On passion projects and long waits
‘ang art ay Parang Love; hindi siya ang sagot sa Lahat. Learn business. Learn Math, Most importantly. figure out how to earn, first and foremost’
In contrast to his wild and colorful imagination overrun by invader aliens, Voltron robots, and suspicious chickens just waiting in the (ahem) wings for the great uprising to overthrow their human overlords, Saving Sally visionary Avid Liongoren takes a hard, pragmatic look at Philippine cinema and animation. The selfproclaimed walking, talking UP Fine Arts stereotype’s “steady lang, no big words” take on things is refreshing, to say the least.
What got you into animation in the first place? Mahilig akong mag-drawing. Mahilig akong gumawa ng mga bagay-bagay. At kapag gabi, ipinagtatanggol ko ang mga aso sa mga kalaban nila. I draw; I make stuff. And I wanted to see them move. That’s it. That’s all I want to do. Pretty much make stuff, and play with dogs. Hindi ako magkukunwaring may malalim akong gustong gawin. I like telling stories and I just want to make a living doing that.
What motivated you to make Saving Sally so aesthetically rich and close to home but still choose to tell the story in English? Growing up kasi, kapag pinag-drawing mo ako ng siyudad, it will always look like the skyline of New York City kasi mahilig ako sa komiks na Spiderman and Avengers. Doon ako sanay. Karamihan ng fine arts students, pag-drawing-in mo ng bahay, mukha siyang bahay sa States. Hindi siya mukhang bahay sa Teacher’s Village. Kayang mag-drawing ng kotse, pero ‘di kayang i-drawing ang tricycle out of memory. ‘Yung isa sa mga goals namin
when making Saving Sally, is that gusto namin ‘yung visual imagery niya, very Pinoy. [The script is in English]
kasi when we started the film, it was never meant for MMFF.
Ang point lang naman talaga was to finish it and seed it online for the enjoyment of the people who worked on it—a number of whom hindi marunong magtagalog. Karamihan naman ng nakapanood no’n didn’t mind. They would say na mas marami sanang naka-appreciate kung Tagalog siya, but on the flipside, we’re in the process of selling it sa States ngayon. Mahihirapan din kaming magbenta sa States naman kung Tagalog siya.
Saving Sally is your first feature film and it was 10 years in the making. How was the experience compared with your other projects? Although getting good feedback and knowing that people enjoyed the film is fun, making Sally was not enjoyable; it was hard. Sa commercials kasi, I’m using someone else’s money [for production costs]. This one, I was paying for it out of my pocket, so,
masakit. At one point, I really had to lock down my intentions for the film kasi sobrang tagal ng 10 years. It was written when we were really, really young and ‘yung mga concerns
namin sa life, malapit pa do’n. I’m much older now and I don’t care about the characters’ concerns anymore. Friendzone, all that bullshit—graduate na ’ko diyan.
What did it take to stick with something for so long? I attribute that mostly to our stupidity than anything else. If we knew it’d take that long, we wouldn’t have done it. Hindi siya mabulaklak [na kwento] eh. Passion and inspiration, those are cool things but passion lasts about a week, a month—two months at most. Maybe if you’re a really sunshine-y person, it will be half a year. It was really more of, “Okay, we started this and let’s finish it.” It’s commitment. Most creative talks would go on about inspiration. To finish things, you need commitment, which isn’t really [as charming as things] like passion and inspiration.
What sets Sally apart from other local films with special effects animation? The story is very typical, but yung visual treatment, it’s a different way of doing things lang. Productions like
Panday, they’re trying to look like Hollywood animation, but they don’t have the funds to do that. You end up looking like cheap, trying-hard Hollywood wannabes. Kami, at the very beginning, we actually tried our hand at 3D visual effects. After one year of working, we realized na ‘di kami Pixar. They have what you call a render farm. That’s 1,000 computers rendering; meron kaming tatlong computer na naka-tapes. Layo talaga. It was that approach na “don’t overreach.” Doon kami sa lower end of the spectrum and it worked naman.
Does the Philippine animation industry need saving? Noong bata ako, parang naiisip ko pa na, “Ah, ako ang taga-salba ng pelikulang Pilipino” which is dumb,
jusko. Masyadong maraming factors to consider for that to happen and at the end of the day, I just want to be able to tell a story. With Sally, it made decent money, and it made a decent number of people happy. Maraming natuwa kasi ‘di nila akalain na pwedeng magkaroon ng ganun sa Pilipinas. I wouldn’t say that it’s a game-changer, but it’s a step in that direction.
Any words of wisdom for young aspiring Filipino artists and auteurs? ‘Wag na kayo mag-drawing, magcongressman na lang kayo. Mas marami kayong kikitain ‘pag naging
pulitiko kayo. But if you insist on doing art, read up. Ang art ay parang love; hindi siya ang sagot sa lahat. Learn business. Learn Math, and most importantly, figure out how to earn, first and foremost. The earlier you learn that passion won’t feed you, the better you’ll be. You can still do art, but get a job that pays the rent. Lastly, remember na ‘di ka special. ‘Wag mong personalin ang mga bagay. ‘Pag pinakita mo ‘yang gawa mo, may magsasabi at magsasabi na pangit yan, at meron ding magagandahan. Ako,
alam ko ‘yung output ko and I know that if I think it’s ugly, no amount of compliments will make me think otherwise. If I think it’s great, no amount of criticism will make me feel otherwise.