SIGFREID BARROS-SANCHEZ LAMENTS : IF there’s one thing that the recent Metro Manila Film Festival returns has proven for the past seven years, it is the fact that the male populace is not the one who dictates how the money is spent in the household nowadays. Not unlike in the ‘80s and the ‘90s where it’s the father or the older brother who comes home tired from a job and was the one looking for a movie that will titillate his senses — thus the emergence of ST films and action flicks during that time — this generation’s money earners are not anymore coming from this demographic. Back in the days, a father would bring his young kid to watch a Fernando Poe, Jr. or a Lito Lapid movie and then afterwards, after treating the family, had an excuse to watch one sexy flick for his personal enjoyment. However, according to a recent study made, those earning P15,000-P20,000 a month these days do not come anymore from the macho workforce but from women and the pink community which comprise 70% of the working populace of a booming industry called “call center”. These sectors are the ones who have the buying capacity to dictate what movie to watch, which actor to support, and which artist they should throw their hard earned money at. Thus, in the past seven years, movies that make a killing at the tills are the ones that speak the language of the women and the pink community and a film that has an icon in it that they can hopefully relate their life from like the Vice Gandas, the the Eugene Domingoses, the Ai-Ai delas Alases, the Judy Ann Santoses, and the many films about the other women which were very much in demand at the moviehouses last year. Thus, again, the moneymakers at the Metro Manila Film Festivals in the past seven years have been “Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo,” “Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo,” the “Tanging Ina” trilogy, and most recently, “Sisterakas”, movies that cater to the large women and pink community market and that has an icon or icons in it that women and gays look up to. It is also one of the major reasons why in the past couple of years, there have been rampant independently produced films that cater to the gay audience even though most of them are low-budgeted and show little of the acting skills of the actors and more of their acting skins. It is also the reason why if you go to a video shop inside a mall and you look at the Indie Film section, you will be greeted by mostly films about gay relationships, gay love, and gay porn, all lined up like your favorite newspapers and tabloids in a newsstand. Imagine yourself as a woman or somebody belonging to the LGBT category who spends 8 hours every night answering phone calls, queries, and erring messages from overseas clients abroad up to the wee hours of the morning. You come out of your company during payday with a lump sum that is more than enough for your needs till the next payday. You want something that will titillate your senses, something you can watch that will tickle your pink bone. Of course you would not go and watch a film that has a Bong Revilla or a Vic Sotto in it. What you’d rather watch is something that caters more to your brand, something that will have you tickled pink. So you go to a non-SM Mall and try to catch the newest gay film around. You bring with you two to three friends from work. Inside, you’re all tickled and titillated at the scenes you’re watching. After watching, you go home and write what you just saw in a blog. Maybe even in a guys-for-men website and rave about what you just saw. And because gays are more united than men (men, usually they say, have this “pataasan ng ihi” mentality), what you just wrote will influence other people who have the same sexual preference as you are to watch it also. And they will bring with them also friends to watch it and after watching they will write about it in their blogs also and influence another set of people and the same pyramid scheming effect like will go on until the film gathers enough audience to sustain it and make it big.
In the recent Metro Manila Film Festival, the same effect took place. The woman or the gay member of the family decided what to watch in the recent fest. Because they have the capacity to dictate which movie to go to, they decided to take and treat each member of the family to go and watch a movie they think best caters to their sensibilities, thus, it made “Sisterakas” the recent record holder of the highest grossing box-office movie in the Philippines. They were also the reason why two previous movies of gay and woman icon Vice Ganda, “Praybeyt Benjamin” and “Petrang Kabayo”, were the former record holders of the same record. As what my headwriter recently said, “May karapatan ka pa bang umangal sa papanoorin mo e hindi naman ikaw ang magbabayad!” Thus, the probable demise of the “Enteng Kabisote” and “Panday” franchises in the coming film festivals. Not even all the special effects in the world can measure up to a united gay front!
Then, what does this trend say about “One More Try” the film that raked in the second biggest moneymaker plum in the recent MMFF? “One More Try” follows the same trend as the other films with the same topic that made a killing in the box office last year — films about mistresses and other women. Why the sudden interest in this type of movies? Data also gathered show that most women who are working in call center or other high paying jobs are either single women with a relationship that’s listed as complicated or single moms trying to earn something for their kids. These are the types that will fall into the trap of being mistresses or other women in the society. And because also with the current boom in social networking, most men and women have either the tendency to hook up with long lost flames from high school or colleges or with people they meet in the web who may be married but having problem with their spouses or in a relationship but would like to experience how it is to be in another one. These people see themselves in these movies, about men and women having extra-marital affairs, extra relationships, complicated situations, one-night stands, and fuck buddy setups. And because these films speak to their current situations or the situation they are nearing to fall into, these films speak to them and men and women see these type of films as the new films that titillate to their senses because most of them are doing this or dreaming to do this nowadays.
The Call Center Generation is also one big reason why Nora Aunor’s “Thy Womb” or ER Ejercito’s “El Presidente” didn’t make a killing at the tills and arrived at the bottom of the standings. For “Thy Womb”, eventhough it has Nora Aunor as the lead cast member of the film, the CCG are mostly kids whose ages range from the early 20s to the late 30s. Most of these youngsters don’t know who Nora Aunor is and what her contribution to the Philippine local cinema was. Ask them to name five Nora Aunor films and chances are they will only give you “Himala” as the correct answer because it is currently being advertised in a big network. But aside from that, chances are, they will not get any more correct answers. But ask them to name five movies that has Eugene Domingo in it and chances are you’ll get five correct answers. These kids didn’t grow up with Nora Aunor movies. They grew up for the past ten years watching soap operas on TV with John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo, Kim Chiu and Gerald Anderson, and Piolo Pascual and KC Concepcion, and comedy shows that has Jose Manalo and Wally Bayola, Ai-Ai delas Alas and Pokwang, and recently Vice Ganda and his cohorts at Showtime.
