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.

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