Film Notes
By Pablo A. Tariman

In this noonday encounter, Gerald Anderson is in high spirits and full of high hopes for his latest film, “AWOL” which is an entry in the forthcoming Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino.”

Gerald Anderson with AWOL leading lady Dianne Medina. Mighty proud of his latest action assignment.

For the record, he admits it is a small-budgeted project but after watching the result of his hard work, he knows he has wrapped up a film which will add something new in his acting credentials.

“While watching it, I could feel the suspense that I hardly moved in my seat. Usually you don’t react anymore if it’s your own film. But I must admit this one is a damn good one and worthy of all our hard work. Everything I want to see in an action-drama is all there.”

AWOL only had 11 shooting days but the director, Enzo Williams, made sure every shooting day is well-planned and well-executed. “Direk Enzo had it all figured out in his mind and he comes to the set really prepared. Naturally, everything moves fast even as we made sure it was a perfect collaboration. It was a breeze working with him because he knows what he wants in a scene and he made sure he gets what he wants.”

He doesn’t want to talk about budget which the film doesn’t have compared to his mainstream projects. “This is an indie film but mind you it doesn’t look like one. The story is big, the execution is superb and it can compare with any good action picture showing in town. My fee? Of course I have to agree to an indie rate. In the first place, I didn’t accept this film to earn money. I just wanted to do a good film whether it makes money or not.”

Gerald Anderson with director Enzo Williams. The director always comes prepared and executes real fast.

Gerald plays the role of Lt. Abel Ibarra, leader of sniper team (Musang) scout rangers of the Philippine Army.

First order of the day before the shoot was to train with honest-to-goodness scout rangers. “I have to absorb everything in the script but I also have to listen to real life soldiers on whom my character is based. During training breaks, I get to talk to them about their life as soldiers and mind you, their stories are enough materials for another action-drama film. I have to absorb their stories really well because what they narrated are true to life events similar to the character I am playing. Of course my role is a far cry from my rom-com roles. The training is really hectic and intense. It’s tough and the difficulties are for real. Here you see people sacrificing a lot for their country and they have no complains. Their stories are really sources of inspiration for me. They actually helped me shape the cinematic character of Lt. Ibarra.”

But midway into the training, Gerald found out one of the rangers who trained him died in the Malawi siege. “That was my first encounter with tragedy involving soldiers. It took some time before I was able to accept soldiers live and die just like that. We had fruitful and happy moments in the training and suddenly one of them is gone. It sure affected me a lot. I probably incorporated some of his traits in the character I was playing. But I don’t want to make a big thing out of this. I don’t want to use his short and tragic life to promote a film. But he sure inspired me more to do my best in this film.”

Also in the cast are Dianne Medina, Bembol Roco, Raymond Bagatsing and Jeric Raval, among others.

Bembol says Gerald is a promising action star. “He is young but has the instinct and the guts of what it takes to do action projects. On top of that, he is a good actor.”

Gerald Anderson during the presscon for AWOL. The film is his personal tribute to soldiers who died in the Marawi siege.

For now, Gerald enjoys the freedom of being part of an indie project. “What we lack in big budget we cover up with big passion to make this film really worth watching. This is a film that that will connect you to the plight of soldiers fighting for their country. Their struggles are real and by portraying the life of one of them is the least I can do to pay tribute to their heroism.”

“AWOL” directed by Enzo Williams opens in cinemas August 16.

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