Film Notes
by Pablo A. Tariman

Director Pedring Lopez is a father of two and likes to cook for his children when location shootings are not that hectic.

Proudly pointing to us his loving wife, you can sense his inborn passion as family man. One could deduce he keeps a few friends as well.

Director Pedring Lopez: Pinoys are the most creative people on earth.

Director Pedring Lopez: Pinoys are the most creative people on earth.

These few friends probably share his special passion for the moment which is filmmaking.

Talking to him in this special meeting before we watch the first teaser trailer of “Nilalang” (an official entry in this year’s MIFF), Lopez opines there is a need to fill the vacuum for action pictures now that hardly any action flick figures in local cinema.

The director has a special advantage because he has ample exposure in advertising work and was deep into directing music videos and commercials before he turned to feature films.

The importance of doing storyboards for every sequence of the film is to him a must as it helps him pinpoint the color that applies to every frame of the film. “The lights should not clash with the production design,” says he. “Nothing is left to chance when you do storyboards. It is a good guide on the kind of film you want to produce.”

He reveals his script has been hibernating for ten years but he thought now was the time to execute it with the right creative team.

He recalls: “When we started with Robin Padilla in the lead role, the creative was all in place. When he backed out to attend to his wife who had a miscarriage, we had to form another creative and production team and had to work double time to find a good replacement. The role went to Cesar Montano who we realized was a perfect choice. He was abroad at that time and upon reading the script, he just said yes. He didn’t mind being the second choice.”

Cesar Montano with Maria Ozawa in "Nilalang." For the actor, the role was cinematic manna from heaven.

Cesar Montano with Maria Ozawa in “Nilalang.” For the actor, the role was cinematic manna from heaven.

Montano admits: “It doesn’t really matter if I am the second or the 9th choice. What matters was that the role went to me and I tell you, the role turned out special. Truth to tell, I was amazed. I didn’t realize this new assignment will turn out this good. I really hope more filmmakers like him (Pedring Lopez) will emerge.”

Lopez notes the actor has aged beautifully and was even more in perfect shape in his early 50s.

Finding Montano’s leading lady came by accident. By chance, he came across a radio interview with Maria Ozawa who is a celebrity in Japan as an adult video actress. At first he couldn’t believe Ozawa was in Manila. He was a follower of her adult videos and he thought the Oriental sequence of his script with samurai episodes of 15th century Japan will make Ozawa just perfect for the part.

In “Nilalang,” Ozawa plays the part of Miyuki, the daughter of an elder Yakuza leader based in Manila.

Born to a Japanese father and a French-Canadian mother, Ozawa broke into the AV (adult video) circuit in 2005 with the video, “New face – Number One Style.” In no time at all, Ozawa’s videos acquired a cult following in her country.

Lopez found the actress very professional and even agreed to do some difficult stunts just to look credible for the part. “She had bruises and swollen arms after some takes but she didn’t mind at all,” the director rues.

From Montano: “There was no hardship she could not hurdle. In this dusty, half-finished building where we shot some sequence, there were layers of dusts all over the place. She went through her sequence just like any other professional.”

Ozawa is getting a good feel of Manila and has taken to liking Filipino food like the adobo.

Said she: “I could eat adobo every day and not mind it at all. What was too adventurous for me was being asked to try the balut. I thought it was a nightmare.”

For the new project, nothing was left to chance.

Lopez said the re-assembled creative team is composed of people with roots in the advertising industry. Needless to say, the film went through a regimen that goes with making a branded commercial.

Everything was studied and planned from storytelling to casting, shooting, editing and even promotions with an eye for international market.

Added the post-production house creative director for content Rex Lopez: “We did ‘Nilalag’ in an unconventional way – not to be different for the sake of being different. We did the project because we believe that today’s viewers are more discerning. Today’s moviegoers know when they are just being taken for a ride or when they are seeing a really good work. They can tell when big names are just a smokescreen for lack of depth in story and characters.”

Teaser poster of "Nilalang." Film opens on December 25.

Teaser poster of “Nilalang.” Film opens on December 25.

Lopez agrees there is a need to set a new standard for Filipino films especially in the action-horror genre.

The initial trailer of “Nilalang” which was heavily applauded after the preview is an indication an exciting action thriller is worth watching in the coming 2015 Metro Manila Film Festival.

The director point out “Nilalang” is technically his third film as he did a French film entitled ‘408’ before ‘Binhi.’ Moreover, the production team is indie but the budget and look of the film is very much mainstream.

He concludes: “We Pinoys are one of the most creative peoples in the world. It’s about time our work reflected that.”

“Nilalang” – a joint venture of Haunted Tower Pictures, Paralux Studios and Viva Films – opens on December 25.

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