Pinoy Film History...

Recently I watched a documentary called "Machete Maidens Unleashed"...believe it or not, I am recommending watching something with this title (of course on Netflix). IMO I think anyone interested in the improvement of the Pinoy film industry must look first to its history, or part of it, and watch this.

The documentary is told from the view of everyone interviewed. No narrator, strictly from the mouth of those who were part of this or knew of this.  People like Joe Dante, John Landis,  Sid Haig, Eddie Romero, Eddie Garcia, Cirio Santiago, Patrick Wayne, John Ashley, Gerardo De Leon, Jonathan Demme, Allan Arkush, Pam Grier, Kate Kennedy, and Roger Corman.

You see, alot of what Quentin Tarentino calls Grindhouse was made in the Philippines in the 70's and 80's. It was the Marcos period so you could use the Philippine army for cheap, and the beginning of Imelda's Manila filmfest, and we were one of the only eastern country's that not only was friendly to the US (at the time) but we spoke English. Corman states that one of these movies cost him $100,000 and he made 4 million at the box office, pretty good.

Now why is this interesting to me? I've spent alot of time in Manila now and have gotten to know alot of professionals there and have always been puzzled why our Showbiz industry seems incapable of making powerful movies. Especially since the early 70's gave us serious social commentary directors like Lino Brocka. I also know from my college years in Fine Arts in Manila there were lots and lots of idealism and energy going around.

So how did we go from that to this? Let me make it clear for the trolls on the net I am not a basher, I am very hopeful for the future of film in Manila because of the new directors, but we still have a long way to go. And one way to make sure it is a rosey future, is to analyze what made it what it is today.

When I was in Manila and asked why? I always got the same answers. The masses only want simple movies...so why do 'complicated' foriegn movies make so much money?

Why do other comparable countries like India and Mexico not only make great movies but movies that make money internationally? Do we not have thoughtful observant directors and actors? In my college years in Manila, everyday,  I had the most philosophical conversations contemplating my navel than I've had here in the States.

So why don't we make serious films about the realities of life in the Philippines of a high standard? Why do we make up scenes and plots as we shoot? Why don't we hunt down and entice the best of writers and directors? Why do we have shooting schedules that last only a few weeks? Why does the Pinoy viewing public get the impression that almost all of our films are rehashed movies that went before or outright copies of foreign movies? Why?

This documentary doesn't tell the whole story but seems to illuminate alot of what we see today.

Roger Corman was starting "New World Pictures" and as is his history he made films that were cheap, quick and only gave in to our deepest guilty pleasures. So, he went to the Philippines. And for a decade made cheap B-movies for the US market.

Movies that had 10 days to two week shooting schedules where most of what was shot was made up on the spot as they shot. Plot sessions that appear to have happened in only one meeting, primarily based upon what do audiences want..."T and A" and violence...and how can we be more sensational and what gimmicks can we come up with.

Sound familiar......?

Now, my understanding from this documentary, is this kind of movie making and Corman's outfit spending something like $100,000 per film, in an economy where if i remember right, every dollar gets you 25 pesos. That's alot of money pumping into the Philippines for a full decade.

Oh, and this all culminated in the multi year production of "Apocalypse Now". The first and only major Hollywood film made in the Philippines...

Now, I wasn't there at the time and am only relying on this documentary and what known names in the docu said on film (especially interesting are what the Pinoy directors say), so I look at this post as my reactions to this information and a starting point for discussions on this topic and for the beginning of my own research into this topic.

That said, if this is all true, I wonder how many local producers made alot of money then and what lasting effects this had on our industry?

Because from my point of view, it seems to make alot of sense and it seems to explain alot of why things are the way they are today.

So please watch this documentary "Machete Maidens Unleashed" (oh btw don't let your kids watch this, it is littered with scenes from those movies with lots of violence and T and A) and I would be interested in your opinions and if anyone knows what it was like back then please reveal....Whilce....


Pinoy Pride Growing around the World...

