More than a decade since entering show business as actor, Xian Lim stands behind the camera as director in the Cinemalaya 2019 entry “Tabon,” which he also produced and co-wrote.
“I just started typing my ideas on the phone,” he said when asked about the story. “It’s a very humbling experience for me and I’ve always wanted to direct. I’ve always wanted to create content, whether it be paintings or ideas.”
“Tabon” is about a man from Manila going back to the province to find out what happened to his father.
This movie sees Xian come full circle. Remember the Cinemalaya movie “Two Funerals” by the late director Gil Portes in 2010? That’s a Xian starrer and since then, he’s been fascinated with indie filmmaking.
“In 2009, I told direk Gil that the set-up was really nice. Ever since I started in showbiz, I’m used to having large productions and OB vans. But when we did the ‘Two Funerals,’ I think there were only two cameras and few people around,” Xian said.
He uses the lessons he learned from Gil in his roller-coaster ride in showbiz.
“He told me to do my job well and to just keep going. Don’t pay attention to the noise. He said that there will be distractions, but I just need to keep going. I didn’t understand what it meant before and now I understand,” he said.
Xian gives credit to veteran screenwriter Ricky Lee. Taking this new endeavor seriously, Xian attended the latter’s 15-week workshop.
“I’m also grateful to Sir Ricky. It was so hard to get into his workhop. I owe him a lot, talagang inampon niya kami. It’s really great that he opened his class to the public and inspire people. I was really shy in his class and they really pushed everyone (to become better people and writer), from your ego to our insecurities. He has a disclaimer that it’s not him who will teach us to write but life’s stories,” he said.
How does Xian assess his directing skills?
“I’m not the type who just tells them what to do. It has always been a collaborative effort. I also listen to what they suggest. If I think that’s also good, then we meet halfway and execute it,” he said.
Xian admitted feeling overwhelmed doing the film, but he is satisfied with their output, especially the collaborations.
“As an actor, we’re used to being told what to do and we go by the script. But this time around, it was so much different. I worked really hard, blood and sweat, for this film. We spent months trying to build a compelling story,” Xian proudly said.
Before Xian did the film, he reached out to the actors he knows and has worked with. “Tabon” stars Christopher Roxas, Ynna Asistio, Dexter Doria, Benjie Felipe, Bapbap Reyes, Menggie Cobarrubias, Leon Miguel, Lao Rodriguez, and Richard Manabat.
“When we did it, we really didn’t consider the business aspect. It was more of the creative (fulfillment). We also shot some additional scenes. We watched the movie as a whole and I thought that we can add scenes because we still have time and budget. I wasn’t convinced at first, to be honest. So, we pushed through with it,” he said.
Is Xian ready for people’s criticisms on the film?
“All of my life, I have been judged. It also comes with the creative process. When you create something, criticisms are inevitable. Of course, it would hurt me, but I won’t take it personally. It’s a learning process. I also reached the point that some people didn’t agree with what I was doing and it helped me grow as a person. I think it’s also the same here. There are things that might work and might not work.”
Xian hopes to direct Vilma Santos, Chistopher de Leon, and girlfriend Kim Chiu in the future.
“(Vilma) gives a different light. She gave me another perspective on work and life in general, with her attitude and how she treats her co-workers on the set. With Sir Christopher, even if he’s off-cam, he’s always involved. He’s very passionate with work,” he said.
Following his directorial debut, Xian will be back onscreen for an ABS-CBN teleserye with Kim and Erich Gonzales.
The Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival 2019 runs from Aug. 2 to 11 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. For complete list of schedule, go to Cinemalaya’s official social media accounts.