How to Produce an Indie Movie – The Case of Happyland

In a earlier post, I wrote about the circumstances behind my joining the Happyland team as one of its producers. Here is the second part of my experience as an indie movie producer.

The Main Story:

Jim conducted various interviews with football aficionados, Don Bosco Brothers and former Tondo barefoot players to weave the story for the film. This is the excerpt of the movie:.

A Spanish missionary priest tries to form a fighting football team composed of disadvantaged boys from the slums.  He enrolled the help of a seminarian, who was a college football star; his assistant parish priest; a volunteer catechist, and, parish workers.

Together, they recruit the most unlikely group of young men – a neighborhood  basketball star; a skilled pickpocket and fearless thief; two drug-sniffing brothers who live off the garbage dump;  a hare-lipped rapper wannabe; a gang leader;  a pedicab driver; and many others. The young men were lured by the dream of winning the tournament’s hefty cash prize. And to win, they only have to do one thing — beat their opponents from the “rich catholic schools.”

The priests, the seminarian, catechists and other church people set out to build his football team.

The Back Story

The priest was inspired by the story of Filipino striker Paulino Alcantara – star of the Spanish football team FC Barcelona in the 1930s.  His record of 357 goals in 367 games is still unmatched in Spain’s football history.  It is the memory of Alcantara’s feats that inspired Father Jose, the Spanish missionary priest, to attempt the audacious: build a football team in the slums of Tondo.

Our original plan was to shoot some scenes in Barcelona to highlight the extraordinary feat of Paulino Alcantara. Budgetary constraints prevented us from doing so. Thus,we settled for dream scene instead. However, the Paulino Alcantara story may have been among the reasons (plus probably the fact that Spain won the FIFA World Cup that year) why we got invited to screen the film during the Spanish film festival in Manila in 2010.

 

The Actors

Strictly speaking, we did not have any professional actors in the cast.  But we do have football players who had important roles in the movies: Phil Younghusband, China Cojuangco, and football players from various exclusive schools. We also hired actual residents as extras. Some of the supporting characters were playing their real selves. Nevertheless, the production experience was one of camaraderie and fun.


 

People behind the Camera

Mitch Moreno, Jim’s partner, was the project’s workhorse. She was in control of all aspects of the project, except the creative side which was Jim’s.

I helped raised money from corporate sponsors. Initially the corporate guys listened to the pitches mainly because they were my friends, but when they started to interact with the production and the creative group, and after they have internalized the film’s story line, they become converts.  We got funding from Alaska, Rebisco, and a few other brands..

Butch Jimenez and Manny Luna of Activ Asia pitched in with their personal funds.  It was Mitch and Jim who talked to Butch and Manny, and since I saw the presentation outline before the meetings, I believe they were not there as financial investors but as believers in the objectives of the project.

We also got grants from a European donor and from the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP). We also did crowd-sourcing, a way of raising money via the social network, and got monetary contributions from various individuals.

It was a lean and mean way of running a movie production project, poles apart from my experience with my former network. At Happyland, we planned every shooting day and source out the best cost for everything we need in the production.  It also helped that some members of the creative team agreed to cuts in their professional fees..

 

The Setting:

Happyland

The movie’s setting was a place in Tondo that residents call  “Happyland,” which comes from the word “hapilan” — a Visayan word for “garbage dump. “  The movies main characters lived in this place – a former smoking mountain of trash that government bulldozers levelled to give way to substandard and cramped residential buildings for the poor.

 At one point, Star Cinema talked to us about the possibility of co-producing the film. It came with a condition though. They will re-write portions of the story to make it more commercial, introducing among others, a love angle aspect to the story.  A tie-up with Star Cinema would have meant a great boost to the commercial success of the film. On the other hand, it would also mean we have to replace a number of actors, which would have resulted in a dissension among the ranks of our technical and creative personnel. A number of them are apprehensive with working with a major studio as this may result in loss of their creative independence. After much thought. I politely told Malou Santos, MD of Star Cinema, that in the interest of “industrial peace” I will have to refuse her offer.

