Saturday, June 1, 2019

Speakers at AIFFA 2019

Anne and I found ourselves on a flight to Malaysia, just several hours after DAGSIN's last commercial screening. We were on a plane to attend the ASEAN International Film Festival and Awards (AIFFA) in Kuching, Malaysia for the 2nd time after 2017, when DAGSIN was among the "official" films selected to compete.

This time around, Anne and I had been invited to give a "talk" (about our experiences in producing DAGSIN, our two year journey though the festival circuit, and finally releasing the movie commercially, just a week prior) in AIFFA BIZ, the professional media industry portion of the festival.

Atom and Anne with the welcoming party to Sarawak, dressed in their native costumes.
The Philippine Delegation to AIFFA 2019 at the Kuching Airport.
The Philippine Delegation this time around was smaller, despite the increase in the number of Filipino Films officially competing. We flew in with the Filipino contingent, but since we were booked in a separate hotel with the other ASEAN AIFFA BIZ participants, Anne and I still found ways to hang-out with our compatriots.

Atom and Anne with AIFFA heads - good friend Adelina Iskandar, Head of
AIFFA BIZ with husband Malaysian Actor Fish Fazil, Livan Tajang, AIFFA Festival Director and Filipino Filmmaker Joe Laban.
Atom and Anne with Filipino Direk Joe Laban and Direk Tikoy Aguiluz with the other Filipino Delegates.
Atom and Anne with writer Rody Vera, Cinematographer Rain Yamson and actress Elora Españo.
The Pinoys singing, drinking and hanging-out together in a Karaoke Bar.
Atom and Anne had their turn with the mic.
The Filipinos having lunch together almost every day.
The Filipino Delegation with AIFFA special guest Steven Seagal.
Anne with Philippine Director Tikoy Aguiluz and the other ASEAN filmmaker Jurors of AIFFA.
Our Talk was scheduled on the second day. After listening to the other "Talks" by various Media Professionals invited from all over the ASEAN, Anne and I began feel that maybe we were invited by mistake. Most, if not all, of the other Presenters are Commercial Production Houses and veterans of the industry, not only from Asia but also from Hollywood. So when the audience approached us one by one after our presentation, congratulating us both for DAGSIN and exclaiming how we inspired them to keep on making movies, Anne and I were both surprised and elated!

Atom discussing the intricacies of making DAGSIN. 
Anne summarising our three year long journey with DAGSIN,
from actual production, film festival runs and finally distribution.
The AIFFA awards night is a formal sit-down dinner affair that is televised nationwide in Malaysia and several other ASEAN countries. The Philippine Delegation came home with the most awards, including Best Film for Chito Roño's "Signal Rock and a post humous Best Actor trophy for Kristoffer King for his performance in Howard Yambao's "Kristo."

The AIFFA Awards Night inside the Ballroom of Kuching's most prestigious hotel. 
Atom and Anne seated with their fellow AIFFA Speakers,
who have since become business associates and friends.
Atom with Mell Navarro and AIFFA Lifetime Achievement Awardee,
Indonesian filmmaker Slamet Rahardjo.
The Philippine Delegation celebrating our sweep.
With actresses Teri Malvar and Mai Fanglayan and AIFFA hosts Rovilson Fernandez and Marc Nelson.
The Philippine Delegation celebrating the multiple win on the AIFFA stage.
Anne and I were scheduled to leave on April 28 so that I can celebrate my birthday in Manila, but  our good friend Adelina surprised us by extending our stay for an extra day and offered us our own driver and car so we can tour Sarawak. We had been to Kuching before, but we did not have any time to go around. Anne and I were just so grateful to be finally given the chance to see some of Sarawak.

As we were having breakfast in our hotel dinning-room in the morning of my birthday, the hotel staff surprised us with a birthday dessert. Adelina Iskandar, AIFFA BIZ head, who was directly responsible for our participation in AIFFA 2019 and our extra tour day, was also behind this special birthday treat for me. Thank you, thank you so so much Adelina! I hope one day we can return the favour and treat you and Fish to a wonderful holiday in the Philippines.

Atom and Anne at the AIFFA Awards Night with good friends, Malaysian Power
Couple Adelina Iskandar and Fish Fazil, and Philippine Press veterans Mell Navarro and Pilar Mateo.
Atom's special birthday dessert surprise from the staff of the Kuching Waterfront Hotel.
Atom and Anne delighted by the surprise birthday dessert.
Atom and Anne on tour on our extra day in Sarawak.
I fell in love with the Sapek, the Bornea Guitar. I will definitely buy one someday.
-- All photos are the exclusive property of Atom & Anne Mediaworks, Corp.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

DAGSIN's Commercial Run 2019

Atom in front of Dagsin's Standees at the Rockwell Cinema Lobby
DAGSIN finally got its Commercial Cinema showings nationwide during Holyweek. Anne and I decided to show it during this particular week since the Catholic themed holiday coincided with our movie's timeline-- which starts the day before Palm Sunday and ends exactly on Easter morning. Like everything else, this decision had its merits as well as its problems. But none-the-less, we were thankful for the chance to show our first feature to as many Filipinos as was possible.

