Want to do movies? Directors Gino Santos, Carl Chavez teach you how

The two filmmakers share what it takes to make good films during a masterclass for aspiring filmmakers

Precious del Valle

Published: 7:12 PM July 20, 2018

Updated: 7:12 PM July 20, 2018

FILM MAKING 101. Gino Santos and Carl Chavez share their knowledge on film-making with a panel of young people sponsored by AXE. All photos by Precious del Valle/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Filmmakers Gino Santos and Carl Chavez know a thing or two about making movies. Still young enough to be part of the millennial crowd, both in their 20s, Gino and Carl already have quite an impressive resume.

Gino directed blockbuster hits Ex With Benefits, Love Me Tomorrow, and Sin Island, while Carl won best screenplay at last year’s Metro Manila Film Festival for All Of You and best short film award at the C1 Originals for Sorry for the Inconvenience.

Brimming with optimism about the future of Philippine cinema, Gino and Carl sat down with aspiring filmmakers at Beyond Cinema – the 4th and final leg in a series of masterclasses held by Axe as part of their Project You campaign – to give aspiring directors a glimpse of what goes on behind and beyond the cameras.

Want to be a director, producer, or scriptwriter? Here are a few tips from the pros:

Be original.

You want your movies to sell but that doesn’t equate to being a sell-out. If you’re tired of seeing the same romantic comedy and mistress films in cinemas, chances are, others feel the same way. Produce the type of films you yourself will pay to see.

“Make sure it’s not copied from something else or you’re pressured to do it 'cause this director did it. Make sure its something you want to show [your audience],” Gino explained.

“Don’t be too technical about it. At the end of the day, do something na gusto mo talagang gawin (that you really want to do). Do something that’s you. Don’t do things just because they are in right now,” Carl added.

ORIGINALITY. Gino Santos says originality is a must in pursuing a story for film.

Value your reputation. As a director, you are the captain of the ship. Bad acting, inconsistent storytelling, poor cinematography – these may not exactly be the director’s fault alone, but he will definitely take the heat for it. Gino’s advice? Compromise but don’t settle for “puwede na.” (that's fine)

“Always remember that your films, name mo nakasalalay diyan (your name is at stake). You have to take care of your name. Think about what’s right for the project and never give in that you think that it’s not you anymore. It’s important to know that you are the captain of the ship and you are the name of the film,” he said.

Don’t take criticisms to heart

Nowadays, everyone’s a movie critic. It only takes one tweet to make or break a film. As good or bad as social media may be, Gino and Carl believe that getting bashers both online and offline is “part of the job.” Rather than take this as a personal attack, use what you learned to help you improve.

It’s okay to feel lost

It’s a cut-throat industry. Everyone’s eager to prove that he or she is the next big thing. But when the opportunity finally comes knocking, some young directors get crippled by fear and self-doubt. For Gino, what worked is the simple, “Fake it till you make it” attitude.

Ang dami-daming tao! (There were so many people!) I had to pretend I knew what I was doing,” he said, looking back at his first mainstream project.

“When you’re on set, people are waiting for you to give instructions to make big decisions. Sasabihin ko, ‘Gawin mo 'to, gawin mo 'yan’ pero (I would say, 'Do this and do that but) deep inside I didn’t really know what I was doing! I only learned along the way. Good thing I have different people helping me.”

Think of your art as business

Short films don’t get as much hype as full length ones. However, for Carl, short films are actually a good way to turn your passion into a viable business. For instance, Carl said you can sell your work as a video installation or video projection in public places.

“It’s not just meant to be on screen. You have to think of creative ways of how to show it. Film is not just an art form. It’s art and business. Short films are the most expensive CVs, resume, portfolio – you have to spend a lot. It’s the most expensive business card. But it helps you discover your own unique way of storytelling. Through short films nae-exercise mo anong klase kang director, anong klase kang filmmaker (you get to exercise the type of director you are, the type of filmmaker you will be). What do you want to do, who you want to be,” Carl explained.

BUSINESS. Carl Chavez says film is not just art but also a business to think about.

Gino and Carl are proud to say that they both worked their way up. Starting as production assistants, they did everything from buying cigarettes to carrying props to making sure celebrities show up on time.

“I think that is the most important thing – work your way up. You really have to swallow your pride. It really is work and it’s a learning experience. You can’t really get into filmmaking and be a director right away. You have to do the process correctly you have to experience everything,” Gino explained.

“If you love what you’re doing, it’s not work. If you’re passionate about it, kahit anong iutos sa’yo, gagawin mo(no matter what you're commanded to do, you'll do it),” Carl added.

Stay hungry

Lastly, Gino and Carl stressed the importance of staying inspired. Whether by watching movies or listening to music, you have to keep your creative juices flowing. Do everything to make sure you don’t lose that spark.  

“Stay hungry. Don’t be complacent about being mediocre. Be hungry for new learnings,” Carl said. – Rappler.com