 

The Economics

We struggled to finish the film.  We began filming at the beginning of 2010. We intended to release the film around June or July 2010, around the same time as the World Cup. However, problems encountered during post-production delayed the film’s release and put the production into debt. The post production house has inadvertently erased very important materials from two days of shoot, so we have to re-shoot those scenes.  Production costs also shoot up because of the elevated cost of storage and expensive cost of post production that the choice of Red Cameras entails.

Nevertheless, there were opportunities that resulted out of our failure to meet the June-July 2010 deadline. Spain won the World Cup, and so when they held their Spanish film festival in Metro Manila in October 2010, they look for a football movie to show in their festival. Happyland is that movie – the first movie about football produced by a Filipino team.

 

Next Steps

The first payback we got  was that we were able to provide opportunities for personal growth to the more than 20 teenaged football players who joined the cast. Some of the boys got football scholarships. Another one became a team member of the Philippine team to the Homeless World Cup.  Moreover, the boys today are more confident and sure of themselves compared to how they were before we started their training.

Meanwhile, the Philippine football team -the Azkals, won games in the Asian stage and soon enough, football became a household word. That rubbed off on us, and it became a bit easier  to get groups and communities to sponsor private screenings of the movie. Adobo magazine – the authoritative advertising industry publication sponsored a special screenings of the movie. It even got its corporate clients and guest to donate money or shoes for the Tondo boys.

It was clear to us that Happyland will have a difficult time at the commercial theaters, so our strategy was to do private screenings of the movie. It was also screened in various Sineng Pambansa events in various cities around the country. And it is making the rounds in schools and communities.

To be sure, we are still a long way from recovering the investments we made for the movie, But it is an historical first. It is the first football movie produced in the Philippines.  It even won awards for some of our creative and technical staff.

And to me, the satisfaction of being part of a pioneering media vehicle featuring the game of football.

Below is the full trailer of the movie.

 

 

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How I Became a Producer of the Indie Movie – Happyland

I become a producer of a movie about football two years before the sport got widespread attention. We even tapped the country’s most popular football player, Phil Younghusband, as one of the major actors in that independent film.

Serendipity

During the summer of 2008 my son attended a football clinic. As a culminating activity, football trainers from various schools held a friendly tournament among their wards.  I was watching the friendly among teams composed of players aged 16 years and below. The venue was the Ateneo Football field.  The name of the visiting team was Los Mataderos.

They don’t look like butchers to me, but the team name and being from Tondo evoked toughness and a killer ring to it. There was therefore an initial hesitance of the Ateneo boys to rough it up with the visiting team. Some of the Tondo boys were playing barefoot while others had worn out shoes.  They were cursing a lot, but would quickly lower their voices when their coach called their attention.

Except for 3 or 4 players, most of the team members are still newbies.   Nevertheless, they won the game and would have been the champion of the tournament had the organizers not discover that their best player was over aged.

They were also on a first named basis with my son’s team trainer/coach. I learned later that Coach Boy also trains the team. In fact, he grew up in the same neighbourhood as these boys. Like many others that played with him before, football became their ticket to changes in their economic well being. It sent them to school, it put them away from a life of vice and crime, and it paved the way for them to get jobs.

I thought that if football became a ticket for some Tondo boys to improve their lives, other boys all over the country can benefit from being good players of the sport. All it takes is an inspiration.  And what would that be?  Back then, I noted three possibilities: (1) a winning national team; (2)a popular league and/or players; and, (3) an inspirational media vehicle (movie,TV show, social network page, or a book).

In another part of the field on that same day, Jim Libiran was also watching his son play football. In the course of the tournament, Jim also noticed the barefoot boys and asked a question or two about them.  He learned that they are from the same area that he used as a setting for Tribu, his award winning movie about the gangs of Tondo.   The film maker and storyteller in him saw a material for a film.

Elsewhere, Peter Amores, a former college football standout,  took a respite from helping manage their family business in Cebu and started a non government organization with the objective of teaching football to street kids. He named his NGO, Futkal or Futbol sa Kalye.

