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Blood, sweat and tears

Ever wondered why many local movies take just months to finish – while a few count a decade? Direk Avid knows.

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It has been said that apart from luck, having a workable gimmick is essential to making it in showbiz.

Avid Liongoren (Photo by Rocketsheep studio) I Manila Bulletin

Avid Liongoren (Photo by Rocketsheep studio) I Manila vBulletin

Some may scoff at the notion but it’s true though. From James Dean to Madonna, anybody who is anybody in showbiz has had a gimmick. It could even be argued that having no gimmick is basically a gimmick in itself.

Daring to dispel the popular notion is Avid Liongoren, a director whose first full-length effort made it to the Magic 8 of this year’sMetro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). The sole live action animated film in the lineup, many thought it was a conscious gimmick on Avid’s part to field that for higher chance to gain notice.

In an interview, Avid maintained he had no such intention.

“Like anybody else, I just submitted the film simply believing it is good enough for the festival.”

But, of course, the stylized look of the film was no accident, we offered.

“Well, yes, but to say that it is a gimmick – a stunt or a ploy –is far from what I had in mind,” the director replied.

Copycat?

Avid refuted suggestions he took inspiration from “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World,” a successful Hollywood feature film that some people deem offer similar visual approach with his film.

“That movie came out in 2010 while our idea for ‘Saving Sally’ was something we thought up as early as 2000,”  he claimed.

The young director added the film started as a concept he shared with film writer Charlene Sawit-Esguerra back when they were in college.

“Honestly, if there is something that it should be compared to, it would be ‘Mirror Mask.’

“At the time we weren’t even thinking of fielding it to the MMFF or with any festival. The original plan was just to create something that we like and to just post in on the Internet for everybody to enjoy for free.”

Labor of love

Apparently, the idea wasn’t as easy to execute.

“I came in to the world of filmmaking not knowing anything but filmmaking,” Avid said. “And that made the whole process quite the laborious thing that it was.”

It took 10 years for them to pull the whole thing of. Avid admitted their biggest stumbling block was funding.

“We were working on it on and off for years depending on the money,” he said. “It was quite stressful to say the least.”

The actors

On casting Rhian Ramos, TJ Trinidad and Enzo Marcos, the director shared, “I’m really thankful they didn’t add to the stress. I could only sing their praise.”

Rhian related how she auditioned for the role.

“It was TJ who broached the idea,” she said. “We were working on a TV series at the time. He just approached me and told me about the film.When I heard what it was all about and how it was supposed to look, I really got interested. I said to myself, ‘I got to be part of this.’ And I did.”

saving sally quotes

She was only 19 then and was used to doing mainly mainstream film and TV work.

“That’s why Avid’s idea was so interesting to me. I never auditioned for anything in my life (till then). But I was convinced it was something special and I’m really grateful that TJ paved the way for my involvement.”

TJ came on board simply because he liked Avid’s past work as illustrator and video director.

“I’m really hard on myself when it comes to choosing roles. I have this meticulous side to me. But when I heard that Avid was doing this, I immediately said yes because I believe in him and his abilities,” he said.

Enzo, who was already part of the cast from the get-go, admitted he was intimidated by the idea of working with both Rhian and TJ.

“It was really nerve-wracking,”  he said. “I’ve seen their work and I just can’t help but be intimidated. Thankfully, they were both really nice.”

In the film, Enzo is Marty, an aspiring comic book artist pining for his best friend Sally as played by Rhian. Sally, however, has monsters for parents as with an inconsiderate boyfriend played by TJ. In Marty’s fantasies he conjures up ways of defending Sally from the big bad world.

“At its heart, ‘Saving Sally’ is a story about love and how we should never give up on something we believe in,” said Avid.

This early, many are commending the chemistry between Rhian and Enzo. Asked about it, Avid jested that Enzo might not have been acting andwas actually into Rhian.

Enzo simply laughed and said, “Maybe…”

Turning serious, he added, “It is a role that many could identify with. Who hasn’t loved someone from afar?”

Avid is very happy with how the film turned out, particularly that it made it to this year’s MMFF.

“Actually, I cried the first time I heard we made it,” he said.

“There were over 60 projects vying for eight slots. The odds were tough. It’s like trying to hit the moon with a slingshot. We have neither clout or money. But thankfully, our prayers were answered.”

And that there is no gimmick.

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