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Direk Joey Reyes on Mainstream, Indie and Maindie

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[Top Photo] Vispathè cinema, in Campi Bisenzio, Italy. (Wikimedia Commons); Director Reyes’ self-portrait with broadcaster Mike Enriquez (Instagram)

I was lucky to participate in the 1st De La Salle University Communication Conference held last 27 February 2015, and I am still on a hangover a week after. After all, this is the first conference in La Salle since the launch of their Communication Arts program forty years ago.

Various speakers from different industries gather to share insights on the communication landscape in the country, among the things that I’ve taken note of there, Director Jose Javier Reyes‘ talk on the Film and Movie industry made me think the most. In this post, I will write about what I have understood in his talk; meaning that alongside the information and the arguments he shared with the audience, I will try to make sense of each of it.

Statistics

“Direk Joey,” as he is fondly called, informed the audience which are the top-grossing movies in the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) and in the Philippines as a whole.

The top five highest-grossing movies in the country have Star Cinema, Viva Films, Jose Marie Viceral (Vice Ganda) and Director Wenn V. Deramas as the common denominators. He then refers us to the top nineteen (19) highest-grossing movies in the country, and all of them are produced by major studio outfits like Star, Viva, Regal and Octoarts.

He also introduced the audience to how movie earnings were divided: Each movie needs to earn three-fold to break even — one-thirds of each represent the producer, the theater owner and the tax amount that is to be paid. If the producer spent a million pesos for the movie, it has to earn 3 million.

How they were able to earn those millions, if not billions of pesos? Movies are sold through television. It makes sense that last year’s MMFF entry “My Big Bossing” raked in a lot of money because of how many times their commercial has been played on GMA Network — and from my personal observation, GMA’s own entry “Kubot: The Aswang Chronicles II”‘s commercials are are aired less compared to ‘Bossing’. ‘Kubot’ was unable to break even, considering the amount it cost them to make spectacular special effects.

Mentioning the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, Direk Joey told the audience that in the ten (10) days that Cinemalaya films were shown in cinemas, only twenty-five thousand (25,000) were counted altogether, which means that 2,500 people only saw the films — some of them even went on to do a movie marathon. When two Cinemalaya films — one of them is Bwakaw starring Eddie Garcia — made it into the mainstream audience, it had to be pulled out after three days because no one is watching.

We are now addressed with films such as “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank” and “That Thing Called Tadhana.” ‘Septic Tank’ was able to get its attention because it was screened after “Kimmy Dora.” Eugene Domingo led both movies. ‘Tadhana’ was able to get its attention because it screened after “English Only, Please.” Romance-Comedy is the genre of both films.

Arguments

We will then proceed to the arguments that are presented in the talk: The Intelligent and the Entertained, Mainstream Entertainment vs. Movie Patronage and Movies vs. Films, among others.

The intelligent viewers are insulted by the mainstream movies that are present, and the Entertained are insulted by the former’s snobbery. A show of hands in the conference sums up the fact that majority of viewers watch movies to be entertained, and not to be provoked. To para-phrase Direk Joey, we don’t go to the movies to see our existentialism and the surrealism of art most of the time.

To make sense, the ideology also applies to Anime fans, of which you could hear the common “my taste is better than yours” or “you have sh*t taste, pleb” in discussions pertaining to which series (or character) is the better. Either way, we all watch the same stuff most of the time.

Here’s another one: Mainstream and Independent Films have their counterparts. We have Brilliante Mendoza and Lav Diaz on one hand, and Wenn Deramas and Cathy Garcia-Molina on the other. From what I have understand, both sectors have their idols.

Lastly, we are now brought into the difference between the definition of “movies” and “films” — Movies are products, while Films are creations; Movies entertain, Films provoke thought; Movies are carrying the names of their studios, while Films carry the name of the directors who made it.

Conclusion

“You cannot bridge two different tastes,” the presentation states, but Direk Joey’s challenge to future filmmakers is to make films that sell, that we can entertain yet warrant intelligent attention, and that we can generate diversity and create unity.

I can relate to this in the state of Japanese Animation nowadays: You see those shows that feature fanservice? How many shows does that compared to the works of Gen Urobuchi or Mari Okada? Being a fan of Shirobako myself, I think that series could serve as the representation for what the presentation has stated earlier — fans of Anime love it, and yet it gives information, something to the line of “infotainment.”


This writer would like to thank the organizers and the speakers of the 1st De La Salle University Communication Conference. I also got involved in another De La Salle-related activity, the 2015 Tamashii Convention, last March 28.