What we could be as a movie-loving country

Lawyer Joji Alonso sits down on Daily Tribune’s online show ‘Straight Talk’ and explains why she continues to produce movies and, now, TV series

illustration by glenzkie tolo

Joji Alonso loved movies as a kid.

The lawyer went on to pursue her fondness for moving pictures by producing them, a number of which have won awards here and abroad, including Minsan Pa, Kubrador, Ang Babae sa Septic Tank, English Only, Please, and, recently, Big Night, and Whether the Weather is Fine.

Alonso has likewise become involved in TV series, coproducing with GMA What We Could Be, starring Miguel Tanfelix, Ysabel Ortega and Yasser Mata, and directed by Jeffery Jeturian.

In this interview on Daily Tribune’s Straight Talk, Alonso shares her thoughts, frustrations and hopes on her enduring passion.

Daily Tribune (DT): ‘What We Could Be’ premiered yesterday (29 August). What are your thoughts?

Atty. Joji Alonso hopes more Filipinos will support local movies.

Joji Alonso (JA): Honestly, hindi ko ma-explain yung pakiramdam ko kahapon… Hindi mo alam magiging reaction ng tao, kung magugustuhan nila o o-okrayin nila ng bonggang bongga… The material was conceptualized back in 2020, after several months of researching, asking questions. Tapos, finally, mapapanood mo na siya ng buo sa screen…

So, exciting, at the same time parang hindi ka makahinga kasi you’re waiting for the verdict of everybody. When the tweets started coming, karamihan siguro sa mga ito, fans ng aming mga artista, some of them sounded genuine and sincere and I’m very happy and relieved nagustuhan nila.

DT: Nararamdaman namin na the plot will get thicker, happier…

JA: Meron kaming experiment na ginawa dito, kasi normally yung mga reveal ng mga bagay-bagay nangyayari ’yan sa pinaka-late episodes. But watch out for our second week kasi maraming revelations agad agad kasi doon ma d-determine kung – I will not explain anymore basta marami.

DT: The cinemas have reopened.

JA: They have been open for quite a while, but unfortunately ang talagang pinapasok lang talaga ng mga tao sa ngayon ay mga event films. Top One: Maverick, Spiderman, you know, the big ones. So, were hoping Filipinos will go back to the cinema again for their alternative entertainment, kasi although marami namang streaming platforms na napakamura nga naman compared doon sa manunuod ka ng sine, bibili ka ng popcorn, mamamasahe ka, iba pa rin ang cinema experience. When you see the movie on the big screen, there are people who shout kapag may nakakatakot. It’s like a community experience.

DT: You’ve committed to producing movies, including those for film festivals.

JA: Hindi kami nag-shoot ng movie last year, we shot it before the pandemic happened. We were fortunate na natapos namin lahat ng eksena bago nagsimula ung pandemic, lalo na itong pelikula namin, the two films I was involved in, the best picture (Big Night) and the second best picture (Whether the Weather is Fine or Kun Maupay Man It Panahon) in the Metro Manila Film Festival last December.

DT: Korean films are big worldwide.

JA: Korean films, napakalaking bagay sa Korea. I understand very recently they gave something like $500 million to create new material, to push the Korean film industry. Wala naman tayong ganyan sa Pilipinas.

DT: Sinong nagbigay ng pera? Government?

JA: Ang government.

DT: Our artists have been asking for that. It’s really important for government to subsidize the industry.

JA: It’s happening naman, the support of the Film Development Council of the Philippines. Pero siguro ang mahirap, they don’t see the film industry as a priority… Ang dami nga naming problema, sa asukalsa mahal na bilihin… so hindi talaga tinitingnan na immediate or urgent ang film industry. Ang nakakalungkot, kailangang buhusan ng suporta. Many people are not aware that the film industry covers a lot of people.

DT: It provides employment. 

Atty. Joji Alonso in her element as a film producer. | PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF FB.COM/JOJI ALONSO

JA: It does. It’s not just the production, post-production, you also have catering, you have people who make the special effects. The researchers…

DT: Going back to the Korean model, the way its government supported the industry, it proved that it can be an economic driver. It can be an investment opportunity.

JA: Yes, definitely. Tingnan mo naman, sila na ang nanalo sa Oscars.

DT: Pero matagal nilang plinano.

JA: Todo ang suporta. Even the Koreans themselves, they watch Korean films. Sa atin kasi, Hollywood pa rin tayo.

DT: What can be done? What do you suggest?

JA: It’s a very vicious cycle kasi. It’s really hard to identify, para sa ’kin, it’s a chicken and egg problem. The producers have to come out with bigger films. Something to attract the audience. Ako, I’m willing.

‘Cause when you make big films, if I’m a producer and I have to come out with P100 million, assuming I have P100 million, ’kung babalik naman sa akin ’yung pera na iyon gagawin ko siya.

But the problem is, it’s very uncertain, especially now that people will go the cinemas and actually watch your film. Ayan naman ’yung kaakibat na taxation… You’re paying amusement taxes, you’re paying VAT, you’re paying income tax. So, for every P100 your film earns, roughly ilang percent lang ang babalik sa ’yo. Between 35 to 40 percent ang babalik sa ’yo. Ang laki ng nawawala kaagad. That means you have to have a big audience. Takot pa ang tao because of the pandemic. Hirap na hirap na ’yung industry, pinahirapan pa lalo with the pandemic.

DT: If the government finds a way, like President Bongbong Marcos mentioned it in his SONA.

JA: Kung may ganoon na mangyayari, that’s a very welcome move on the part of the government. Marami tayong magagaling na filmmakers. I have to mention the series that Erik Matti did, On the Job, which was shown on HBO. Ang ganda niya. For me, it calls a lot of attention to the series, if you can make something like this, you can attract foreign audiences. Problem is, ang kulang sa ’tin, Filipinos supporting Filipino films. When I was a kid, I was saving my baon to watch Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal films. I think there’s also a problem with our education system. Kailangan ding i-push ang mga estudyante na manuod sila ng pelikulang Pilipino.

Nais ko po sana anyayahan kayong manuod ng aming serye entitled What We Could Be starring Miguel Tanfelix, Ysabel Ortega and Yasser Mata. Supported by so many great actors and directed by Jeffery Jeturian. It’s airing every Monday to Friday at 8:50 in the evening on GMA Telebabad. I’m promising you it will be worth your while. Pinaghirapan po namin ng todo yan. It’s a good mix, family, ambition, may away. Lahat nandoon.

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