One year later, Jim Libiran invited me to a cup of coffee. At Bo’s Coffee in Katipunan,  while both of us were waiting to fetch our sons, we talked about Happyland,his second movie after the much acclaimed Tribu. Jim invited me to join him in the project.  My role is to advise the team on the business and marketing aspects of film-making and of course, to help get corporate sponsors for the movie.

Jim has also encouraged Peter Amores to take FutKal to Tondo.

Jim and Peter tapped more than 20 boys ranging from 12 to 20 years old and provided them with football training and even acting lessons in preparation for the film. They tapped the players Jim and I observed at play during the Ateneo tournament.

Immediately during our first meeting, I said yes to Jim, not only because producing films is in my bucket list but also because the project is a vehicle that will popularize a sport wherein Filipinos have a fighting chance in the world stage. I also have a personal affinity with the main message of the film which is: “Victory is sweetest if you worked hard enough for it.  One won game is not enough to win a tournament. Fight hard enough in every game. Give it your best and then fight some more.”

And so it came to pass that I got involved in the independent movie, Happyland.

 

 

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Proud Dads

Four Proud Dads

Four friends, who hadn’t seen each other in 30 years, were reunited at a party. After several drinks, one of the  men had to use the rest room.

Those who remained talked about their kids. The first guy said, “My son is my pride and joy. He started working at a successful company at the bottom of the barrel. He studied Economics and Business Administration and soon began to climb the corporate ladder and now he’s the president of the company. He became so rich that he gave his best friend a top of the line Mercedes for his birthday.”

The second guy said, “Darn, that’s terrific! My son is also my pride and joy. He started working for a big airline, and then went to flight school to become a pilot. Eventually he became a partner in the company, where he owns the majority of its assets. He’s so rich that he gave his best friend a brand new jet for his birthday.”

The third man said: “Well, that’s terrific! My son studied in the best universities and became an engineer. Then he started his own construction company and is now a multi-millionaire. He also gave away something very nice and expensive to his best friend for his birthday: A 30,000 square foot mansion.”

The three friends congratulated each other just as the fourth returned from the restroom and asked: “What are all the congratulations for?”  One of the three said: “We were talking about the pride we feel for the successes of our sons. “What about your son?”

The fourth man replied: “My son is gay and makes a living dancing as a stripper at a nightclub.” The three friends said: “What a shame…what a disappointment. “

The fourth man replied: “No, I’m not ashamed. He’s my son and I love him. And he hasn’t done too bad either. His birthday was two weeks ago, and he received a beautiful 30,000 square foot mansion, a brand new jet and a top of the line Mercedes from his three boyfriends..

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Field of Dreams – a Chapel Project Story

If we build, they will come. This is a line from the movie Field of Dreams. This was the same line we used to answer detractors when we decided to build a chapel with nothing but the belief that we will receive contributions from the community’s residents and friends

It was the early-90s, and Parkwood Greens Executive Village was not as affluent a community as it is today. This was prior to the real estate boom that drove up land prices in the area. We were a small community then –  mostly middle class employees at the early stages of their professional careers. Ninety eight percent of the residents are Catholics.  Once a month on Sunday afternoons, a priest held masses at the clubhouse. But as subdivision population increased, the small clubhouse become a bit small for the increasing number of mass goers.

In 1996, an attempt to generate funds for a chapel was postponed to give way to another pressing project: solving the subdivision’s water supply problem by interconnecting its water lines with the MWSS.  Every household had to fork out a substantial sum of money to make push through with the interconnection.

In 1998, Fr Henry Ferreras, then parish priest of the San Antonio Abad Parish of Maybunga, Pasig encouraged the residents to revive the project. He also promised that if a chapel is built within the village, he will make sure that there will be weekly Sunday masses in that chapel. The subdivision’s officers, which I then headed as President, took the challenge squarely.

