Tag Archives: Peter Amores

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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