As a writer and aspiring filmmaker, 18-year old Ariana Yang has a long list of ideas for when she's ready to create the movies she wants. However, a topic she never thought of writing a story on was what exactly pushed her to produce her very first short film, The Interview, which ended up grabbing multiple awards at the Cinemorayta Film Festival held by her school, Far Eastern University Manila High School, last 2021.
Renzo, the short film's main protagonist, has experienced the worst of luck and circumstances in his life. After losing a job and getting rejected by the next possible one, he was called to an unexpected interview with an unusual woman. She seems to know about his personal life, despite Renzo never meeting her before. As the interview goes on, Renzo soon suspects that the woman isn't like who she seems to be.
The Film Dream invited Ariana for our own virtual interview, where we talked about the journey of her and the team behind The Interview.
Ariana was in Grade 12 studying HUMSS last year when she saw that their school was opening an online film festival, Cinemorayta, for senior high students. Suddenly feeling a burst of inspiration, she first approached a friend and fellow writer, Andrea Ferrer, with talk of joining the competition. They shared a specific idea for the festival’s theme, “HOPE: Camera, Lights On! Hopes Up!”
They then asked their research group mates to join, as the two actually had no idea with the other aspects of production. “We were only writers at that time and hindi kami marunong mag-edit. We have no experience in directing or production management,” Ariana explained.
To her surprise and amazement, they were quick to jump aboard. When asked if everyone had their own filmmaking aspirations, Ariana was honest to respond, “I wanted to pursue film, while they wanted to pursue broadcasting and journalism.” She convinced them that with creating the film, they’ll also be producing their final project for their immersion.
Despite having interests in different areas, the group - the production team was formed with almost complete roles. Ariana introduced them as:
“Angelica Sanchez, she's our Promotional Manager and also one of the actresses in our film.” She initially didn’t expect her to be as involved, knowing her to not really watch a lot of movies. “But she's really organized, along with Katherine Eusebio. They both do our publication materials.”
“My Assistant Director Kyle Cabarrubias and si Andrea Ferrer, yung Assistant Writer ko. Sila rin talaga yung nagbigay ng life and proper criticism doon sa short film,” Ariana continued, believing that the film wouldn’t have been as meaningful had she been the only one writing it. They drew inspiration from Kyle and Andrea’s own experiences with the pandemic.
“Jan Cuaresma and John Joshua Sarmiento are also excellent Editors, with Joshua also being our Director of Cinematography, and Hans Periodico and Jian Umipig are our Voice Actors,” Ariana explained that they were essential especially with being restricted from having face-to-face interactions. Meanwhile, they also composed original music for their film - made possible by Anton Geronimo.
Lastly, The Interview’s interviewee/actor, Ivan Intia, who was the only ABS student in the group. “It was really hard for us to adjust dahil ‘yung schedule ng HUMMS and ABM sobrang magkaiba. Naadjust naman and I believe nabigyan niya din ng justice yung character.”
“Even though we don't all want to pursue film, it's really all about teamwork and bringing the art to life.” Ariana sincerely expressed. Ultimately, they all still shared a common trait - courage to speak up especially with the topics that matter.
“We are open to discussing really important topics, especially politically. Whenever we see injustice or any sight of prejudice, we always speak up.” Ariana shared the team’s vision and goal.
“Importante din talaga yung ‘creating limitless stories’, kasi we should not just create stories that people just want to watch, or talk about. They should also watch films that are eye-openers or that are thought-provoking, mapapa-isip talaga sila.”
And as for provoking thoughts, you might be wondering about the name of this production team as well, though it might be something you didn’t expect…for “Bro’s Production” is simply named after an eatery the members enjoyed going to during their senior high school year: The Bro’s Sizzling Hauz.
To qualify for the film festival’s theme, Ariana and Andrea worked together on the script, developing the story when they discussed life’s challenges, and how a person feels when they are faced with obstacles they think might be impossible to overcome. One of the inspirations also came from the ever-present problem society faces which is the difficulty of securing a job. “‘Yung mga nahihirapan kumuha ng trabaho, lalo na yung mga unfortunate people - those na hindi nabibigyan ng enough opportunities. Yun yung issue, si Renzo yung bumubuo doon. He keeps on trying, but there’s no proper rest.”