Despite our limited budget for the nationwide release, we were able to get a handful of media partners by giving them tickets in exchange for airtime. DAGSIN's trailer was aired twice a day on RJ's cable channel, while DAGSIN's two theme songs, "Harana Ni Justino" and "Corazon's Theme" were played over and over on a couple of Radio stations two weeks before the opening. Anne and I were also interviewed on "air" by each media partner.

Anne and I during one of our live interviews, taped and played with DAGSIN's theme songs.
The physical hard-drives containing the DCP files of the movie.
With the help of our post-house and partner in DAGSIN, Black Maria, we released our DCP's nationwide by renting their hard-drives and having them manage projection access to our locked files. Our local distributor, Silverline Media, took care of booking our showing dates, sending our trailer files, DCP hard-drives and our printed posters to each individual  theatre. 

Anne beside our poster in Rockwell.
Anne managed to get DAGSIN a Special Screening from Rockwell Cinemas, effectively making the movie available to the general public for exactly one week-- from Wednesday to the following Tuesday. The Special Screening, which we treated as our Commercial Premiere, was sold out a week in advance. As a special treat Ms. Lotlot De Leon, who played Mercy in DAGSIN, was present for the Q & A at the end of the screening. We ended up having dinner with a couple of our close-friends and colleagues who were there to support us.

Anne and I learned a lot from our experience in commercially releasing our movie for the very first time. All in all, we are happy with the general reception we got publicly and we are now ready for our next movie project!

Atom in the Glorietta Cinema lobby beside DAGSIN's poster.
Atom in the Greenhills Promenade Cinema lobby beside DAGSIN's poster.
Aria prominently displayed on the Rockwell Cinema lobby.
Ari displayed on the Rockwell Cinema lobby with Ben and Janine.
For my part, it was amusing to see something I have been involved with for years finally displayed in public. I was just trilled to see DAGSIN's poster lined up with other movies, particularly from Hollywood. My biggest kick was to watch my kids over and over, show up on the huge screen in the Rockwell Cinema lobby. It was an unforeseen bonus, but it certainly made all the hardships and the trials we had to endure in making and getting the movie shown well worth the effort!

-All the Photos are the exclusive property of Atom & Anne Mediaworks.

Friday, April 19, 2019

DAGSIN Opening Nationwide Today

DAGSIN is opening NATIONWIDE today, APRIL 20 (Sat.) in the Philippines.
Here is a behind the scenes interview of DAGSIN's main cast, talking about their roles in the movie.
--The video is the exclusive property of Atom & Anne Mediaworks. Any reproduction must have the explicit permission of the owner.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

DAGSIN'S 2019 Theatrical Trailer is Out

DAGSIN's new 2019 Theatrical Trailer can be seen in theaters nationwide by next week!

Please support our humble little film as it finally makes its debut in theaters nationwide. Anne and I, as Co-Writers and the Producer, and Director respectively, treat this movie like it was our child. After years of conceptualizing/planning, giving birth (shooting and editing), then bringing it to school and winning awards (going to Film Festivals), DAGSIN is now finally ready to graduate by being shown in regular theaters!
Please help us to keep DAGSIN in theaters long enough for people to be able to watch it, by telling your friends and family all about it! PLEASE SHARE THIS POST  for support. Small Filipino Indie Films like DAGSIN will not succeed without your help and support!
--You can view or download this Trailer directly from YouTube.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Dagsin in Theaters April 20 Nationwide

Dagsin will finally be shown in theaters NATIONWIDE starting APRIL 20, Black Saturday!!!! Many of you asked for it, so we have done are best to make it happen. Our UNIQUE HOLY WEEK inspired LOVE STORY will be available all over the PHILIPPINES at last!
Please support quality Pinoy Indie movies. PASS THIS NEWS to all your friends and family, and PERSUADE THEM TO WATCH to keep Dagsin in theaters-- still the best way to see movies that were intended to be shown on a theater screen! This might be your last chance to see our internationally multi-awarded movie on the big screen locally, so don't miss this chance!

We will announce the list of theaters as soon as it becomes available...


Thursday, February 14, 2019

"Harana Ni Justino" Music Video

At long last, "Harana Ni Justino," Dagsin's main theme song is now available online for viewing and download in YouTube @ I wrote the lyrics of the song, based on a letter I wrote for Anne years ago, and my friend Bob (Robert) Yulo  wrote the music exclusively for the movie.