I just recently shared on my Facebook a shakey phone cam video of the Eraserheads going on stage doing a massive concert. You see a huge crowd of Pinoy's paying to see this pinoy band. Interesting thing is this concert just happened in Dubai.

The thought hit me, more and more we are seeing the growth of Pinoy economic power around the world and it is manifesting itself more and more in supporting Pinoy creativity/skills around the world. It wants to support pinoys. Witness the fervour whenever Manny Pacquiao fights in Las Vegas. Look at the growing number of pinoy Indie films not only showing but winning in film festivals every year now. Look at the popularity of a new generation of extremely talented pinoy comicbook artist. Understand that there are so many pinoy professional artist in Pixar, that they call themselves "Pixnoys". My parents went on vacation to Egypt the other year and were treated like VIP's because one of their friends son's had a high position in the Embassey there.

As pinoys proliferate and prosper around the world, they are more and more wanting to maintain a sense of who they are...Pilipino's. They are more and more hungry to identify themselves as from the Philippines.

If I were a filmmaker (a dream I had before I became a comicbook creator) I would capture and record this growing phenomenon for prosperity. For our history, especially since so little of it is recorded in any form.

I would follow a Pinoy success story (like a singer/band) as they do what they do in Manila and then to the provinces and then internationally. In every locale I would setup meetings with other local pinoy success stories and interview them on this growing pride. In all these countries i would find Pinoy city/government officials, local pinoy press, bloggers, reporters, business owners, professionals of all fields. Show the proliferation of Seafood City pinoy supermarkets with Chowking, Red Ribbon bakeries, Jollibee's franchises around America. Show what high positions pinoy's have in other countries.

I would time events together to coincide with film festivals showing pinoy films, with other musical pinoy shows, with sports events, with comic conventions. All in an effort to concretely show that pinoys are a major part of any country today and that as they work hard for their families back home in the Philippines, they yearn for a piece of home.

I think this is something that audiences back in Manila need to see...to see what real effect Pinoy pride/skills/creativity/power is now having around the world.

It would also be my sly way of showing, look at all this pinoy skill/power making lots of money for other countries, imagine what we could all do back home given even half a chance...oh well, I can dream can't I....Whilce...


La Visa Loca

Again, thanx to Netflix I was able to watch the Tony Gloria production of a Mark Meily film " La Visa Local".

I have to admit that because of the hype around the movie and its stated topic I initially thought it was the usual "kenkoy" comedy. Which unfortunately thru the years has now come to mean a hastily put together comedy movie of old jokes and stereotypes. Mark Meily knows, as he has already shown in "Crying Ladies", exactly what Philippine society is really like. In this sense I place him as one of our current creative assets which should be allowed to make any movie he chooses, but I am not a dictator.

The movie centers around Robin Padilla as a driver trying to get a US visa to migrate to the United States. This is someone all Pilipino's know. What was so surprising for me was that the actual bare bones of the screenplay didn't have anything new in it on this subject. Like I said every Pilipino knows this character, but the way Meily stages, and tells this story is so picture perfect I couldn't pause the movie even tho' it was late at night, I had to finish this movie.

For me one of the rare joys in life is to experience a piece of creative endeavour and totally believe the characters and situations and locations I am watching. There is so much that Meily could have sensationalized in this film but he didn't. He nobly chose to take the realistic route, he chose to stay honest to the characters he created. As a small example, Rufa Mae Quinto is a beautiful, well endowed actress, and in this film she is cast as a carnival freakshow mermaid. Her character reminds Padilla's character of the good things in the Philippines and therefore she is neither scandalous or revealing in a sexual way. She is just a sweet character trying to get by in a society that doesn't give many chances to people in her social class. Meily never gives in to base emotions and stereotypes, he always goes for the real truth and the seemingly nonchalant way Pinoy accept that truth and go on with life. This is made crystal clear in the scene where Padilla's father reveals a truth about their family, this truth make it plain why their family is in the situation it is in and why dad is the way he is today. Now it is not revealed in a sensationalistic way, it is almost calmly stated but it has massive ramifications for the rest of the story. It is done in a pinoy way...

