FINISHING THE GAME and many of Justin’s films.

Roger Fan talked about how he started as an actor. He started as a financial advisor working in Wall Street and after traveling around the world he decided to quit his job and become an actor. He talked about how hard it is getting roles in Hollywood, especially as an Asian actor. When he reached the point in his life where he was about to quit acting, he got a role on Justin Lin’s movie “Better Luck Tomorrow”. That movie basically changed his career. After the forum I was able to talk to him and share my thoughts about his role on “Finishing the Game”. Roger played “Breeze Loo” a Bruce Lee doppelganger. I commented that I did not recognize him in the movie and he replied, “I am definitely not like Breeze Loo.” During our interaction, Roger was very accommodating and from what I can see, a very nice guy.

*originally posted on my old blog