In the beginning, all we had was the determination and the desire to build a chapel. The village association has no extra funds in its coffers to bankroll the project.   But we were able to increase the collection efficiency of the association dues so that we had excess funds after payments of the maintenance, security and admin expenses. We used part of these savings as a seed fund for the project. We also embarked on a series of fund-raising activities: a Little Prince and Princess of Parkwood;  a souvenir program;  and, fund-raising dinners. During the Christmas season, we went house to house and sang christmas carols.   All these activities raised funds and became opportunities to expand the support-base for the project. Those who believed in the project not only contributed cash and/or construction materials but also their own personal time campaigning for support from residents and friends outside of the village.

It was a community effort. Somebody worked on getting a written approval from the subdivision developer to allocate a vacant lot for the structure. Another resident made the engineering design. Two other residents, supervised the project. Another resident acted as foreman for the construction group. Within 5 months from the start of the construction, the chapel infrastructure was finished. The structure was blessed and the first mass within the chapel was celebrated by a guest priest — Fr Rex Arminia. Weekly masses in the still unfinished chapel started immediately after.

It took us another year to complete the finishing stages of the chapel. Another resident adept at finishing stages of a construction work took over the supervision of this meticulous phase of the project.  Almost  every aspect of the finishing stages of the project was sponsored by either one family or a group of families: the pews, the floor tiles, the altar, the altar’s marble floors, the ceiling, the chandeliers. the belfry, the images, the sound system. The parish priest waived the parish’s share of the Sunday mass collections in the chapel to add funds for the project.

We could not ask for anything more. We started building, and the support and the contributions came

Our Lady of Remedies at the Parkwood Chapel

Finally, on November 18, 2001 — then Bishop Carino of the Archdiocese of Pasig consecrated the Our Lady of Remedies as the Patroness of a fully finished chapel,

Since then, the chapel has become an integral part of the community. Aside from the weekly Sunday masses, it is also a more convenient venue for the traditional Simbang Gabi and the Lenten activities. It is also used for recollections, retreats, Easter egg hunts,  and other activities of the various organizations of which some Parkwood residents are members. Occasionally, it is used for wakes of departed residents or their close relatives.

Last November 18. 2011, the village celebrated the 10th anniversary of the consecration of Our Lady of Remedies as the Patroness of the chapel. It was momentous occasion especially for those who were there when the chapel was nothing but a dream; and, who have worked to make that dream a reality. Moreover, it was an opportunity for the younger generations to understand how a structure has become a symbol of a community working together to fulfill a dream. To me, the most fulfilling part of the experience was when we got more than the majority of residents of the subdivision to take part and to take ownership of the project. I would not have trade that for one or two guys just giving me the whole sum we needed for the chapel project.

In closing., let me share with you a music video prepared to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the consecration of our chapel. (please click-through the video title below)

<A Decade of Faith and Community with our Lady>

And another one to show the feast day’s mass and procession (please click-through the video title below).

<Parkwood Fiesta 2011>

Let me end this post with excerpts from the homily delivered by Fr. Henry Ferreras during the Holy Mass on the feast day of Our Lady Of Remedies held at the chapel last November 18, 2011.

…… Walang saysay ang ating pananampalataya kung ito ay hindi nakaugat sa isang malalim na pagmamahal.. pagmamahal sa Diyos, pagmamahal sa Inang Maria….na ipinangalan natin sa chapel na ito … Our Lady of Remedies…

Today, as we come together in this chapel let us remember that this chapel… ay bunga.. bunga ng ating pag-ibig sa Diyos, bunga ng lahat nag ating pagkakayahan sa lahat ng pagsubok sa atin… at ito ay bunga ng ating malalim na panampalataya…

 

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Just for Today

Today, I will share with you a list I wrote in my notebook more than 25 years ago.

Its title is “Just For Today.”  I am not the original author of this list, but I don’t also know who is its original author. I may have copied it from some book, magazine or may have heard it from somebody. I may have liked it so much for me to put the contents into my trusty notebook.

Today as I read it again, I  noted that each line of the list gives strength and progress. I also realize that  I have tried to do most of what it says, everyday.

