Thinking outside the box sounds so cliché. Instead of doing so, a young storyteller stands firm that she has to get rid of the box. This is the one life lesson that she continues to live up to.
She is Ed Jewel Pantanilla, the proud writer and director of 'Sinagtala', an official entry to the Monumento Film Festival 2021 of the Communication Department of the University of Caloocan City.
This 21-year-old Bachelor of Arts in Communication student from the said university actually never dreamed to be a filmmaker. Her talent as a writer made her see a detour as a rare opportunity to explore and experience new things.
"Hindi siya childhood dream pero bata pa lang ako, nagsusulat na ako ng mga tula. Nursery ata ako na meron akong sinulat na poem na hindi nakalimutan ng nanay ko hanggang ngayon because my mom is a Literature professor."
Jewel aspired to publish a book and see it in one of the country's top bookstore. In addition, what motivated her to accomplish her present course and endeavor is what expands beyond the exact motion picture that the viewers is seeing--its story and its lasting impact.
"Parang noon gusto ko lang talaga magpublish ng book. Gusto kong maging writer. Gusto kong makita ang libro ko sa National Bookstore. Nung nag-comm ako, sabi ko ano ba talaga ang gusto ko. Parang hindi ako sure. Ang alam ko lang dito nakalinya ang mga gusto kong gawin pa sa future."
"What made me pursue comm arts or filmmaking is yung mga istorya na hinahatid sa mga tao. Iba kasi kapag pinapanood na talaga. Kahit sa simpleng teleserye, makikita mo yung lola ko na affected na affected siya. Makikita mo yung impact niya and sabi ko, I think I want to make that kind of impression to other people. It's not for validation pero gusto kong magkwento rin ng mga kwentong tatatak sa kanila."
Coming out of the comfort zone is tough in the beginning, chaotic in the middle, and awesome in the end. On the contrary, for Jewel, it seems that every inch is a fulfillment.
"I really love writing kasi tuwing nagsusulat ako, feeling ko I'm going out of my comfort zone and madami akong napupuntahan with my imagination."
Jewel is one of those people who are not afraid to be afraid. She opted to be bold and undauntable to use filmmaking as a platform to spread awareness to other people thus, to create change and break stigmas.
"If no one wants to tell that, then who would tell it? I have the platform na, so why not use it na magbibigay pa ng awareness sa ibang tao, or makakatulong at mage-educate sa kanila? Madami ngayon sa social media na just because they are privileged, sinasabihan nila yung mahihirap na magsipag ka kasi. I know a lot of people na nagtrabaho all their life pero walang suporta at walang opportunity. Hindi pa rin sapat kahit ano ang gawin nila. Baka may magbabago. It's never too late to change their perceptions."
'Sinagtala' is about three main characters, a child, a policeman, and a thief who met in afterlife. Jewel used to write stories that are grounded to reality. However, this time, she thought of a fantasy story mixed with reality.
"Nagmeet sila sa lugar na tinatawag na antig. Binaliktad ko po yung word na gitna (gitna ng heaven and earth). The question of the film is, "Paano mo malalaman kung mabuti o masama ang isang tao?". Like kapag ba nakikita mong masaya iyan nung nabubuhay pa, did he really live well? And the twist po ang sabi ko, hindi naman pwedeng fantasy lang. Dapat relevant pa rin sa nangyayari sa paligid natin ngayon."
The film exhibits the psychological development of its characters wherein they had the break to share their feeling of remorse when they were still alive.
"Sabi ko, lagyan natin ng twist na they are caught in one mess situation. Kasi po dun sa lugar, nawawalan sila ng memories. Meron sila dung stages na pinagdadaanan. Kada stage, meron silang narereveal. Halimbawa sa stage na ito, meron silang chance na sabihin ang mga regrets nila. And then sa last stage, it's called baliktanaw."
As opposing to the literal meaning of the word Sinagtala, Jewel shared that she compared the film to a gradually dimming light. However, as the story unfolds, the characters are able to ensure peace and create balance for all of them.