As for one of the factors with completing the storyline, they also considered how characters can be presented as the Covid19 guidelines are still strictly being implemented. “Bawal po talaga magkita-kita, but, nagawan naman ng paraan and we were able to shoot, kaunti lang kami, para kahit papaano safe pa din siya.” Ariana explained. While it is evident in the film, it didn’t take away from the message they were trying to relay. In reality, the limited cast and crew to shoot physically was not what they struggled with the most. Instead, it was their being vocal and opinionated that Ariana recalled. “During production, we were all really opinionated people. Simpleng pub mat lahat kami nagche-check, inaalam namin if up ba ‘to sa brand, bagay ba ‘to sa Bro's, or sa The Interview mismo, sometimes there might be disagreements.” Ariana quickly cleared that she wouldn’t consider them as arguments, and even embraces such moments. “I really do appreciate that, kasi pag director ka hindi naman pwedeng ikaw lang masusunod, because your prod members are also the ones bringing your film to life.”
Speaking of being a director, it was Ariana’s first experience being one. “Kapag direction, mahirap yung kailangan mo i-consider yung other perspective and hindi lang yung perspective mo, like you should be open to criticism.” She shared their situation where this came in both as a struggle and a necessity for the story’s improvement. Renzo’s character presentation called for most of this criticism, and with it came their focus and close consideration on the overall production design. “...kung pang mayaman yung bahay, or sabihin natin, ganitong klase mga suot niya. You really need to establish some motifs and visual elements, sabihin natin sa matress lang natutulog si Renzo at hindi sa matinong kama, ganoon. We had to consider that,” Ariana cited, remembering the many times they reshot just the first scene alone. In the end, they were able to capture the true presentation of Renzo.
By April 2021, The Interview was officially an entry to the then on-going Cinemorayta Film Festival. During that month, all entries were shared with the public via their Facebook page. On May 14, the ‘CMFF: Gabi ng Parangal’ was treated as an intimate virtual event, and it was on this night that The Interview claimed multiple recognitions: Best Direction, Best Picture, Best in Cinematography, Best in Editing, Best Production Design, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Trailer, Social Media Award, People's Choice Award, Special Jury Award, and Best in Sound Design (with their original song - Paraiso).
When asked how they reacted to their achievement, Ariana beamed and did not hide her belief and trust on her team. “They're really actually gifted with lots of skills, and somehow I believe ako rin, somehow naisip ko, kaya natin yan,”
The young director felt confident with their work and almost expected the results. “I think we all had potential, lahat din ng competitors.” But she knows how hard her team worked as well.
“I think we've gone through elaborate measurements, very critical kami sa gawa namin. Naka ilang recheck kami ng script, naka-ilang ulit ng shots, naka-ilang retake ng scenes, kahit sa pub mats, chine-check pa rin namin.” Even to the last letter, Ariana and her team were keen on making no mistakes, not even a misspelled word.
“It was all worth it: all those sleepless nights, all those meetings, and those reshoots, even the expenses. They were all worth it.”
After the competition, everyone in Bro’s Production graduated and stepped into their college freshman year, with Ariana studying Communication Arts specializing in Digital Cinema. As life happens, Ariana admitted that some members initially quit or took a break. But this hiatus did not last long.
“Thankfully, bumalik sila. They also had this epiphany of producing more films,” Ariana was filled with joy and hope, believing what Bro’s Production can achieve.
“Cinemorayta Film Festival will be happening again this year,” she added, which became an opportunity for the team to gain new and willing members interested in joining and creating films. “Nakakatuwa na may interesado palang sumali samin, and we're so blessed to even have them recognize Bro's.”
While the competition is only open to senior high school students, the ‘first generation’ of Bro’s Production is more than happy and willing to act as a guide and officially supervise the new and younger members of their team - the ‘next generation’ crew. “Hindi po kami pwedeng sumali kasi college na po kami, however, iga-guide po namin sila Earl and other new members sa Bro's.”
Earl Santos, a Grade 12 STEM student, will be writing and directing the soon to be entry for the said festival. “We're opening webinars based on our experience on what to do and what not to do in the film festival. Hindi man po kami directly makakagawa ng changes, we're there to supervise them.” Ariana explained.
As for the ‘first gen’, Ariana shared that they have two scripts in the work which they are preserving for future projects outside school.
With all that she experienced during The Interview, Ariana wanted to share what she has learned to fellow aspiring filmmakers. With the almost spontaneous birth of the team, Ariana felt that it was made possible because she was in the right group of people. She cited that she had friends wanting to produce their films too, but were disappointed that their own friends were not as supportive. “You don't always have to keep your hopes up, but you just have to keep trying - once you belong in the right group of people, they would be up with what you do,”
With this, she added, “Establish connections as well, it's really important when you're going into the film industry and it helps to join organizations, not just to gain support but to actually acquire proper guidance from those who have been through a lot.”
Lastly, she encourages not only aspiring filmmakers, but everyone to watch more local films. “Philippine Cinema is certainly not dead.” Ariana pointed. While she doesn’t deny the quality of foreign films, she believes it even to be more of a reason to support local films. “If you can support hundreds or thousands of foreign films, you can also support Philippine cinema.”