The Future of Filmmaking: A look at the Comm Arts major’s thesis

For every college student, the end goal and fruition of all our hard work is usually thesis writing. Most of us struggle (and hopefully, succeed) with a senior research paper, study, or project. However, for some courses, the thesis can be, shall we say, unique.

While no less challenging, time-consuming, and socially relevant, this particular course’s thesis adds creativity, innovation, and entertainment into the mix. While it may be unheard of to students from other colleges, majors who undergo it often find it the perfect culmination to their years of learning. We’re talking about the path of short filmmaking, undertaken by most of the College of Liberal Arts’ own Communication Arts majors.



Much like the typical college thesis, a Comm Arts major’s thesis is spread into two terms. Almon (V, CAM-ADV) shares that the bulk of the paperwork is done during their first term of thesis. “Sa THSCAMA, you make the Introduction, RRL, and some parts of the Methodology, which includes target budget, audience, and schedule.”

This stage is where the research and brainstorming of ideas takes place. Creative by profession, these majors find ideas anywhere, thinking of the best methods to deliver
their message. Such was the case for Pobs* (CAM, ‘15) who, after watching kalesas in Binondo, pursued a film documentary on the topic.

In the pre-production, groups discuss with their mentors the angle, as well as the whole plan on how to execute the film. “When we thought that we already had a clear vision as to what we want our film to say about the lives of the dying kalesa and how to say it, we prepared our production needs like cameras, microphones, interview questions, shot list and pegs,” shares Pobs.

Almon shares that this stage can be scary, as they are only given three chances to submit their proposal for approval. “Pag ‘di ka nakapasa sa third reading, bagsak ka ng THSCAMA.”

Future of Film - Agnes Lalog []


Shooting, basically

After a term of pre-production, they are finally set for the actual production work. In the case of Almon, his group decided to come up with a short film with the working title Joey. He explains that throughout the whole process, the three members of his group had to take the roles of cinematographer, scriptwriter, and director. “Hatian ng tasks. We are trying to mimic the real setting.” He also notes that their roles were clearly defined as to avoid chaos and confusion during the prod work. Sharing a different sentiment, Chloei (CAM, ‘14), who is now part of Rebelde Films, thinks that the department’s rule of not allowing the students to hire additional crew is problematic. “That will never happen in the film world.”

She also mentions the problem of limited equipment, saying that there are “too many thesis groups and other CAM students with production classes.”

Budget is also an issue in the production stage. Groups had to share expenses for the talent fees of actors, the location fees, and other logistics. Almon shares that in casting, “Minsan umaabot ng 10K,” and they decide between haggling, finding new actors, or shelling out the amount.

Although the Department does not impose a budget limit, Direk Joey Reyes, their mentor, only allowed them a maximum of Php 75,000. “Meron kasi umaabot ng 150K. Ayaw ni Direk ng ganun,” Almon explains.

Budget constraints, casting, and location hunting are the typical difficulties these majors have to face along the way, although because of the lengthy process, unexpected problems can also sometimes surface. For instance, Pobs* faced a different kind of hurdle. “It took me five terms to finish mine because of some internal issues among our group,” she shares.

From prod work, they move on to post-production, where musical scoring and editing begins. “This is where you salvage a film,” Chloei shares. In some instances, groups may hire professional video editors to achieve their film’s vision.

The fruit of their hard work finally materializes upon finishing in post-prod, where some groups are eager to submit their outputs to various film festivals. Among Almon’s batch, short film Usapang Matanda entered the student category of the Metro Manila Film Festival last October 2015.


Looking forward

More than anything else, a thesis is the ultimate test to see if a student’s learning was enough to create something that can impact people, both within and outside their field. Several Comm Arts majors want to pursue careers in the filmmaking business, and so for them, their thesis is a bit like getting their feet wet for the real world.

When asked about how some graduates who want to pursue filmmaking usually start from the indie film industry, Pobs* explains, “[It is] the realization [that] wanting to be in this industry (or in any medium) is something very [attainable] if you know where you’re good, or [what you] suck at.”

“The difficult part is when you have to decide if you want to challenge and grow in your niche. If you want to always be on the move na parang kitikiti while challenging your visual, artistic and storytelling skills, production is for you,” she advises further.


The future of the local film industry

But what do these majors themselves think of the film industry, and how eager are they to find their place in it? Almon is just one of the many Comm Arts majors planning to take a shot in the film industry someday. He says that this decision was born out of his “greater appreciation [for the local] film industry”, which he grew after taking his majors. He would like to keep the quality of Philippine cinema moving forward, referring to films such as Etiquettes for Mistresses, which try to “bend the rules a bit”, as he says.

For Aaron (III, CAM), however, he takes issues with the quality of the local films. “[Mainstream films] lack substance and are made just to generate profit,” he explains, citing repetitive stories and stereotypical characters.

However, Pobs* makes the case that films such as On The Job, Heneral Luna, Honor Thy Father, and Tandem are challenging the same-old, repackaged film plots and the trend of unnecessary sequels, as they become more competitive with the mainstream industry through their successful runs. “Finally, quality is starting to trump sensationalism. I just hope the momentum keeps on going,” she adds.

Both Almon and Pobs* also cite the importance of social media in the film industry. Because social media allows for easier advertising, independently-released films are becoming more well-known and recognized by the masses.

At this point, all that’s left, according to Almon, is for the audiences to start appreciating other themes as well. But this is only a matter of time, as movies serve as both a reflection of, and an inspiration to all who watch them—the effect of this “upgrade” in film quality should only lead to better things for audiences as well.

Anne (III, CAM), along with her fellow batch mates, take the challenge of improving the local film industry upon themselves. She says, “We want to change how films are being perceived today. We want to be the change that consumers want to see.”

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