Here is the list.

This day I’ll do these thirteen (13) promises.”

  1. I will live through the next twelve hours and not try to tackle all of life’s problem at once.
  2. I will improve my mind
  3. I will learn something useful.
  4. I will learn something that requires effort, thought, and concentration.
  5. I will be agreeable,  I will look my best, speak in a well modulated voice, and be courteous and considerate.
  6. I will not find fault with friends, relatives or colleagues.
  7. I will not try to change or improve anyone but myself..
  8. I will have a program, I might not follow it exactly but I will have it.
  9. I will save myself from two enemies—hurry and indecision.
  10. I will do a good turn and keep it a secret,
  11. I will do two things I don’t want to do. Just for the exercise.
  12. I will believe in myself.
  13. I will give my best to the world and feel confident that the world will give its best to me.

-Just for Today

It may be difficult to do all the 13 items listed above within one day. Perhaps doing it a thing at a time will help, if only to get the ball rolling. But give it a try.  It is worth the effort.

 

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What if Pacquiao Loses Against Marquez?

Promo photo of the Pacquiao-Marquez Bout

So what do you think will happen if Pacquiao loses to Juan Manuel Marquez this Sunday? Can you imagine a scenario like that?

A must win bout for Pacquiao
We all want Manny Pacquiao must to win convincingly in this bout against Juan Manuel Marquez. This is their third bout and Marquez has never acknowledged his defeat against Pacquiao. In fact, Manny has every reason not to fight the Mexican. He has everything to lose; Marquez everything to gain. But then again the lure of the fight day pay-out may be too much. After all, it means another millions of dollars to Pacquiao’s bank account.

Marquez has a fighting chance
To be sure, Marquez has a fighting chance to win over Pacquiao. First of all, he has every motivation to beat Manny Pacquiao.  He felt he was screwed in their first two fights, and this should motivate him to do enough in the ring to convince the judges that he, not Pacquiao is the winner the third time around.

Second of all, Marquez has the hand speed, an exceptional counterpunching skill and use his jab effectively against his opponents. Coupled with his reach advantage, he has a formidable arsenal that may help him secure a win against Pacquiao.

Finally, there are distractions that come Manny Pacquiao’s way today. Negative news has surfaced about Manny’s troubles with some accountants:  that Manny Pacquiao has some tax troubles which these accountants fixed, that he did not pay for the services of these accountants; and that he borrowed money from these accountants but refused to pay them.

So, can you imagine what would happen if Pacquiao will lose this fight?

What if Pacquio Loses the fIght?
For one, he will surely get the ire of the hundreds of gambling aficionados who bet their moneys on him. Never mind if they have already raked in a couple of millions from winnings in his previous fights. Just like a fighting cock, a boxer is only as good as his last performance. Try to lose and these bettors will blame him for every possible reason that they can think of as the reason why he lost the fight.

He may no longer have as many hangers on to watch his post fight concerts and celebrations. The hangers will be gone immediately after the post fight conference.

When he comes back to the country, he may no longer have the usual parade around various cities in the metropolis alongside some politicians.  A lot of politicians will avoid him. Several of his fellow congressmen will not even bother to thank him for the free plane tickets and hotels rooms he gave them for free.

There may even be a danger that the Arm Forces will withdraw the promotion to Colonel which was recently granted to him. They will simply cite as reason the questions raised by some sectors about his qualification for the rank.

Media will have a heyday analyzing why he lost. They will look at his family life, the state of his finances, his possible troubles with the US IRS, cases filed against him by his previous accountants. He will turn his life upside down just trying to provide explanations on why he lacked concentration for the bout.

Then everybody will focus on his training habits. They will point out his failure to prepare hard for the fight.  His many distractions: his TV show, media interviews, and various personal appearances. They may even mention his ambition to run for higher positions in Philippine politics. Mind you even his dog will be scrutinized.

Everybody loves a winner. The loser will be left alone to lick his wounds. Manny Pacquiao cannot afford to lose.

 

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