That is what I loved most about this movie, every second of it pores out an honest mirror of the Pilipino condition and life as it is, neither dressed up to be made more palateable nor done in amanner to be looked down upon...it just is the way it is because it is...that is the Pinoy way, acceptence, enjoy life as it comes for what it is...Whilce....


Netflix trickling in pinoy movies...

Because of Netflix and their influx of old and new pinoy made movies, I have thankfully been able to revise my outlook on pinoy movies...for the good.

With the advent of new young film-makers and Tony Gloria's Unitel having the courage to produce these movies, the future for pinoy films might be a bright one...

I have watched both "Crying ladies" with Sharon Cuneta and "Blackout" with Robin Padilla, and i have cued "Magdalena" with Angelica Panganiban...all curently showing on Netflix. As an added bonus, Netflix is also showing vintage Lino Brocka movies...must watch movies...

What all these bold movies have in common is they are about pinoys being pinoy.

Which for pinoy movies is a novelty. Alot of our movies try to mimic other films or are just downright bad. Bad because they are not well thoughtout or planned. I have been told alot of movies shoot with no real working screenplays, and are just made up on the spot. Too bad because anyone who spends even a little time in Manila can see there are millions of interesting stories to tell...

"Crying ladies" especially, is a movie filled with characters every pinoy is familiar with. I caught myself saying again and again I know someone just like the Cuneta character. I tip my hat to director Mark Meily for his observant eye in bringing this brilliant screenplay to life.  It reminds the viewer that Manila is not the cleanest most organized city in the world, but boy is it filled with human characters that you are interested in. The whole cast in this movie leaves you with the feeling they really are characters that live and grow with each other in real life. Which is the Philippines best asset...its people...

"Blackout" on the other hand is the dark side if Manila. It is a story about a man on his own trying to cope with an event he doesn't want to cope with. It shows us an extreme sample of what darkness can befall any of us. Which is why the casting of Robin Padilla in this role is brilliant. The director, Ato Bautista opts to go against  casting and place a handsome action star in a meek, confused, weak character. Thruout the movie you expect, like in lots of Robin's movies for him to suddenly get up and solve his problems. Instead Ato breaks his lead character and chooses to give us a more realistic character, a character we can all identify with.

Another added plus for this movie is the moody cinematography of Lyle Sacris and the real-time slow paced editing which allows us to fully feel the characters thoughts and consequences. Very refreshing to see a pinoy director not afraid to take his time and let a scene breathe. I warn you tho' it is not a cheery movie at all, but it is purely pinoy.

For me movies must be a slice of what life really is like, or what the main character feels life should be like...so, for me, truth is the main power behind a good film.

I have seen the trailers for "Tik tik Chronicles" and "OJT" and am even more hopeful that we will soon see a pinoy movie hit the international big screen. For that to happen local Manila producers must take chances on letting new and seasoned talent follow their creative instincts and especially give them the time and space to really plan and thinkout their screenplays...then one day, one day the world will get a cinematic taste of what life is really like in our beloved Pinas....

I am just a person who loves film and the Philippines, I welcome people guiding me to other films already in the can or still in production...I will give my honest opinion good or bad in an effort to keep the craft going forward....Whilce...

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Digging thru old sketchbooks

Going thru old sketches can lead to inspiration. I recently scanned a lot of old marker high contrast drawings I did years ago. I think this was the period of my run on Batman Confidential, because there were some Batman sketches. I cannot remember why I never used thIs style on the book. It's a style as moody, if not moreso than my old Wetworks style, but is quicker and easier to do, being that all the magic happens on the fly since I go straight to ink from layouts, no tight pencils. I'm itching to find a project to use this style in now...
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James Bingham

The illustrations of James Bingham are an inspiration to me. Specifically his technique of using colored paper with shading and white highlights within the target zone of the image. His subtle use of white in various degrees make up for the overall simple color. I also love how he uses the white as a directional to focus the viewers eye towards the important parts of the image.

I am trying to translate this to my commission style with markers because this is a very smooth style that once mastered can be done fairly quickly. Perfect for conventions. I've always been looking for a style that can convey a lot of light logic but can be achieved quickly. I love rendering, and to be able to do it within the hustle of a crowded convention hall is a great skill to achieve.
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Markers continued...