"Kaya po siya 'Sinagtala', ikinumpara ko po siya sa isang light na nagdidim na. Yung hope na nagdidim na sa paligid natin."
Jewel drafted the film having in mind the harsh reality of police brutality. She also emphasized that strength lies in the differences of people but it is not being accepted and recognized in today's society.
"I wrote this in mind na sobrang daming police brutality. Personally, yung mga issue pong iyon ay sobrang sakit sa puso. It is also about our differences with each other. There is one scene na sinabi sa kaniya (thief) ng pulis na, "Ginusto mo lang iyan kasi iyan yung madaling paraan para mabuhay ka". I'm not justifying stealing pero gusto kong ipakita na iba-iba tayo ng circumstances sa buhay. And bakit hindi maisip ng iba na baka wala lang silang choice. Hindi naman kasi tayo pare-pareho ng oportunidad na nakukuha."
Shot during the inconsistent restrictions brought by the current pandemic, the film production's greatest struggle is the lack of budget. Not everyone in the team has the resources needed for the smooth flow of its filming. Nevertheless, they still managed to complete the film through unanimous effort and hard work.
BTS Photos during the Film Production of "Sinagtala" written and directed by Jewel Pantanilla
"Yung greatest struggle po talaga ay pera. Hindi naman po lahat ng classmates namin ay privileged and lucky na kayang magbigay. Ang hirap po na gumalaw na limitado ang budget especially pandemic na hindi mo alam ang pinagdadaanan ng tao ngayon. Tingin ko po ang naging key kaya naging successful kahit paano yung film is yung pag-intindi na rin namin sa isa't isa during those times. Dahil limited nga po ang budget namin, talagang kami-kami na lang po ang magpupulungan."
"Meron po kaming ni-rent na apartment and nag-stay sila dun habang pinag-uusapan nila yung film. Hindi po kasi ako pinapayagan na mag-overnight. We observed social distancing. We made sure na yung artists ay naka-face mask, face shield at palaging may stock na alcohol. Kapag meron na kaming shoot, kailangan ay limited lang yung nasa loob, yung mga importanteng tao lang po talaga."
When asked how she can compare filming a narrative between this time of pandemic and in the past when everything is normal, she said, "It's challenging to make a film in the midst of a pandemic. Iba po talaga noon. Nagshoot po kami nung 2nd year and the setting is carnival, so nagperya pa kami and hindi limited yung mga gusto naming puntahan and gawin. Ngayon kasi, madaming restrictions at madaming bawal. Kung ano lang yung andiyan, iyon lang ang kailangan nating gawaan ng istorya."
Despite of being a neophyte, Jewel and her production team humorously named No Box had created a relevant film that they can be truly proud of because it was tirelessly and wonderfully made. On a positive note, if given the chance to alter or improve a scene in her film, Jewel would probably focus on highlighting the past lives of its main characters.
"May scenes po dun na pinakita yung buhay nila noon. Parang glimpse lang. Inisip ko po kasi na 10-minute film, paano ko ba ito pagkakasiyahin. Feeling ko mas dapat pinakita ko pa yung buhay nila nung nabubuhay pa sila."
Jewel may have been in a situation to decide whether to chase her dreams, to take a detour towards something surprising and more fulfilling, or to go through a path towards a dead-end street. While taking her chosen road, she is still living up to what one of her senior high school teachers told her:
"Bakit kailangan mong mag-isip na you have to go out of the box? Bakit hindi mo na lang isipin na walang box?"
Until now, what resonates in her head is the concept that there's no box that exists around her. She is free to do what she wants as long as it doesn't hurt other people.
“You have to go out and experience life para makakuha ka ng ideas. Meet new people and from there, magugulat na lang kayo na nakakabuo na kayo ng mga bagong istorya. Makakapulot kayo ng mga bagong kuwento na gugustuhin niyo ring ikuwento sa iba."
COMING SOON! Monumento Film Festival 2021.
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