Sometime in December last year, I met two California-based film producers — John Lee and Francis Ho — who talked about making four big movies starring an international cast including Filipino actor Cesar Montano and boxing champion Manny Pacquiao.
Montano had his first taste of international moviemaking in director John Dahl’s war film, The Great Raid, which was about the famous raid by US Army Rangers and Philippine guerillas who attacked the prisoner of war camp in Cabanatuan to rescue more than 500 Americans.
Lee is an American producer who is the co-founder and co-managing director of One Door Studions, LLC. Lee, together with Jason Brents of the same company and lawyer Rick Morse, an entertainment attorney, are the partners and consultants of Inspire Studios.
Ho is also American of Filipino descent who used to be a pastor and one day decided it was time to make movies. He said the company envisions to be “a world leading and globally dominating movie company that produces inspirational box office films.”
Asked what he means by “globally dominating,” Ho said they aim to make movies using the Hollywod blockbuster formula from start to finish.
This means, explained Lee, that the process is different from the way we make films here.
According to the Inspire Studios Inc. website, its mission is “To create inspiring films that will impact the lives of movie lovers across the globe by producing world-class films based on real-life stories of hope, honor and heroism from cultures around the world.”
Ho also emphasized: “The values that our movies embody cross cultural boundaries and yet are relevant to all cultures.”
This is why casting is a meticulous process as the actors are carefully chosen to fit each role.
For Montano’s first Inspire Studios project, Freedom Fighters, in which he has been cast with Pacquiao, filming had begun already and the producers are eyeing a spring release or in March or April of this year.
“(The film) is the story of the group of Americans — doctors, nurses, preachers and missionaries — who decided not to surrender to the Japanese but got caught and executed,” Ho described. “It changed history. Their death resulted to intelligence that reached (Douglas) McArthur and (led to his) return to the Philippines.”
“As a rising player in movie productions, Inspire Studios applies world-class entertainment industry standards and innovations to its inspirational film projects making them at par in quality and excellence with other global blockbuster films,” Lee emphasizes.
Inspire Studios has signed up Montano to appear with Pacquiao in the war epic based on the memoir, The Guerilla Wife, written by World War II survivor Louise Reid Spencer, who lived in the Philippines (Iloilo) during the Japanese occupation.
Freedom Fighters, which will be co-produced by Pacquiao, will have Pacquiao playing Col. Macario Peralta Jr., a war hero. Montano, meanwhile, will take on the role of Rev. Delfin Dianala, a Protestant minister.