MANILA—What started out as a creative outlet to keep busy amid the pandemic became a full-blown digital venture for film director Crisanto Aquino with his project called “Connect: A Lockdown Anthology.”
The “Write About Love” director and assistant director on “Heneral Luna” and “Goyo” brought on board fellow alumni of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines’ theater group Sining Lahi Polyrepertory for the project.
“To be honest, nu’ng una gusto ko lang may gawin kasi nga since March wala ako work so I need to keep busy, siguro para iwas anxiety. Pero I realized as a filmmaker I can also use this medium to inspire people to create, to entertain them also in these desperate times,” Aquino said.
Aquino said “Connect” came about with help of his friends in the theater and movie industries.
“All the episodes ako talaga nag-create. Naisip ko word na connect kasi lahat ng episodes ay nag-uusap through video call so they connect to each other. Saka in this pandemic, we really can’t connect physically with our friends and loved ones na malayo sa atin. Somehow this is the best time for us to connect, kahit virtually,” Aquino said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.
“Connect’ is composed of four stories: “Talk” (romance), “Saying Goodbye” (family drama), “Hello, Mars!” (horror-comedy), and “Kups” (Boy Love), which has 3 episodes.
Aquino said he first completed the story “Kups” in May but decided to hold its release as he thought of other stories to balance it with for his audience.
“That time nasulat ko na ang ‘Talk’ at ‘Saying Goodbye’. I wrote another one, which is ‘Hello, Mars’ para may horror. Mga July ko naisip na pagsamahin sila lahat sa isang anthology,” he said.
Each episode runs from 8 to 12 minutes and were all recorded via Zoom.
“Sobrang hirap mag-shoot sa Zoom,” he said.
Directing proved to be difficult with the slow internet connectivity playing a factor. His crew also dealt with the low camera quality of devices used by some actors.
Aquino said it usually takes them 3 to 4 days to shoot an episode.
But the biggest challenge for him was editing the Zoom conversations. With only boxes of videos, Aquino said he needed to recreate an interesting background and layout.
He finished with the help of his friends in the industry, such as Jerrold Tarog, Vanessa De Leon, Benjamin Tolentino and Julius Alfonso.
“Jerrold suggested an editing software. Vanessa taught me how to cut some clips effectively. Ben commented on some offbeat cut and titles, and Julius commented more on the acting of the actors,” he said.
Two original songs were also created for his project. “Mahal Kasi Kita” for “Kups” was performed by Mike Villamor. Aquino wrote the lyrics and said that his friend Bus Kee put the melody on it. “Ikaw lang ang Mamahalin” for “Talk” was composed and performed by Bus Kee.
The first story was released online via Sining Lahi Polyrepertory Alumni Association Facebook page on August 14.
The teaser for the last story, “Kups”, was released Saturday, Aquino said.
While many eagerly wait for the new normal, filmmakers such as Aquino will have to adapt.
“The streaming platform opens so many opportunities sa mga tao para magkaroon ng work and to create something beautiful and that is not bad,” he said.
He added that the debate about digital platforms killing traditional cinema has been going on even before the pandemic.
“In the absence of cinema, siya ang nagsalba sa maraming tao para may panoorin, para may trabaho etc. Babalik ang cinema, of course. Iba pa rin ang experience sa big screen pero I think digital platform will always be here na as part of the industry,” he said.