EVOLVING from monochrome to colored, from silent to talkies, Filipino filmmaking is again facing another transition brought about by advanced technology and non-mainstream artistic pursuits.

The increasing democratization of filmmaking in the Philippines was discussed in the Tomasian Cable Television’s (TOMCAT) and Sinemalayo’s Short Filmmaking Seminar held last Aug. 14 at the Beato Angelico Auditorium. Together with the Mowelfund Film Institute, the organizers found it timely to hold the event because of the rise of indie filmaking in the country.

“A lot of filmmakers today are visual artists, architects, and even doctors,” Sinemalayo’s founder Eric Dela Cruz said. “This just shows how much people crave to express their innermost emotions.”

Sinemalayo, an organization punningly named after the Cinemalaya Film Festival, promotes alternative and independent cinema. It held its own independent short film and video festival and launched its own fanzine, Cinemaregla, last May 13.

The seminar included talks on short and digital films. Independent filmmaker, animator and Mowelfund’s head archivist Ricky Orellana gave a brief history of short filmmaking in the Philippines. Orellana underscored the need to preserve films and videos of significance to Philippine history and culture.

With the evolution of alternative stories and genres comes also the development of a newer medium. Paolo Villaluna, director of acclaimed indie art film Ilusyon,, delved into the rise of digital technology in the film industry. The arrival of the digital format has allowed democratization in moviemaking.

“Long ago, only the rich can make movies since the celluloid film is very expensive, which made them monopolize the business,” Villaluna said. “Digital technology took this away from them after making the medium cheaper and more affordable to the masses.”

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Digital format in the movies employs the use of converging video and sound technologies used in computers. It gives endless possibilities to a filmmaker as it is affordable and encompasses more methods to manipulate a movie compared with the standard procedures used in the celluloid format.

But the digital format also has its disadvantages.

“The power to make a film can be abused since anyone with a video camera can make one without bothering to study the basic film language,” Villaluna said.

The digital format has paved way for the independent films. Film critic Teddy Co, a member of the National Committee on Cinema of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, said these films are “mainstream rejects” and experimental in spirit.

He also defined differences between a digital and an independent film. According to Co, “digital” refers to the equipment while “independent” refers to the spirit and philosophy of the artistic product.

“Short” in short film refers to the length and duration of a movie, Co added. An example of this genre Ellen Ramos’ Doon Sa Kabila ng Bulkan, a 10-minute story of the Aytas’ flight from the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. Ramos, an animator and architect, used oil-on-glass technique for every scene of the story.

“Cinema is evolving and has taken on new forms,” Ramos said.

Digital future

With the growing popularity of the digital movies, budding Filipino movie directors and scriptwriters see a brighter future in the film industry.

“Digital technology is starting to be at par with the clean, technical aspects of celluloid.” Co said. “Although, film is still the king on commercial release forms for cinema houses, the digital flicks are steadily shaping up.”

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Villaluna encourages amateur filmmakers to bring about more innovations. He claims that the monopoly in filmmaking by veteran directors and scriptwriters is one of the factors, along with the lack of budget and piracy, that has caused the decline of Filipino movies in more recent history.

“Digital format and independent filmmaking can help new talents surface in the scene,” Villaluna said. Andrew Isiah P. Bonifacio

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