PH Cinema is not dead — it is changing and evolving

By: Liza Diño-Seguerra

Since the onset of Covid-19, the Philippine film industry has faced incredible drawbacks — from the continued closure of cinemas which affected the production of local films, to the challenges plaguing the safe conduct of production activities and onsite events. This has undeniably put a damper on the spirits of our stakeholders.

Despite this, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) is nowhere near throwing in the towel yet. We believe that every challenge presents an opportunity to adapt, grow, and even thrive and become better than before.

While in some ways, it's true that the devastating effects of the pandemic can cut us from the world, it can also bring us closer to it. I believe that there is a big shift happening due to the pandemic, and it has highlighted, now more than ever, the incredible potential of Philippine Cinema to go global and take advantage of these new possibilities of connecting beyond our borders.

Adapting to the change

For our Agency, certainly some programs were delayed or even cancelled, but even more shifted and thrived to adapt to what this new normal has offered.

As we put a standard to the quality of films being produced, the agency also elevates its programs so that we can keep producing globally competitive content and continue supporting filmmakers that can compete at the international arena. There is a growing demand for local content with emerging platforms to choose from; this is where FDCP comes in to provide essential tools to equip aspiring filmmakers for the future.

The FDCP chair at the International Film Industry Conference and the Full Circle Lab Philippines opening ceremonies.

Just last week, from September 16 to 19, the agency held its annual Film Industry Conference, now known as the International Film Industry Conference (IFIC). The Conference consisted of 11 free public sessions and seven masterclasses featuring big names and leaders of the global film industry as panelists and speakers. It has since expanded to offer sessions and workshops that can also be availed by regional and international filmmakers and enthusiasts. It tackled various topics from development to distribution during these times, which is a relevant discourse that needs to be understood so that we can move forward and come up with solutions to face the implications the shift will bring on the industry.

Two IFIC sessions were part of the ASEAN-ROK Film Workshop Series that FDCP hosted in partnership with the Korean Film Council: "Backstage Access: Bringing Philippine Animation to the World" and "Shaping the New Landscape of Asean Film Industry." I was one of the panelists in the latter, representing the Agency along with other film commissioners.

Among the yearly programs of FDCP, IFIC has been my personal favorite. In just four years, it has gathered over 3,000 attendees. I am grateful that we are able to continue this year online, where more people have access to the sessions and masterclasses and stay up to date about the local and international film industries.

The FDCP chair at the International Film Industry Conference and the Full Circle Lab Philippines opening ceremonies.

The Full Circle Lab Philippines (FCL PH), a talent development program organized by FDCP with Tatino Films, also commenced last September 20. The 3rd edition of FCL PH has chosen a total of 24 prime projects out of 155 applications from the Philippines and Southeast Asia. This year, with the newly added Creative Producers Lab, the FCL took place online featuring an international assembly of mentors for the various labs.

Through FCL PH, together with FCL director Matthieu Darras and producer Izabela Igel, we aim to cultivate stories to create a culture of excellence and sustainable cinema in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia. We are impressed by the range of projects we have chosen from and we are excited to see them grow and eventually compete globally.

The future is here

Since the closure of our local cinemas, people have turned to VOD platforms for leisure activity especially during this pandemic. There has been a high demand for content from various platforms. The cinematic experience is incomparable but we must come to terms with the reality that this may be the future of Philippine Cinema as it continuously evolves.

Kun Maupay Man It Panahon’ by Carlo Fråancisco Manatad bagged the Cinema e Gioventù Prize fromthe 74th Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland.

This year, Filipino filmmakers also made their way to the international scene in various festivals. Carlo Francisco Manatad's "Kun Maupay Man It Panahon," which had its world premiere at Locarno Film Festival, bagged the Cinema e Gioventù Prize (Cinema and Youth Prize) from the Concorso Cineasti del Presente Junior Jury.

The historic win of Erik Matti's "On The Job: The Missing 8" — with the Volvi Cup for Best Actor for John Arcilla's performance in the Venice Film Festival — is now streaming on HBO GO, reaching an even wider audience. Our Filipino filmmakers have proven that Philippine Cinema is awake and the industry is striving. With the right support and preparedness, we can take advantage of this change and bring more Filipino talents to greater heights.

The columnist with ‘On The Job: The Missing 8’ director Erik Matti.

During the opening of IFIC, Stephen Jenner, Communications Vice President of the Asia-Pacific Region for the Motion Picture Association, delivered a keynote address on the current situation of the film industry. "We are an industry that does not stand still but always finds a way that inspires and illuminates, and there's no doubt that we will continue to do so. Today, next year, and for decades to come."

The world's cinema is not dead, and neither is Philippine Cinema. This is what we've been seeing in how our films and filmmakers are continuing to make waves locally and internationally, opening many doors to the possible collaborations and showcase of our content outside of the country. As we celebrate the first Philippine Industry Month, we are reminded of the immense potential of our Filipino producers, filmmakers, and artists to overcome the obstacles in front of them and pave the way to a new era of Philippine Cinema. And we will be with them every step of the way.


Notes from the Chair
The Sunday Times Magazine  - The Manila Times

Notes from the Chair is part of the Arts Awake section of The Sunday Times Magazine published by The Manila Times. Click HERE to view the article on The Manila Times website.