Fine Cuts – Carlo Francisco Manatad

Continuing the conversation, Elise Shick converses with Carlo Francisco Manatad from the Philippines about his career, his mentoring experience in the 3rd Young Filmmakers Workshop and why collaboration can be a problem.

Hi Carlo! Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Tell us about how you got started in filmmaking.
Hi Elise! I was in film school, but before that I was actually in business school, and then I went to engineering, so basically I had these moments in my life where I really didn’t even know what I should do. However, in the my back of my mind I really wanted to do something connected to arts. When I was in film school, everyone wanted to be a director and, to be honest, I also wanted to be one. And when all your batch mates want the same thing, there is a lot of competition.

How did you transition more towards editing, then?
In the back of my mind, living in the Philippines makes it hard to just jump in and have work. So I was thinking about which part of the process of filmmaking that I really enjoy, and it was basically telling stories and editing, which I have been doing for the longest time, even since I was in high school.

You were editing back in high school?
Yes! So I was thinking like, maybe I could expand my horizon of knowledge in editing. I started editing like way, way, way, way, way back, and I had my first feature when I was still in college. Somebody hired me, as they thought I was good, but I didn’t think so as I was still a student. However, I thought that opportunity was the best way for me to just jump in and get to work as an editor.

Excellent. Who influenced you the most when it comes to appreciating films?
My interest in filmmaking came from my father. He used to be a cinephile, and I’m trying to put him back to be a cinephile like that again right now. He was actually the one who influenced me to watch films. I would watch films that I wouldn’t understand when I was a kid. In fact, it was a bonding moment for our family, where he would play films that nobody would understand.

What was that like for you?
For the whole duration of one hour, every ten minutes or so, one person would just walk out, but I would stay till the end, regardless if I understood the film or not! I was very interested, but I wouldn’t understand anything at all. So, as I grew up, I started to understand and became more and more interested.

Has this influenced anyone else in your family to make films?
Actually, back home, my family is business-oriented! I’m the only one who is doing arts.

In a sense, it became a kind of business for you as well. I say this, because… Carlo, you have edited more than 60 films throughout your life. Do you work from day to night? What kind of drive do you have that pushes you to have this editing stamina?
When I started editing, the feeling of finishing my first feature was very rewarding, even without thinking about how much money would I receive; I didn’t even ask actually. It was more like me experiencing a thing that I really want, and the opportunity is there, so why not grab it?

After that, I realised that I really wanted to make films. As an editor, I really wanted to tell stories. Sometimes, through directing it is really hard. I mean, I’m also a director, but you put too much effort and you actually have much more time to spruce up a film in general. With editing, I like to tell stories.

What is it about this that attracted you the most?
One of the few great things in filmmaking is that editing creates different stories regardless of how it started, how it was written, and how it was directed. It could basically make another story out of the materials you have, and that’s the best thing about that, because I control. Also, I collaborate. It’s a collaborative process, but at the same time I take control of it to a certain level, because you are basically an important part of the whole production. Learning these crafts actually helps me in directing.

Talk to us about the young(er) filmmakers in the Philippines.
I think there’s more opportunities now in the Philippines. It’s blooming, because there is a lot of festivals that actually give out funding to make films. It’s not particularly big, but even with this little amount of money and time, the films can be something done practically.

What do you mean by this?
What I mean is that they are very active, but at the same time the sad side of it is that I want to respect the timeline of how a film is made. Most of the time in the Philippines, they just set the certain number of months, and that’s from pre-production to post-production. Even though the films made are actually quite good, imagine what you can do if you have much more time than you have. It could be a better film, perhaps one of the greatest. I also think that in this time and age, everything is very accessible.

Yes, the digital revolution has certainly helped this along.
Technical-wise, like the internet and social media, everything is accessible. The only thing that needs to be done is the sensitivities of the filmmakers, like what stories to tell, why do you tell these stories, and how do you tell the stories. So I think that’s the main point. It’s not something you can go to the internet and find, it’s something that you find in you.

As a mentor for the Young Filmmakers Workshop, how do you help others find this voice within? Is it all that different compared to other workshops you’ve attended?
I do other workshops back in the Philippines and in other countries. Usually, it’s either directing or editing. The same goes for every workshop. It’s very different, but at the same time very familiar. It looks the same, it feels the same.

Can you elucidate this further?
For example, like this workshop, I’m into editing, but I transcend, like other mentors too, who do other things and involve themselves very much. Maybe we talk too much! We are very active in a way. I think it’s good.

Take Anocha [Suwichakornpong, a fellow mentor], a producer who is also a director. The roles intersect. Basically, we got involved too much in the pre-production and production. We care too much about the participants. We give this energy to them, and they give this energy back to us, so it’s like a win-win situation for both sides. We learn from the process. Even for Davy and Anocha, we said that we will be really sad when it comes to choose the two finalists for the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Film Leaders Incubator: FLY 2017 programme.

What is it about the participants that gave this impact?
When the workshop just started, I actually tried to observe the participants, and, you know, you have this feeling during the first time of judging other people. But in any case, when they progress gradually, you can actually get to see the shy people transform their way to be more collaborative.

You also get to see those aggressive ones who are actually being aggressive for the sake of uniting. But there’s also the other side of the spectrum where the aggressive ones disunite the team. There are a few participants who are actually trying to balance everything.

To achieve that balance is difficult, though, no?
There’s no perfect production team. Collaboration can always be a problem, and I can see it in all the teams when I observed and I asked the participants, trying to understand their psyches. For them too, it brings out their pressures due to what they are doing or all this time. In the end, I think there are the few moments in their filmmaking lives that they are going to say, “I’m glad I did that. It was a fun experience.”

Who can you pick out as potential future stars?
I see a lot of potential participants, which I won’t say right now. I really see a few participants who are not so aggressive, but when you actually get to know them… like, talk to them, not even about films, just talking to them about personal stuff or random things, you get to see their sensitivities. Also, we got to see couples of films from them, we got to see how they think.

It’s always the quiet ones.
Sometimes, even the quieter ones are the ones who have visions, and the more aggressive ones are the ones who fall flat, but they can actually be better in their next films. Even like volunteers, I saw your films and think, “Yes, these are good films.”

Elise is the content writer for the 3rd Young Filmmakers Workshop, organised by Next New Wave, which Carlo is a mentor of. You can find out more about that here. Our friend, Norman Yusoff, wrote about two Filipino filmmakers here

Featured image credit: Medical Media Training

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