|Mirana in front of Moviola machine displayed at the UP Film Center|
MM: Betrayal of trust, more than piracy, is most depressing and deplorable. An example is the case of Tiga-Isla, my first documentary. This film is until now being marketed online by an Australian married to a Filipina. He was supposed to be my “economic partner” and a distributor. (As of this writing, it is still on sale for $25 online under its PX section: http://503prct.org/px/px_islanders.html). Well, indeed he was quite an efficient distributor as he had started distributing and marketing copies of Tiga-Isla without my knowledge. In the agreement that he prepared, I signed it trusting it would be mutually beneficial. But after I consulted a lawyer-friend, I learned of my blunder. I signed the agreement ignorant about accounting clauses, contract closures, and other legal matters. The agreement favored him.
Trust, respect in him, and the belief that he was a true gentleman made me stupidly sign the deal. He must have capitalized on that piece of paper and the fact that I can’t go to Australia to sue him knowing that I do not have the means. I first discovered he was marketing my film when I took a Balikbayan relative on a tour to Corregidor. At the Corregidor Inn, I saw copies of Tiga-Isla displayed and being sold at their shop. I was fuming with anger, and distressed. I gave a copy to that Australian webmaster as a token of my gratitude for the help he had extended to me when I was working on the film. With that copy, he was able to reproduce more copies. He completely disregarded my demand to revise the contract. He proceeded with his plan to market my film. I filed a complaint to the manager of the hotel in Manila. They stopped selling the his DVDs. Not to be outsmarted, the Australian resorted to selling Tiga-Isla online. He is by the way an attorney, and he told me, he knew how the Philippine legal system works. It is dysfunctional. So he has been enjoying the fruit of my labor for years now.
Nevertheless, I have been looking at the positive side of it—the popularization of old prewar Corregidor, its socio-cultural history, and my family roots through my film. Not a bad thing! Fortunately, he did not change my name on the film!!! Incidentally, three weeks ago, Suncruises contacted me if I would like to sell the film in Corregidor. It is high time to do it, I thought. I need to raise more funds for my on going project on Rizal. So, yes, why not? And at a cheaper price definitely! Half that Australian’s online tag price probably. I’m hoping that one day we will have proper e-laws that can really protect artists’ intellectual properties.
Equally, there is the feeling of being paralyzed, of being disabled, of not being able to move that has always put me into sort of depression when it comes to making films of my own. The main cause is budget—the most common of all indie filmmaker’s problems. Whether one is making a big budgeted film or a tightly budgeted advocacy film, budget is of prime importance and consideration; it is the jumpstart in any production. Ideas may be there, content may be great, and for as long as passion to make one is sustained, productivity is assured. However, it is a reality that without enough budget we can’t buy or rent a camera, get the materials that we need, hire production staff, and can’t maintain the production operation. In fact, despite the grant that NCCA provided me to make the said Project Rizal, I still need to raise additional funds to maintain the production operation so as to finish the film. Filmmaking is never a one-man’s or woman’s job. It relies, especially now, on technological facilities and equipment, and more importantly, on other creative workers. Film, after all, is a product of collaborative efforts. But although I know that the approved budget was insufficient, I just grabbed the opportunity and proceeded, confident that just like my other films, it will be finished. Sources and opportunities will come my way to help me toward materialization of the film project. I believe that I am guided. Nonetheless, overcoming hurdles along the way, and being able to finish a worthwhile film always give me the magical feelings of immeasurable joy, indescribable triumph, inner satisfaction, and above all, a sense of fulfillment. Psychic rewards, they call it. They always come in abstract form. Because what they call return of investment in the form of monetary gain is not always there. What can you expect from a no-star film? Anyhow, the film, whether small or big budgeted, in whatever format it is presented, is immaterial. It is content that matters. But it will still highly depend on the filmmaker’s aim and the producer’s dictates, or taste. My aim is to advocate for a cause; others, to entertain; the majority to make profit-oriented commercial films, or maybe just to express oneself. Goals vary. But the ups and downs in making films are not that different I believe. It is only heavily more felt when one is independently making it.
VN: Any plans of doing FSL projects with, say, National Artists?
MM: I haven’t thought of it. Of the National Artists, what I have in mind is to work on preserving the voice of Manuel Conde that I recorded on tape. I could make something —a short docu, perhaps. I did an interview with him when I was a Humanities student in Philippine Cinematic Arts Class of Ms. Virgie Moreno. I used an ordinary cassette tape and the ambient noise was there. That’s the problem. But I am planning to have the sound enhanced digitally. The interview, actually, was just a chat, an interesting chat about Juan Tamad Goes to Congress. But it has got political relevance until now. It is in my list of THINGS TO DO. Luckily, the taped voice was spared from the fire that razed down our house in 1998. I recently luckily found it among the collection of my brother. What I irretrievably lost were my interviews with pioneer silent movie producer and actor Vicente Salumbides, first Filipina actress and now National Artist Honorata “Ka Atang” de la Rama, and silent movie actor Alejandro Celis who starred in the films Mary I Love You and Fate or Consequence by Salumbides in the early 20s.
