Very much like a producer in the world of filmmaking, without much credit or attention, Fran Borgia has been tirelessly organising and hosting the weekly seminars for the film students of PSOF, so it only seemed fitting that Fran be given an opportunity to take centre stage and share his thoughts and experiences about the local film industry. Behind all the glitz and glamour of filmmaking, a lot of cajoling and bargaining happens; just to get the right crew, cast and budget to make an idea a visual reality and without a doubt, this is undertaken by the most underrated person in the crew: the producer. Speaking from such raw experience, Fran shared with us how he spent one and a half years trying to secure financing for a local feature film that he had hoped to produce.
The proposed feature film had an initial projection sum of eight hundred thousand dollars. After one and a half years of fighting tooth and nail, all that was raised was a paltry sum of seventy thousand dollars. Now at this stage, most of us would be quite dejected about not being able to secure funding and probably would let the project dawdle in developmental hell. True to his title as a producer, he set forth to make the most out of it. It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that most of the crew members took on multiple roles, including Fran where he worked as a not only a Producer but as an Assistant Director and the Editor. So what could you do with a budget of seventy thousand dollars, eleven days, a lowly paid crew, a not-so-professional cast and only one location? Apparently a lot! And it shows.
As he reminisced about the trials and tribulations that he faced just to create a feature film, one could only wonder how much work and passion goes on behind creating a film. The fact that Fran is not a man that is in this line of work because he had no choice but instead he has made his choice becomes increasingly clear. There was even a point of time during the seminar where someone asked the inevitable question about making money in films and with a laugh, Fran said “If I wanted to make money, I rather be a banker than a filmmaker”.
And even after creating a feature film, a producer doesn’t have the luxury to kick back and claim that his job is done. Securing a showcase spot at Cannes Film Festival had become the next step and it was pursued with such fervour and passion. After many months of corresponding with the selection board, Here (the title of the feature film), was eventually produced. It not only had the honour of being the first film chosen for the Cannes Film Festival of 2009 but also had been nominated for the prestigious Caméra d’Or award, which eventually Ilo Ilo won recently in 2013.
After showcasing Here a film following a man and his experience in a mental institution following the death of his wife to us which left not only this contributor but several others in the room scratching their heads, it became evident that even after a long drawn, passion fuelled battle, you cannot possibly please everyone. Fran, with a heavy sigh, mentioned that within fifteen minutes of showcasing the film at Cannes, nearly fifty people stood up and left the theatre. Imagine creating your first feature length film and fifty people walking out just like that. Fran also recounted how “it is really painful for the directors, so they try not to be at the screenings”. Though created out of sheer frustration, Here came to represent Fran and Tzu Nyen Ho’s (the director) love for films. The film captured iconic scenes of how a film is produced, which was unnoticeably weaved into an eloquent story. Undoubtedly, this contributor soon realised that Here, despite its poor commercial success, was the culmination of a dream. A dream, despite being tainted by financial setbacks and with only a few hundred souls to support its growth, was achieved and stood as a testament to budding filmmakers that it takes more than just money or the crew or the script to make the story. It takes raw, unadulterated passion to give it life.
Dhinesh, currently a Year One student at Puttnam School of Film, aspires to be writer (or a bartender, if all else fails). An ardent cat lover, he enjoys good beer, a good book and good company. And the occasional char kway teow (with extra cockles).