It premiered on February 14, 2019, Valentine's Eve, in the Philippines!


--This video is the exclusive property of Atom & Anne Mediaworks. Any duplication and distribution must have the expressed consent of the copyright owner.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Creating Dagsin's Screenplay

!!!! SPOILER WARNING !!!! **Do not read if you have not seen the movie**

"Dagsin" ("Gravity" in English) took twenty years to evolve into a movie. I originally came up with the prototype of the story when I was still a film student at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angles in the mid-1990s. The original short-film screenplay was then titled, "This Mortal Coil," and it was submitted as an exercise/assignment for my Screenplay Writing Class. It was just eight pages long, and it only contained what eventually ended up as the "climactic scene" in the finished movie.

Tommy Abuel as Justino Razon, with Lotlot De Leon
as his adopted daughter Mercy and Sue Prado as his
Private Nurse Grace.
The original short script told the story of an old paraplegic resident of an American Retirement Home-- a wheelchair bound man (originally Caucasian) who recently lost his wife of fifty years. Wandering into their apartment after her Interment, he feels the weight of his sorrow so strongly that he decides to hang himself from the ceiling rafters of their bedroom.

I was going through a rough phase in my love life at that time that the Romantic in me chose to write about an ideal relationship, where someone was so in love that he would be completely devastated at the lost of his beloved-- a storybook type of Love Story. Besides, the idea of a wheelchair bound paraplegic man hanging himself with his feet still touching the ground yet powerless to escape his chosen fate (self-pity can soar with imagination), was such a strong poetic image, indelibly cinematic and memorable that it would guarantee me a good grade for the class!
Years later, the original seed concept for "Dagsin" resurfaces. After writing half a dozen full-length feature spec. scripts, I was looking for a short-film project to jump start my filmmaking career and "This Mortal Coil" was the prime candidate. So I began rewriting the original script, since I thought that the suicide sequence was not strong enough to stand by itself. But as I added simple flashback sequences, it started to get longer and longer. Soon, it was twenty pages long and that was just the backgrounder to the love story, I haven't even begun to say, what I really wanted to say.

By definition, a short-film is just about eight minutes long (or an 8-page script). Anything longer than that, and your chances of entering it in a major international competition gets slimmer and slimmer. Cannes for example only accepts 15 mins. maximum for their Short Film entries. Knowing that my story has potential beyond being just a short movie, and understanding that short films do not have a commercial market, I then committed to writing the story I really want to tell no matter how long the screenplay ended up becoming. During that time, I was already married for more than ten years (found a partner I want to spend my life with), had kids and recently suffered a Stroke. I wanted the story to reflect everything I have learned and have gone through in my life up to that point. Thankfully the first draft I wrote totaled just one hundred twenty pages in Movie Magic (Hollywood standard Screenplay Software) - which counts each page to be roughly equivalent to a minute of screen time.

Benjamin Alves as Young Justino Razon, Janine Gutierrez as Young
Corazon Bishop (Mrs. Razon) and Alex Diaz as John Bishop, Jr.
in the flashback sequences.
The first thing I incorporated to my original story was the flashback sequences. I knew by instinct that I had to make my viewers fall in love with my main characters first, for them to empathize with the loss they will be experiencing as the story unfolds. Making the audience spectators of the romance between Justino and Corazon from the beginning and making them experience the love that develops between the couple through the years, was my main goal. It was a deliberate decision on my part to make the film essentially a "Love Story" in terms of classification and genre, since the main theme of the movie even then was "only Love can save us from the pain and tragedies of life."

The historical breath and timeline of the story came naturally when I plotted Justino's life in reverse. By his present age, he would have been born in the 1920's and would have gone through World War II and the Martial Law era in the 1970's. The decision to place him at the front row of these major events as they unfolded was elementary. Since he was an action oriented man (idealistic, heroic and strong-willed) who would eventually be crippled by the very nature of human existence, making him an active participant in the critical periods of our country's history would effectively magnify the tragedy and irony of his fate. It was at this point of writing when I realized that Justino was a classic "Sisyphean" character.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Smoking Cigars for 30 Years

Smoking a stogie in a Café in Paris.

