Monday, August 26, 2013

EXTRA in Cinemalaya 2013: Vilma Santos' critique of the movie industry

Extra in Cinemalaya 2013: Vilma Santos' critique of the Philippine movie industry. Picture credit: "Governor Vilma Santos-Recto" by Littlebeatlebum - Own work.

Extra (The Bit Player) starring Vilma Santos is a movie entry to the Cinemalaya 2013.  The extras are the hobbits in the movie industry governed by wizards (movie directors) and powerful lords (producers).  Extra is a movie about the life of these little people that makes movies happen.  As Loida (Vilma) said, it is the crowd that define the setting, for what is a restaurant without ordinary people eating or a street without people walking by? "I used to be part of the crowd, too, " Loida told a young girl.  "But look at me now, I am a still part of the crowd."  She laughed.

The movie is a tale of the extras' grueling agony of day to day existence--the costumes you need to borrow, the long trek to the shooting scene, the meager food that comes late, the miserable sleeping areas, the humiliation of being told that that you were not properly cast for the role, and being dropped along the highway.  The extras are the dispensable people--others can always be found to take their place, for they usually do not need to show their faces, only their backs, and their pictures are blurred in the background, or their fleeting actions last but a moment for them to be recognized, which remind us of the meeting of God and Moses:
Then Moses said, "Do let me see your glory!"19 He answered, "I will make all my beauty pass before you, and in your presence I will pronounce my name, 'LORD'; I who show favors to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will.20 But my face you cannot see, for no man sees me and still lives. (Ex 30:19-20)
 Loida acted as the double of one of the stars who left because the shooting was late and she has a plane to catch.  For her role, Loida was gagged and her face was wrapped in a sack.  She was punched and kicked by the foremost contrabida, Cherie Gil, and her skin was burned with cigarette embers.  After the scene, Cherie Gil asked her name, apologized, and asked if she's ok.  And she said, "Ok lang.  Part of the job."

When Christ was hanging on the cross, would he also say the same thing, "It's ok.  Part of the job."? We can guess so, as He told the women of Jerusalem not to weep for him but for themselves and their own children.  Christ's job is to do the will of the Father in order to fulfill what the Scriptures said about him, as he told to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: "Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" (Lk 24:25-26) Because of this, Christ allowed himself to become Isaiah's Suffering Servant, an Extra, not fit to die within the walls of Jerusalem but extra muros, outside the walls, because a sin offering must be burned outside Israel's camp (c.f. Heb 13:11).

The extras are not the only faces in the movie.  There are the stars like Piolo Pascual and Marian Rivera.  There are the rising stars who used to be extras but has has forgotten where they came from.  There are the fading stars whose glorious days have long past their prime.  There are the director, staff, and crew who made sure that everything gets done according to the script.  But the powerful persons referred to in the movie are beyond sight: the film producers, TV network owners, and product advertisers--they decide the fate of thousands who work in the movie industry.  And finally, there's us who watch idly at the evening soap operas to be entertained, oblivious to everything that happens behind the scenes.

The movie industry has to change, and it should start from us movie goers and TV watchers to influence what good movies or TV shows to watch, by giving our vote when we buy tickets or flip through the channels.  And we can even opt not to watch anymore. Cherie Gil, for her part, has been outspoken in her demand to for respect for real actors and good living conditions to workers.  Here is an excerpt of her piece in Rappler entitled, Soaps need a lot of soaping:
I could be putting myself on a limb here, but I’m going to say it anyway: isn’t it high time we make the working environment in the soap opera world better for all to enjoy the work and find dignity in our choice of profession? Isn’t it time to raise the standards and expectations for the betterment of our teleseryes; from better story material, evolving from formulaic recipes. From more comfortable stand-by areas, to better and more respectful organization of everyone’s time, to humane working hours, and even maybe to plates and utensils (instead of styrofoam and plastics) for everyone? After all, isn’t the soap opera industry run by professional, successful big network corporations, who earn from professional, big corporate advertisers? Aren’t we all in this together? We all just want to make a decent and respectable living. I wonder how and where the change must start?
I think change shall start when we recognize actors and staff not just faceless cogs in a machine ruled by the rules of TV and movie ratings, but as human beings created in the image and likeness of God.  It all starts from this basic principle and all the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church regarding the dignity of labor follows. As G. K. Chesterton said:
The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.


Ekstra (The bit Player) Filipino DVD-Vilma Santos
Ekstra (The bit Player) Filipino DVD-Vilma Santos
Dare to Be Yourself: How to Quit Being an Extra in Other Peoples Movies and Become the Star of Your Own
Dare to Be Yourself: How to Quit Being an Extra in Other Peoples Movies and Become the Star of Your Own
Back To One: The Complete Movie Extras Guidebook
Back To One: The Complete Movie Extras Guidebook
Cinematography: Theory and Practice: Image Making for Cinematographers and Directors
Cinematography: Theory and Practice: Image Making for Cinematographers and Directors
The Complete Film Production Handbook (American Film Market Presents)
The Complete Film Production Handbook (American Film Market Presents)