Another fault of the Call Center Generation is that they don’t have any sense of history. Take for example finding a definition and an identity for Philippine cinema. In this age, everybody wants to be a filmmaker. Anyone can be a filmmaker. All you have to do is point a camera at somebody, upload it at YouTube and voila, a filmmaker is born. Blame it also at the current boom of indie filmmaking in the country. Anyone can now earn the title “Direk” even if he makes one sloppy student film. It’s just a matter of convincing your groupmates to call you “Direk” on the set and another filmmaker is born. But the problem is, “How much is your film rooted in your country’s film history?” Even when you talk about indie films, most young kids nowadays know only indie from “Maximo Oliveros” onwards but not “Maximo Oliveros” downwards. They don’t know who Rox Lee is, who the Agbayani and the Alcazaren Brothers are, the brothers Red — Raymond, Jon, and Danny, Nick de Ocampo, nor even Kidlat Tahimik. They don’t know how to pay respects to these filmmakers who came before them and would rather that they get respect that they didn’t earn. As I always say, “Naging In lang ang indie nang mag-out si Maxi.”
It’s sad that other countries have a film identity of their own. When we say Chinese films, we are quickly reminded by kungfu movies done by the Chinese filmmakers as far back as the ‘60s and the ‘70s. When we say Indian movies, the first think that comes to our mind are the song and dance films of Bollywood. When we say Korean movies, it’s either the Korean Horror movies or the “kilig” love stories they churn out, complete with leaves falling down the trees or snow falling down on the cheeks of its romantic actors while the girl is given a piggyback ride on the boy’s back. Just recently, Thailand has also found its identity with its Bangkok Horror and yes, the Ong-Bak movies. As for the Philippines, whose cinema history is older than all our Asian neighbours, we are still left in the dark on what to call or define a Filipino movie. Yes, we know how to shoot a movie, we know the close-ups, the wide shots, the handhelds, the timelapses, the camera tricks, and all. But when it comes to the history of your own cinema, you don’t know nothing. Thing is also, most film schools in colleges and universities nowadays teach you all the tricks in the world that can make you the next Wes Anderson or the next Quentin Tarantino but none of them teach about the history of Philippine cinema. Gone are the days of the old Mowelfund where film history is taught to every student who enrols at their film school. And for a historical film like “El Presidente” to make it? It failed to tackle the three basic no-nos in making a film nowadays — number one, it has all macho actors in it, no gay icon; number two, it doesn’t have a mistress in distress in the movie; and number three, it’s a historical movie that makes a viewer to think.
So, with these factors in mind, how can an indie movie measure up or at least get half the earnings of the current topgrosser “Sisterakas”? The answer, target the Call Center Generation, or to put it more bluntly, the call centers in particular. Most call center agents are frustrated artists who decided to follow the lure of money than to follow their hearts. Time was ticking up on them to earn for the family so they decided to grab the first job that offered them a very large salary. But given the chance, these agents would rather be dancers, actors, photographers, painters, singers, musicians, band members, or most likely, filmmakers. But they’re not. And you are. But they have the power to make your film a blockbuster. And you don’t. What the indie filmmakers should probably do is to market their films to these call center agents. Talk to call centers to ask their employees to at least throw P200 from their monthly P15,000-P20,000 a month salaries to support an indie film that will be shown every month. There’s a call center company in almost all the cities in the Philippines and a mall with a moviehouse in every one of these cities. If indie filmmakers will work hand in hand with call center agents and companies and produce a film that will also cater to their liking or even offer something different which they may like to watch, probably the battle of the indies versus the mainstream movies will finally be won by the independents. Bringing your films to schools will only earn you a couple of bucks especially if a screening of your film will cost a measly P50.00 per student, with the earnings to be divided amongst you and the school organization that sponsored your screening. But targeting the call center companies is like digging a gold mine for the indies. Imagine how many employees a call center has that can make your film an instant blockbuster. And imagine how much they can influence once they write in their blogs a good review about your film or just by merely spreading the word amongst their families. If your film is that good, an extra push by this generation can help you even get an Oscar nod just by the extra push they can give it. They can also help in marketing your film abroad by suggesting nd recommending them to their clients whom they always talk on the phone. If the Philippines has given the world three would-have-been Ms. Universes in the past three years, then the dream of finally making it to the Oscars in the next five years may not be an impossible dream. In return, filmmakers should sit down and discuss their films with these call center agents every once in a while and encourage them to build indie film organizations of their own in their work and make their own films also. Who knows, by doing so, we might also finally find the true identity of our films. This Generation of Indie Filmmakers and the Call Center Generation should work hand in hand in finally solving the search for the Great Filipino Audience and the Greatest Filipino Films of this era.
SIGFREID BARROS-SANCHEZ, independent filmmaker, screenwriter, music video and commercial director, actor, model, and Daddy afflicted with Peter Pan Syndrome. His indie films include : LASPONGGOLS, ANG MGA KIDNAPER NI RONNIE LAZARO and HULING BIYAHE. Visit his works at: www.bigredbakulaw.multiply.com.