The young Kyle Nieva must have been elated because his long-time dream of making it to Cinemalaya has finally materialized. Not to mention, a big bonus was sent right in front of his computer screen after being announced Best Director in a virtual awarding of the most anticipated independent film festival in the country.
“When I was young, I had always dreamt of being part of Cinemalaya. Like when I was in high school, I already kind of knew that I wanted to be a filmmaker. And If I was going to be a filmmaker, I knew I had to go to Cinemalaya because I think every starting filmmaker goes through Cinemalaya at some point in their careers. So I think it's a childhood dream for me. I’m really happy for my younger self.”
The Film Dream is fortunate enough to meet this talented director who will soon make waves in the bigger screens.
Growing up, Kyle really wanted to be an architect. He is fascinated in building worlds and he admits that it seems to be a fulfilling creative pursuit. But seeing his dad who used to do background art for animation projects in Disney movies and TV shows enlightened the path he really wanted to pursue—filmmaking.
“I was inspired by my dad. I was really amazed by how he created all these worlds wherein the characters would move around. It’s similar to being an architect, but I think filmmaking has a more global reach.
“Well, little did I know, several years later, I would take up film to make worlds of my own characters.”
SLOWLY BUT SURELY
Kyle Nieva took up a bachelor’s degree in Film at the University of the Philippines Film Institute. His official entry to this year’s Cinemalaya, “Kids On Fire” was actually his undergraduate thesis film.
But his journey towards completing his film wasn’t as easy as you would think.
“Kids On Fire” started in school. It’s my undergraduate thesis film at UPFI and we’re very fortunate to have shot this before the pandemic, maybe around 2018. It was only last year that I got to premiere this film,” Kyle shared.
“I started my thesis work in 2016 or 2017. I just kept on postponing it because I was still trying to look for the story that I really wanted to tell. And since I was going to use a lot of resources, a lot of people’s time and energy as well as production budget, I really tried to pinpoint that certain story. And this is something that I think would be worthy of all those resources.”
He also shared that he wrote the story in a couple of months and then submitted a version to his university for requirements purposes and took another year to finish.
Admittedly, Kyle also had to laboriously work in the post-production of his film just to make sure everything goes well because the graphics are heavy and he didn’t want to rush.
Being the meticulous and goal-oriented storyteller that he is, he made sure that everything will fall into place at the perfect time.
“I was patient and came up with this version. I think it's also a blessing in disguise that we’re able to release this only now. I think the themes that we touched on could not be more apt in the present time.”
Unlike the typical stories we often see on the big screens, what drives his film is something we warn you about. Well, depending on how you see it.
But his film will take you into a world that we’re no longer strangers to.
Film Stills from "Kids On Fire" Directed by Kyle Nieva
The film features tribulations, the Second Coming, and the signs of the end times in the Bible, which include earthquakes, pandemics, famines, and wars.
Just like what Kyle says, “the Apocalypse actually drives this film.”
“It's mainly inspired by my childhood memories full of absurd fears, including the terror of death from the Apocalypse. I think I was in grade school when I started to become passionate about it. Like I started researching about it, but I couldn’t understand. Some of the things I read weren’t even age-appropriate; I had my own interpretations. I just kept on reading about the end of the world, rapture, how it's going to happen, and what Christian doctrines are telling about it. It’s all based on those.”
He also added that he made this film for the audience to experience what he had to go through when he was young—making them think about all the confusing biblical and Christian doctrines, and feeling disturbed.
“I think cinema is meant to disturb us and help us reflect on whatever thoughts and beliefs we have. And I try to incorporate that in my films.”
“I love making films that talk about reality but are presented like a dream. I love taking my audiences to a different world but still grounded in reality.”
Winning Best Director is a huge feat. But before claiming the much coveted Balanghai trophy, Kyle Nieva also had a fair share of memorable experiences throughout the process of making his film come to life.
“The kids (cast) did really well. They didn’t have a background in acting. We thought of holding the casting process in my hometown because I wanted a group of kids who already knew each other so it would be easier. During the shoot, they felt like they were just doing a school project or were on a field trip with their friends. They had fun; that's what is more important to me.”
“We really made sure that the parents knew what we were going to film and that the kids had an understanding about it. All of them were already in high school except for the main actor, but we were surprised that his parents actually believed in our material and even made time to be present in the shoot. They also had an open discussion at home before we filmed. We are fortunate to have found them because they are familiar with the practices in the film.”
Kyle also shared that he is lucky to have a few mentors throughout his filmmaking journey including his thesis adviser who helped him bring the story out to the world.
“She really delved into what I wanted to say, what I wanted to show. She helped me throughout the process. There were also some consultants for the script. Basically, I wanted validation. Is this worth doing? Does it please you enough for me to go with the production?”
“They are really helpful not just in filmmaking but also in guiding me in the different aspects of my life. They’ve eventually become important figures in my filmmaking career. I was really young and lost. And as a starting filmmaker, I'm just grateful that I have those people who support me while I am still finding my voice.”
As a starting filmmaker, Kyle Nieva has proven that it all starts with one dream. And while he is navigating his way in telling more powerful narratives, he never forgets to give back and be grateful. In fact, when asked what his advice to young storytellers is, he generously shared:
“Just be patient. Don't be too hard on yourselves. Don't rush to be a filmmaker but it's good you want to be one. It's okay to take your time and be a filmmaker at your own pace. If you’re too young, just live your life. There’s so much to experience and learn about this world, which you can eventually turn into a film.”
Who would have thought that years later, the young kid with a big dream of making it to Cinemalaya will also be given the much coveted “Best Director” award. Has anyone predicted that? We’ll never know.
But we have always been a believer of dreamers. Who knows, you might be that next kid.
BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOW and support his film, "Kids On Fire" streaming at ktx.ph from August 6 to September 5.
COMING SOON! Kyle Nieva's The Daily Daily Video exclusive here at The Film Dream website.
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