MM: I get my support just by praying to God to keep my passion alive; I always pray I’d be able to sustain or carry on with what I’m doing and what I want to do. But as to where I get my support, well, they come in two forms—moral and financial. Moral support comes from immediate family members, close friends and relatives. Financial support comes from government institution grants, like the NCCA from enabling friends who believe in what I am doing; from extra jobs that I take; and from the shares that I get from the periodic showings of my earlier docus in partnership with NGOs or student organizations. But in large part, it is the inner push, motivation and passion that I mentioned earlier. It is the passion to advocate for a cause that propels and supports my spirit to move toward concretization of my ideas in film form—with the end view of primarily sharing them with the Filipino people and students in general, and to the film’s direct beneficiaries or audiences.
MM: I want to continue with my docu on the Cerebral-Palsied, which just like my other advocacy films is taking months and years to finish. When done, I will work on other sped subjects as ADHD, Global Developmental Delay, Dyslexia, Down Syndrome (not necessarily in that order), etc. Currently however, in between work on Project Rizal, I am also involved in the remaking of Asiong Salonga. Tikoy Aguiluz is directing this film. It is now being filmed in Pagsanjan, Laguna. I went there twice. As in Tikoy’s earlier films, I am again a member of the creative team. I joined Rey Ventura who came all the way from Japan to write the additional scenes and dialogues lacking in the script of Roy Iglesias. We had brainstorming sessions. I prepared the third timeline-based on the combined scripts of the two writers with Tikoy’s additional story inputs. I’m also doing the thumbnail storyboard studies of some sequences, and will be editing the film soon. Asiong Salonga will be an entry to the Metro Manila Film Festival. In Pagsanjan, Rey and I happened to have idle, later interesting talk about the comfort women in the Philippines. He said he has footage taken more than 10 years ago when the issue was very hot, and Lola Rosa Henson was still alive. We excitedly closed a deal to work together on making a documentary—an oral history of comfort women as exemplified by the story of Lola Rosa. Other than that, I also want to work on a docu on Yawyan, said to be an indigenous martial arts form. I already have some footage of my interview with the old and ailing Master Nap Fernandez. My brother, Isagani R. Medina, influenced me heavily with regards to my choices or interests in things that are indigenous or Filipiniana. And, of course, The Blind Architect.
MM: Having found my “mission” and my real interests, I will, as I’ve said earlier, continue to make films as long as my passion for filmmaking burns, and until my health permits me to do so. Advocacy filmmaking in particular added and gave much more meaning to my life.
VN: Aside from filmmaking, what are the things you dream of finishing?
MM: It is my dream to finish the setting up of the Isagani R. Medina Library & Museum at the Metro Manila College in Novaliches. I started it last year by transferring to Nova all my brother’s books and manuscripts that I kept in Imus, Cavite. I also moved out and transferred his memorabilias that found refuge at the Aguinaldo Shrine in 1998 after we lost our house in the fire. They were luckily not kept in the house of our parents.
We plan to open the library to the public once it is ready. I finally decided to have Metro Manila College, where the so-called Katipunan Centennial Tree is preserved, to become the repository of his collections because I can have easy access to his books and manuscripts. It is something that I won’t have the privilege of enjoying it if I gave them to other institutions. It’s because Dr. Mamerto S. Miranda, school’s founder and first president was our brother-in-law. Most importantly, our eldest sister, Dr. Ligaya M. Miranda who served as the school’s second president until she passed away in 2008 left, in her will, that a room be allotted for my brother’s library to serve the needs for Filipiniana books and materials, not only of their students but of anyone interested in them.
I dream the library serving the needs of researchers and students. I do not want his collection to be rotting and being eaten away by termites and cockroaches in our house. It is my fervent hope that the Filipiniana books in the library will help inspire many diligent students when presented with more reading options. Far from the National Library, students not only from Novaliches but from the nearby areas as Fairview, Lagro, Caloocan and Bulacan will have better access to Filipiniana book materials. This library is the only family legacy we can leave behind to share with other people.
The other thing that I would like to do is to look for a publisher who would be interested to publish the fifth and last volume of Mga Ani ni Gani Series, a collection of my brother’s important researches and writings, which I started compiling and publishing in 2002. Publishing that last volume would be the fulfillment of the promise I made to him before he died in 2004.