Film Notes
by Pablo A. Tariman

“Sleepless” is a highly revealing film from a young director with an inner voice all his own.

Prime Cruz with Gerald Anderson who stars in his first Star Cinema project, “Can We Still Be Friends?”

The film unfolds quietly, the transitions have minimal use for music and in the end, the story shines like a raw diamond with very little need for polishing.

The screenplay of Jen Chuaunsu captures the mood, the unguarded moments of the millennials and towards the end, you see a peerless story of pure love wrapped in incredible friendship.

This young director shows us that real passionate love is not all about skin exposure and bed calisthenics but more about ordinary people connecting with people with their own share of loneliness.

Needless to say, this is a highly sensitive, if quiet and stunning film from a millennial director Prime Cruz.

He is only in his late 20s but he can pass for a shy member of the cast of a teenybopper movie.

But his early credentials show he is made of a mature creative stuff with a mindset that goes beyond teenybopper concerns.

Aside from his first feature film, “Sleepless” which won the NETPAC Jury Prize for Best Picture at the Quezon City International Film Festival, Prime also bagged the Best Director award for his second output, “Ang Manananggal Sa Unit 23-B.” Moreover, his short film, “Kung Ang Ulan Ay Gawa Sa Tsokolate” won the Best Short Film citation in the 2016 Cine Pilipino Film Festival.

Prime Cruz with writer-girlfriend Jen Chuaunsu. A comfortable creative team.

In this pocket presscon which he shares with his writer Jen Chuaunsu who happens to be his girl-friend, Prime doesn’t see any problem working with someone personally close to him. “In this set up,” he says, “we can be so honest with each other and we can be so candid about what we want to say about anything about the project. That is an advantage because when you are working with someone you don’t personally know, you have to watch your language and you sometimes have to be less honest just to be polite just to avoid harming anyone. Yes, we are in a relationship and it works well with us.”

The project came about after a Cine Panulat writing workshop conducted by writer director Jun Lana and Jen came up with a story that was just right for their first cinema baby.

But with his experience then limited to being segment producer of a major network, he had to work fast to live up to his film debut.

He recounted his birthing process thus in FB: “I didn’t know much about making movies when we made ‘Sleepless’. Having spent most of my post-college life working as a segment producer for television, I knew little about film language, editing narratives, and directing actors. Everything I knew about making movies came from some film classes way back in college.”

He wanted to back out when the Quezon City film fest people confirmed they officially qualified for the festival. He felt he didn’t know enough and he thought he would ruin the beautiful screenplay that his girlfriend wrote. He advised her that they should just ask a more experienced director to do it.

Prime Cruz and Jen Chuaunsu with mentors Jun Robles and Perci Intalan. Everything started in the writing workshop.

But Jen would not have it the other way. He has to direct it himself because she felt he was the right director for the project.

He has to work fast to get a fast lesson on elementary filmmaking.

Quickly, he watched videos from every frame of a painting and learned a lot from video essays from vimeo as he could. He watched his favorite films all over again and talked to people for advice. “I showed my visual treatment to my mentor. And I closed my eyes and remembered all the time I spent at Mini-Stop, because it was late and Starbucks was too expensive. I remembered staring outside of moving trains, watching the city go by. I remembered feeling lost and out of place in manila, but learning to live with it because I had no other place to go. I remembered the loneliness and sadness, and learning to suppress it if I wanted to survive.”

As it turned out, all his hard work and highly personalized preparations paid off. His debut film won best picture and it did sit well with cineastes.

His debut film yielded not only good impressions but it gave way to other bigger projects as well.

He is now working on a Star Cinema project “Can We Still Be Friends” starring Gerald Anderson and Arci Munoz and yet another one for Regal Films “The Debutantes” and soon another one for Via Films.

How far can he go to accommodate the new set of producers associated with mainstream films?

To be sure, he knows that he has to adjust to another mindset in filmmaking.

He is sure of only one thing: he will do his best, he will have the mainstream audience in mind but he will make sure his voice as a filmmaker is not disregarded. “I started as a brain-stormer for some projects and I know their audience. I will do what to me is good for the project. But I will also let them know how I stand as a director with my own vision of the film.”

“Sleepless” starring Glaiza De Castro, Dominic Roco and directed by Prime Cruz is now showing at SM Cinemas (North Edsa, Megamall, Mall of Asia, Southmall, Fairview, Bacoor, Cebu and Iloilo) on Friday May 26 as part of the FDCP’s Cine Lokal Series.

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