Just tried some small quick test on colored paper. Not too happy. I used a white acrylic pencil. The white was too broad (rough) and not very controllable. I think I need to find a chalk pencil and smoother paper.
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Marker Experiments

This last convention at Phoenix I decided to give another stab at using markers for commissions. Something my wife has been asking me to do for some time now. I've been putting it off because I wasn't happy with my process. Either, I would put in too much detail, defeating the purpose of a commission, that you cam do it quickly or I wouldn't have the the image go to black or white enough. Now I will try to resolve my issues.

After spending the weekend doing commissions with markers in Phoenix I have come to enjoy the technique as I've figured it out so far. One reason is I stumbled upon what I call forced dry brushing. A technique where you"throw" the marker at the end of the stroke. Meaning you purposely and quickly pick up the marker off the page as you finish your stroke. This allows for happy brush like accidents, and gives you a fade off kind of an effect. Allowing for adding simple gradations of grey. This facilitates modeling with markers. This also gives you an overall brush look.

What's also fun about this is you can get interpretive strokes with it. So you can get a lot of expression in abstract types of backgrounds. Useful for adding energy glows and energy blasts. You must be careful, but this also helps you to decide on certain paths to follow in your work. I find when I am undecided on what to do next in a commission, I can take the broad tipped marker and throw a general broad stroke and use that stroke to dictate or suggest what to do next. This is important because it gives spontaneous energy to the piece and potentially gives you many variations on your work.

Because of this I am very happy with modeling with markers, I am now very comfortable shading with markers. Where I need work is the highlight area. I think I can occasionally hit the highlight correctly. But because this is a technique where you must "leave out" white of the paper for a highlight, creating highlight areas is not a natural process and requires a lot of forethought. I like shaping the highlights as I like shading.

Rafael Kayanan recently tweeted a tribute to James Bingham. He mastered a technique where I can take how I model with markers onto colored paper, instead of plain white paper, and then come in and work with maybe a white pencil and workout the highlight areas. By starting with colored paper I am from the beginning eliminating all white. I can then go in with a white pencil and control all of the white of the image. I'm thinking of using a white pencil because of the control I can exert with it, also this allows for quick execution. In the next few days I'll post my test.

The other side is going to black within the image. So far in my expedients I've been able to go to W7. That is, warm grey number 7 with Copic markers. W7 is dark but not exactly black. Going all the way to 100 black seems too many steps to take. Too much work. This is one thing I like about oil painting. Using burnt sienna and burnt umber is dark enough and allows you to actually go all the way to black whenever you want for effect.

So after I figure out the white thing, I will attack the black problem. I want to eventually be able to do blacks with thrown in highlights within the blacks like in a Frazetta painting.
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Sneak peek at my new Uncanny work. First issue in March is Uncanny # 522 then I comeback for a story arc starting with # 526...


End of Innocence-color sheet

End of Innocence-layout

Here's a piece I just started called "End of Innocence". I 'm really getting into liking the quickness of this process. I have some Spawn work today so will try to finish this piece in stages...

Sketched and shaded in Sketchbook Pro then background and effects in Photoshop. About a three hour job. Trying to get into the habit of sketching something everyday as warm up to actually doing work.


Unfinished digital piece I started this last Sunday. I started a couple of digital paintings this last Saturday.

Recent line sketches

These are random subject line sketches all done June 27-29. Various mediums. Some traditional pencils, most done in Sketchbook Pro then roughly painted in Photoshop. Had some off time from comics so wanted to play around doing random designs. Just trying to show various styles and approaches I take.

Comic book digital painting

These are samples of my experiments in digital painting over the years thru out my comic book career. I've always been interested in the digital medium. Some of this was done on a Sony Vaio Wacom PC, the rest done on a tablet PC. I currently go almost nowhere without my 14 inch widescreen tablet PC to draw whenever in the mood. Photoshop, Painter and Sketchbook Pro. . .