Words by Wanggo Gallaga
Movies have gone a long way since its beginning from being silent and black and white. It has been almost a century of evolution for the motion pictures—the first kinetoscope film shown in public exhibition was in 1893 and produced by the Edison Manufacturing Company called The Blacksmith Scene—and so much has changed.
I was recently asked to talk about how social media has changed the landscape of filmmaking at Social Media Day last July. With directors Noel Escondo and Arvin Belarmino, who recently won an Urian for their short film Nakaw, we talked about how social media and technology has reshaped the film industry.
The Internet has changed the very fabric of making movies, of distributing it, and marketing it. When Nakaw was to screen at the Cannes festival, Escondo and Belarmino were able to attend through funds generated by a crowdfunding campaign online. Fans of the film and even people who just wanted more Filipinos to attend events were local movies get recognized donated money to help the filmmakers get to France. On my end, it was through Twitter that I ended up writing a short film with a Filipino director living in Doha, whom I have never met until now and we’re planning on working together on a second short film within the year.
Film is a collaborative process by many individuals with various skills and strengths and the internet has allowed creatives to work together online. They usually hear or see each other’s work through the Internet and one Facebook message can lead to a collaboration with a complete stranger.
“Coming up with new ideas are both easier and harder,” explains award winning director Eduardo Roy Jr. of Quick Change and Pamilya Ordinaryo. “Easier because you can google anything. You can do a lot of research online. But still, iba pa rin ang [there's nothing like] actual experience and going out there and meeting people and talking to them face to face. It's harder also because you can become overwhelmed if you don’t know how to sift information.” According to Roy, you can suffer from information overload and you need to be discerning to choose the best information that will lead you to something useful at that particular moment.
The Internet has also bridged the gap between creators and their audience. Roy says that this is a good thing. “Kase ang isang artist or ang isang filmmaker kelangan nya magkaroon ng tribe niya [A solitary artist of flimmaker needs to have his own tribe],” explains Roy. “Yung tribe na yun ay yung mga tao na sumusubaybay sa mga gawa niya. Yung work ko as a writer and director is reflection ng tribe na kinabibilangan ko. [It's his tribe that patronizes a filmmaker's works. My work as a writer and director is a reflection of the tribe I belong to.]”
Data driven creative process
Roy’s concept of the tribe is the rapport of a creator and his audience so that one understands the needs of the other. In a sense, it’s similar to what director Mark Meily has said at a recent talk in the College of St. Benilde School of Design and the Arts, “Paraphrasing an advertising adage, instead of making people want movies, let’s make movies people want.”
In the talk, Meily intends to utilize new technologies to create content that’s data driven. Explaining his thoughts, he answered on an e-mail interviewing saying, “The importance of having the data before we even produce content simply risks the gut-feel or “this-worked before,-it will work-again” thinking in production.”
“The truth is the audience now is no longer measured by demographics but psychographics,” he continues. “Where human behavior is a very important variable. Every content has to be data-driven. It is not to limit one’s creativity but rather compliment if not, validate your creativity.”
Technology, especially in the age of social media, has made it very clear and almost instantaneously what people want and how they feel about issues and things. What Meily suggests is to expand the creator’s role as someone who just puts out something into the world but to also be cognizant of the language that is needed to deliver your message that is also aligned with what the audience wants and needs to see. Taking this a step further, creators can no longer create in a bubble. If they want to be effective and even successful, technology and social media has made it possible to address the audiences directly.
“The objective now is no longer to produce a film and find as many audience to watch this,” Meily explains. “It should be to find as many content to satisfy a specific audience.”
Story remains the same
Technology continues to evolve that equipment has become cheaper and even where we view films have changed. Roy discusses how movies used to be made and they would shoot using film stock. “Ang lalaki ng equipment ng mga camera at mga ilaw at bago mo makita yung eksena na shinoot mo mag-aantay ka ng ilang days, or even weeks pa nga kung sa probinsya ka nagshoot, para ma-process muna ang film. Analog kase yun. So you can’t see the rushes. Kung may mali, mag-aantay ka ng ilang buwan para mai-reshoot yung eksena at panibagong set ng film stock yun. [Camera and light equipment were once bulky and heavy. It took days, even weeks of waiting to process the film and see see the rushes,]” he narrates.
“But it doesn’t mean na mas mura ang equipment at mas convenient, mas madali na lahat, [But it doesn't mean that the equipment is more affordable or everything is easier,]” he clarifies, adding, “Of course, you still have to come up with a good concept and write a compelling story.”
But even that has changed with the advent of YouTube and streaming. People want shorter content now because they watch shows on their phones while stuck in traffic. Filmmaking techniques have had to adjust to smaller screens—meaning less long shots and more close-ups.
“Web series is the not just the future, it is the present,” explains Meily. “I’ve often asked film students, what was the last film you saw that is not Disney or Marvel, and many can not even remember when was the last time they went to the cinemas. I asked them what their favorite TV shows are that they actually watched on TV, and they too can not remember when was the last time they watched something on TV. All of them however, remember watching a series or two online as late as a few hours ago. The reality is that a big part of the audience in the Philippines, prefer watching content online.”
Despite changes in the medium and circumstances that viewers consume cinema, the availability of data with which filmmakers have to consider, the timeless principles of storytelling remain the same.