I've been a cigar smoker for 30 years! That's right, this year marks my 30th anniversary for smoking "Stogies." Including of course, the 7 year cold-turkey gap after my Stroke (which I blame my doctor for... LOL), I have been technically a Cigar lover for three decades.
A lot of people might be appalled by my pride at being a smoker, but I am unapologetic. Like everything else in life (be it liquor, sex or even food), smoking must be tempered and never abused. Enjoyed in moderation, it can be a great way to relax and enjoy life! In Native American culture for example, tobacco is officially smoked to pray to God (the Great Creator) or when people need to be at peace with each other (hence the Peace Pipe or the Chanumpa)-- the point being, that one person's medicine can be misused and become another person's drug. We just have to treat tobacco and our bodies with respect, by never abusing either.
The best place to enjoy a cigar is outside in a garden with a book!
As an Asian (Chinese/Malay stock) with Spanish ancestry from both sides of my family, I take pride in my eclectic mix of cultures. Tobacco use has been a part of my cultural heritage from all three races. My Asian Ancestors smoked long before tobacco was even introduced, and no self-respecting Spanish Don (of which, both my maternal Great Grandfathers were) would be caught without a smoldering Cigar or Cigarillo stuck in their mouth!
Premium hand-made cigars from the Philippines.
The Spaniards brought tobacco to the Philippines from Cuba in 1592, and they used our islands for centuries as a major supplier of quality tobacco products-- one of the colonial government's main source of revenue. It made the Philippines a financially profitable colony from the very beginning and its populace de facto smokers. In fact, Tabacalera, the direct corporate descendant of the original Spanish Tobacco Monopoly in our country, was once regarded as the largest and most sophisticated Tobacco Manufacturing Facility in the World; and its Cigars were favorably regarded as equal in quality to its Havana cousins.

It was in the summer of 1988 when I started smoking Cigars. I turned 21 the year before, which of course meant that it was then already legal for me to smoke anywhere in the world. But I have been smoking cigarettes socially ever since I was in High School, so the real catalyst for my ongoing Cigar infatuation was the Trip I took to Europe with a bunch of fellow Trojans from the University of Southern California's Business School.
1988 Summer Trip to Europe, with fellow USC Business School students.
Numbering almost 30 with our Professor's family and his Teaching Assistant, our motley group was tasked to do scholarly Thesis Papers on European Multi-National Corporations. We visited major Corporations in 7 countries-- among them were Royal Dutch Shell, the London Stock Exchange, BMW, Heineken, Nestle and a dozen others.

Being with a group of people my age of course included partying all night, binge drinking and lot of other things best not mentioned. I can never forget the craziness of it all-- almost being thrown out of several hotels, narrowly escaping brawls in the local pubs, then barely keeping our eyes open for our early morning meetings with corporate brass after coming home almost at dawn from these escapades. My best memories were when we got to party with Prince Albert of Monaco all night, then ended up (my roommate and myself) hanging on to the roll-bar of an open-topped Jeep, speeding around the empty streets of Monaco at dawn with a bunch of French Girls we could barely converse with nor whose names we could not remember; and the time I drove a rental car from Paris with two buddies to watch a Pink Floyd Concert in Versailles, then ended up partying and drinking with a bunch of Scottish fans who drove all the way from Scotland. It was an eye-opening trip for me and one of the wildest experiences of my life!
Enjoying a smoke in streets of Madrid, Spain.

The bug stuck up my ass ever since I was born was finally gone, and for the first time in my life I learned how to be carefree and spontaneous! I had so much fun on that trip that I forgot to buy something to take home as a souvenir. At the airport in Paris on my way back to the US, I scrambled in the Duty Free looking for something to commemorate my life-changing adventure. As I contemplated the wider horizon of possibilities that just opened before me, I thought it appropriate to buy something different and totally off the wall. Since I am already well-acquainted with liquor and cigarettes, I decided to purchased the next best thing, my first pack of cigars. Technically Davidoff Cigarillos (small cigars) are not full-fledged cigars by definition, but since I was not accustomed to smoking anything filterless, I thought it best not to jump the gun.
It was a smart decision. Unfamiliar with the potency of pure high-grade tobacco, I smoked my first stick inside the bathroom. Within a couple of minutes, I was lying on the floor knocked out from its fumes, barely conscious. When I finally found the strength to stand up, I looked at myself in the mirror and saw that I had a slightly green pallor. Not having a window or any form of exhaust in the bathroom, made me sick. I learned my first lesson in Cigar smoking-- don't inhale deeply and make sure that there is enough air. Good thing that Cigarillo was small and thin!

Lighting a Cigar is ritualistic, an art in itself! 
It has been a long journey since that first smoke, thirty odd years ago! I never considered myself a Cigar Connoisseur more an Aficionado, since I enjoy smoking both exquisite Havanas as well as cheaper brands. By character, I hate limitations or being "boxed" in any way shape or form, and I abhor finicky people. Instead, I savor variety and choice in everything I do. Depending on my mood and on how much I am willing to spend (or what is readily available), you will see me enjoying a Cohiba one day and a 99 cent 7-11 Cigar the next.