The Magazine


by Monchito Nocon

One fine afternoon, adobo magazine gathered three of the most active film producers today― Moira Lang, Krisma Fajardo, Bianca Balbuena ― for a free-wheeling discussion on the state of the film industry and the challenges and opportunities they face as producers. Joining in were filmmakers Lawrence Fajardo and Bradley Lew. 

How did all of you enter the film industry? How did you get your start as producers?


Moira: When I applied in UP Diliman, my first choice was Film. So Freshman year in UP, I was a Film major. But then in second year, I shifted to Business Administration, I don’t know why. Something about the state of the industry at that time. Then I worked in brand management and advertising for a couple of years. After I quit, my friend mentioned that a production outfit, Star Cinema, was looking for brainstormers…

Krisma:  Business Administration din course ko. No, because I like Math! My love for it won me over, though I was active in Theater in College. My family, actually, they’re all movie workers: My lolo, my tito, all of them worked for LVN Pictures. We lived near the studio.

Bianca: I was taking up Mass Communication in UP Cebu, then I just wanted to be away from my parents ‘cause [I felt] they were too strict so I transferred to Diliman. I had as professors the likes of Ed Lejano and Roland Tolentino. Actually, I trained under Neil Daza for cinematography.

How do you define your roles as producers? Is it mostly creative work or is it also a mix of business?

Moira: I think, firstly, it’s highly creative: ideas, concepts, stories, people. Then secondly, it’s business. It’s always a misconception: so you’re a producer you have lots of money!

Krisma: People say I wear many hats. Although as a producer, from the development of the script, I get myself involved already. Sometimes, in certain instances, when you’re just hired, the script is already there, you just have to shoot, and fix and make sure that what needs to be done is done. 

Bianca: Well I don’t know if it applies here but I learned that there are two kinds of producers: line producers, executive producers. And films, in other countries, the film starts with a producer, without a director even. And then you and the director, you develop a script together. And when it’s ready, after years of development, you look for financing.

During the long gestation period in-between projects, what do you do? Do you take on side projects?

Moira: I get a massage. (laughs) Actually, this time should be spent for project development…whether still in the idea stage, sequence treatment stage…there are several layers. But I also do ‘script doctoring’ for other directors ‘cause when you have no project at hand you get antsy. 

Krisma: He [referring to her husband Lawrence Fajardo, filmmaker] he does editing. That’s his bread and butter. He constantly has projects: AVPs, school productions, etc.. I’m a housewife [in between projects]. I cook and keep house.

Do you advance money out of your own pockets?

Moira: Of course! All the time. Especially when there’s no executive producer yet and during pre-production. There are a lot of hidden costs.

Krisma: Lalo na yung big cost. [The big costs in particular]

Like what? What do these entail?

Moira: Even your cellphone bills. food, transportation. And massage! 

Krisma: Yes, it’s something you need specially when you’re stressed!

Bianca: Well, there are public grants you can apply to, while developing your scripts. So you have that.

Where do you secure funding for the films that you produce?

Bianca: Here in the Philippines we have a unique system that I don’t fully agree with: the festival grant system. Because…there’s not enough time…

Moira: To develop [the project]. So yeah, aside from festival grants and public grants, you have private investors you can pitch to. And rich friends. Actually, there is a growing number of private individuals who are interested in becoming producers. Because they see their friends producing, they go to Cannes or somewhere. 

Is it safe to say that it’s easier to now find funding compared to before?

Moira: Because of festival grants, mostly. And private individuals not just from Manila. Even in the regions.

Krisma: ‘Cause our films are known here and abroad. And it’s digital now.

Bianca: One thing that’s opening now is TV presales. So you can pitch to, say, GMA, and they can buy your film ahead, which was the case for our film Above the Clouds.

What’s the role of government in helping the film industry? In solving the issue of distribution?

Moira: Ayun nga, to address yung issue ng sustainability ng smaller producers like us, na hindi kami ka-level ng [to address the issue of sustainability for smaller producers like us, that were not in the same league as]  Star Cinema or GMA, parang wala rin kaming mga networks na [we’re not backed by the major TV networks]… or the publicity machinery to rival those of big companies. I think FDCP [Film Development Council of the Philippines]  is there to somewhat level the playing field. To assure us that we won’t quit.

How about protectionist legislation similar to what is practiced in other countries? Regulating the entry for Hollywood films for example.

Bianca: Like what China is doing ano?

Moira: Maybe not so much regulating the number of foreign productions. More like being assured of a minimum number of slots in cinemas.

Krisma: In Korea and Japan, they don’t actually regulate Hollywood films but they give space, assured slots, to local productions.

Moira: Even the opening day which is Wednesday. We’re against that. Kasi wala kaming advertising. [Because we don’t have advertising] It should be Friday, kasi we have a chance, kasi we have that weekend. Kasi ang mangyayari, when we open on Wednesday, wala na kami by Friday. Kasi nga mahina.[What will happen is that, when we open on Wednesday, we’re gone by Friday because it’s weak.] And you have to give way to word of mouth.

Bianca: Because if you fail in theatrical distribution, where else can you go?

Where do you think is the film industry headed?

Moira: With the new FDCP Chairperson and the MMFF…there’s the impetus to address our sustainability issue. This is a turning point. We’ll see if by next year, things have improved na.


Click here for an overview of the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival.

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