Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Ang Larawan: Behind the Scenes with Alemberg Ang

Mr. Alemberg Ang (far right) with the Marasigan siblings.
The blog's opening salvo to 2018 is an interview with Mr. Alemberg Ang, one of the producers of Ang Larawan. In this interview, he shares some behind the scenes information in the making of the award winning movie. He has honest advise to young people who dream of pursuing a career in the arts and in film making. 

Bakit Ang Larawan?  If it was a passion project, what is in the source material, or in the process of making the film that you were most passionate about?

Ang Larawan is based on National Artist Nick Joaquin's play, Portrait of the Artist as Filipino.  It has been a passion project of our executive producers, Girlie Rodis and Celeste Legaspi to turn into a movie the musical they produced in 2017.  In the movie production, Rachel Alejandro who played Paula in the original musical's rerun and in the film version, joins them as one of the Executive Producers in this version.  This version features the translation by National Artist Rolando Tinio whose lush words are converted into the screenplay of the movie.

Two years in the making ang pelikula. Ano ang pinaka-challenging na experience mo bilang isa sa mga producers ng nito? How did you face or overcome the challenges?
3 years.  1 year of rehearsals, then just 15 days of shoot, tapos 2 years of post-production.  There are so many aspects that were extremely difficult.  The first one was looking for the perfect cast.  The ladies have long been casted already but it's the boys that were a little tricky to cast.  After several auditions, we were able to cast Paulo and Sandino.  

Then we casted the other members of the cast.  One of the most difficult things in preparing for the film are the rehearsals.  The schedules of the artists are almost impossible to make them all come together so that we'll be able to rehearse.  But somehow we managed.  Then we proceeded into recording the orchestra first.  With that, the cast rehearsed again using the orchestra music.  Then we recorded the cast.  After recording the cast with the music of the orchestra, they had to rehearse lipsyncing naman.  A very grueling process before we started shooting.  

Sa shoot naman, the toughest is having to leave super early for Taal, Batangas.  We leave siguro mga 2am so we can start filming around 8am.  Tapos, it was extremely hot and uncomfortable in the house because we had to cover all the windows so that we can later "locate" the house in Intramuros using computer graphics.  The most difficult scene to shoot was the La Naval procession where we had 600 extras.  Dressing them all up, blocking them and shooting them took a lot of time, patience and effort in making the scene work.  There was a typhoon pa at that time so we had to resched which we eventually was able to film.  

The two most difficult things naman in post-production are the sound and the visual effects.  People won't believe the amount of visual effects we have in the film.  For one, the painting.  We first held a photoshoot.  Then our photographer had to use some effects in making it look like the masterpiece being described in the story.  Then the sound.  The syncing of the lips and making the singing and the speaking appear seamless is a tough job.

3. What scenes resonate most to you? 

Don Perico's song, Hindi Simple ang Buhay.  Paula's Malaya na Ako song.  The final confrontation where Candida broke down.

Don Perico's song resonates with almost anyone who works in the arts.  Would you allow your family to starve while you pursue your arts?  Can you actually control your own fate?

Paula's song is what I would call an "anthem" in the veins of Defy Gravity and Let It Go. It literally feels like a song that sets one free.

Joanna Ampil showed so many emotions in that final confrontation.  Her range is just breathtaking and you are simply drawn to the multiple layers of her emotions in that scene.

With Paulo Avelino during the MMFF Parade 2017.

After winning Best Picture in the MMFF, what is next for Ang Larawan and for Alemberg Ang?
Well, we're still promoting.  We are slowly doing better in the box office, gaining back cinemas we lost and even more.  Audiences are actively advocating for our film on social media and that's drawing the audiences to watch our film.  We hope this will help in our box office which eventually, we'll recoup all our investors' money.  And once that happens, we have another musical in the pipeline, Alikabok.  But for now, it's really still trying to show Larawan to as many people as possible that includes schools, universities and organizations who would want to sponsor screenings of the film.

What would you tell a young person if he/she is interested to pursue a career in art, particularly in producing and directing movies?

Don't.  Hahaha!  It's important to know from the beginning why you're doing it.  If it's to earn a living, then it's not a lucrative field, unless you work for mainstream companies.  Working in the indies is a huge gamble and the odds of a film earning is extremely slim.  Of course, now, it's getting better.  More and more people are looking for alternatives and these eventually help draw more people to support indie productions like Heneral Luna and Kita Kita.  So, when you're making your film, it's very important to be honest to yourself and access what you are really doing and why you're doing what you're doing.  Otherwise, you'll just be lost in the system.

Mr. Alemberg Ang is an educator, film maker and producer. His first foray into film making and producing movies was in 2009 via the movie Ang Pangagahasa Kay Fe directed by Alvin B.Yapan. The movie has won several international awards. The rest is history, so they say since he has produced notable Filipino independent films that have won awards and recognition here and abroad. His dreams of one day making literature mainstream.

Photos courtesy of Mr. Alemberg Ang. Posted with permission.

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