by Rosy Mina
MANILA, PHILIPPINES, APRIL 7, 2021 — With a plethora of diverse locations and an abundance of talented film and audiovisual professionals, the Philippines prides itself in being a viable overseas filming location as well as a booming production hub in the Southeast Asian region.
The Philippines reiterated this during the Country Session at the 25th Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (FILMART) Online, wherein the national government together with the Philippine delegate companies enjoined international productions once more to “Let’s Create Together!”
Hosted by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) on March 15, the “The Philippines: Let’s Create Together Country Session” featured the launch of an incentive fund for Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states collaborating with the Philippines.
The ASEAN Co-production Fund (ACOF) is for feature films with a director of ASEAN nationality minority or majority co-producing with the Philippines. It is the latest FilmPhilippines Incentives Program of the FDCP following the Film Location Incentive Program (FLIP), International Co-production Fund (ICOF), and Film Location Engagement Index (FLEX).
Aside from the FilmPhilippines Incentives presentation, the Country Session also showcased the expertise of the 13 delegate companies at the virtual Philippine Pavilion and highlighted the Filipino project at the 19th Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF).
The impact of films on tourism and culture
Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat opened the Country Session with a statement on how film is crucial in promoting tourism and culture to local and international audiences.
“A memorable, well-made film has a greater capacity to promote tourism and foster cultural understanding than any other medium,” stated Romulo-Puyat. “Even though the pandemic kept people apart, the movies bring us closer together.”
Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat
She also mentioned that now is an opportune time for co-production among Southeast Asian countries as ASEAN member states have a common goal of promoting the region’s culture and development.
The tourism secretary extended her heartfelt invitation to international producers at the Country Session: “Together, let's continue to tell stories that make us laugh and cry and see the hope and beauty that can still be found in the world.”
Filipino content as a global commodity
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Rafaelita M. Aldaba noted that there is an increasing demand for new, entertaining, and engaging content across the world.
“The generation and production of content are not just limited to a particular market but are undertaken with the potential of being appreciated globally anytime, anywhere,” said Aldaba.
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Rafaelita M. Aldaba
With heightened opportunities in the market even amid the pandemic and wider access to content as facilitated by digital technologies, Aldaba assured that the government is working with Filipino film and television industries to continue creating content for local and global consumers.
“We look forward to partnerships in producing world-class content and locating your future projects in the Philippines,” the trade undersecretary ardently told foreign producers in attendance.
The importance of creativity and collaboration
FDCP Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño remarked that 2021 will be much different from 2020 because productions now have more flexibility and inventiveness in working while adhering to the government’s prescribed health and safety protocols.
“Creativity and collaboration. These two tenets have never been so important as they are now today. When beset with challenges that hinder us from shooting and screening our films, we find ways to work around them,” she said.
Diño shared that several international productions and co-productions are currently filming with the support from the FilmPhilippines Incentives Programs. “We are excited about ACOF because this would be an opportunity to build regional partnerships with the cinema industry in our corner of the world,” she added.
FDCP Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño
She then introduced the Philippine delegate companies that are eager to forge partnerships with foreign counterparts: Animation Vertigo Asia, Atom & Anne Mediaworks Corporation, Binisaya Movement, Inc., BLINK Creative Studio, Daluyong Studios, Digital Dreams, Inc., Fixer Ink Philippines, Globe Studios, Mandala Video and Event Productions, Man Overboard Productions, North Luzon Cinema Guild, Inc., Project 8 Projects, and Solar Pictures, Inc.
She also highlighted “Cangrejos” by Zurich Chan, the only Filipino project selected for the HAF. “Cangrejos” is from the FDCP’s 1st Southern Voices Film Lab (SOVOLAB), an intensive script and development lab that aims to discover stories and empower the voices from Mindanao.
Amplifying ASEAN cooperation
FilmPhilippines Technical Consultant Agathe Vinson proceeded to discuss the FLIP, ICOF, ACOF, and FLEX in greater detail. The Q&A session ensued featuring FDCP Chairperson Diño and Vinson together with FilmPhilippines Executive Director Mirasol Cruz and Incentives Unit Manager Mil Alcain.
As to why international producers should prioritize the Philippines, Diño responded: “Aside from the talent and the amazing locations that you can find in the Philippines, I would say that the Philippines is one of the more proactive countries in terms of really pushing for engagement with the rest of the Southeast Asian countries.”
She continued, “We’re very specific with our goal to make sure that we’re amplifying and elevating cooperation among Southeast Asian countries because while there are a lot of opportunities available for filmmakers to access European funding, I do believe that if you really want to elevate our industry, it has to start from us.”
From top left clockwise: FilmPhilippines Incentives Unit Manager Mil Alcain, FDCP Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño, FilmPhilippines Technical Consultant Agathe Vinson, and FilmPhilippines Executive Director Mirasol Cruz
Diño clarified that the ACOF is not a competitive fund but a complementary fund that supports other co-production opportunities from Southeast Asia. Vinson, for her part, added that Filipino crew members are English-speaking plus the FLEX program provides a worthwhile customized assistance that’s priceless, helping local and international productions in all government transactions.
Full support from the government
Before the “The Philippines: Let’s Create Together Country Session” came to a close, Diño thanked the stakeholders from various sectors who made time to attend the virtual event. She expressed gratitude for the support from government representatives led by DOT Secretary Romulo-Puyat and DTI Undersecretary Aldaba.
Other attendees from the DTI were Export Marketing Bureau (EMB) Assistant Director Agnes Perpetua Legaspi, EMB Division Chief Maria Teresa Loring, Atty. Bobby Mabalot of the Philippine International Trading Corporation-Hong Kong, and Atty. Carla Grepo, Czarina Villamora, Marnie Tablatin, Basil Andres, and Louisse Quinones of the Foreign Trade Service Corps (FTSC).
League of Cities of the Philippines Program Officer for Marketing, Networking, and Advocacy Fidel Pamintuan and Romy Suzara of the Legally Constituted Filmmakers Association were also in attendance alongside Regional Director Woordrow Maquiling, Jr., Olivia Nicole Manti, and Sharlene Batin of DOT-National Capital Region.
Also at the Country Session were Erwin Lozano from the Office of Sen. Sonny Angara, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs Martin Diño, and Legislative Staff Kenneth Dingal and Lejoy Sucgang from the Office of Deputy Speaker and Batangas 6th District Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto.
Completing the list of government attendees are Mae Caralde from the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Film Division and Atty. Vanessa Q. Maguigad, Kristine Cardona, and Melinda Angela Flor Tabucao of the DILG-Office of the Undersecretary for Mindanao Affairs and Special Concerns.
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