SAVING SALLY: Pinoy’s Creative Showcase
My Delicate, my artist, you are the best of me.
Marty (Enzo Marcos): The girl is stolen by a band of monsters who keep her in an impenetrable fortress, enslave her and keep her from her birthright. She thinks her only way out is marrying this monster prince. Coz she feels that living with one monster is better than to live in a fortress full of them. All this time the boy plots her rescue. Toto the Publisher (Peejo Pilar): Well… Marty: So it’s a fantasy. Toto: It’s a love story. Marty: You hate it. Toto: No I don’t I haven’t cried this much since Optimus Prime died in Transformers the movie, the animated one ok?
Marty: You’re not crying. Toto: I weep inside. Marty: This story just came to me. You know? Toto: OK, OK visually its good. It’s surreal and light at the same time. I love the hero and the fact that he is flawed. He’s skinny…(looks at Marty) The girl is a victim of circumstance. She makes good of what she can. It’s just that love stories’ not the path I was headed. Marty: I know you wanted mayhem, war, chaos… Toto: Yes!
Marty: Isn’t that what love is all about?
SAVING SALLY is pretty much summed up in the dialogue above between Marty (Enzo Marcos) and his comic book publisher Toto (Peejo Pilar). The story is basically a love story but the way it is told is vastly different from any other made in the Philippines, certainly from any other entry in the MMFF (at least for 2016).
SAVING SALLY combines animation, both 2D and 3D with live action with elements of sci-fi and fantasy. This ‘film’ is the perfect example of the 180-degree turn of the Metro Manila Film Fest to give other, newer, creative minds, filmmakers a chance to tap into that lucrative Christmas market. More importantly it allows the vast majority of our kababayan to see in this case a work where a multitude of different artists like illustrators, animators, comic book artists-sketchers, painters, all come together to tell a story that anyone can relate to.
Everyone from Pixar, production places in Singapore, Korea and the U.S. even France are all aware of the talent of Filipinos in animation. In fact the producers are French: Alain De la Mata, Herve Pennequin, Catherine Jacques. These countries tap into our rich talent pool in their studios.
Oscar & Golden Globe winning INSIDE OUT (Best Animated Feature) co written and directed by Pinoy Ronnie Del Carmen with Phil Docter is only the most recent example. It’s our own audiences here who have yet to appreciate our animators, with a story and production that’s 100% Pinoy.
We can safely proclaim that SAVING SALLY has changed all that with the glowing reception by fans at the MMFF and showcasing the talent we have in animation and the excellence of the cast. The sacrifice of director Avid Llongoren over a decade to complete this dream project has been rewarding. From a short story by Charlene Sawit-Esguerra, Carlo Ledesma helped Avid Llongoren develop the screenplay. There were 2 reshoots, re casting and other problems. Anna Larrucea was originally cast as Sally.
Back in 2011, PINTAKASI produced by Gov. Imee Marcos was part of the New Wave category of the MMFF. It was a film that also combined live action with animation. That was more action oriented with monsters, demons, heroes battling it out. If you can imagine it also cast the best hip-hop dance crew in this side of the world: The Phil All Stars. The problem being it was only screened in very few cinemas and for about 3 days–total. Coming from that we see how the full exposure and support of SAVING SALLY as part of the main competition of the MMFF is beneficial to everyone concerned.
SAVING SALLY has attracted the younger audiences from kids to teens and has had relatively better commercial success. More Filipinos now have the chance to see the work of our celebrated animators. We know we have the talent, the dearth has been content, the will to create an audience for it and that’s what the MMFF has done this year.
Rhian Ramos as Sally is the perfect girl every man can fall for but even more so for every teenage geek. She is a comic book artist. She is not only obsessed with gadgets she makes them too. Sally almost fits Rhian to a tee except for the inventing gadgets part. Mr. Avid was very lucky in being able to get someone in her caliber of an actress. She’s young enough to be convincing as a teenager and yet experienced enough as an actress to portray the more complex scenes. Rhian seems to enjoy the challenge of unconventional roles that she has told GMANews of her intentions to add more indie projects for 2017.
Her adoptive parents played by Shamaine Buencamino and Archie Adamos abuse Sally both verbally and physically. We’re all familiar with Shamaine Buencamino who has done it all from lead roles to villains from TV to theater. It is Archie Adamos who seems almost unrecognizable as an upper-class terror of a father. He cleans up very well and was very convincing. He’s played a lot of bad guy parts but never in a role as big as this and gave a great account of himself. The conflict for Sally is something not expected in an animated piece. But delivering the message of how and why violence against women (VAW) is wrong is relevant more than ever.
Producers may have felt that with the casting of Rhian Ramos, she’s enough of a box office draw (which turned out to be correct). They could take a risk with newcomer Enzo Marcos. The experiment has proven to be successful. Viewers understand how Enzo’s character Marty is so in love with Sally and how he is so insecure and fearful of declaring his love for her. They both have an obsession for anime, comics, alternative film,music and the like.
Marty is the more skilled comic book artist and is looking to make it a career even before graduating art school. Sally is better at conceptualizing and making gadgets that make her life easier like improvised telescopic goggles, robot arms that iron clothes and scare off bullies.
Enzo very easily portrays Marty because they both have a creative mind. Enzo is a filmmaker who has produced music videos for Pinoy super bands KJWAN and GREYHOUNDZ, apart from being a musician himself. He has also directed TV commercials for international brands. So the need to express himself through his art, through images is something that he can fully relate to.
Enzo has also produced an interesting web series on YouTube featuring artists, performers and thinkers called MANILA REGARDLESS. Casting Enzo as Marty is very natural since he lives in that world of artists in different media. Both Marty and Sally use their love for comics, cartoons and fantasy as a way to escape their problems.
Carme Sanchez & Bodjie Pascua
Carme Sanchez is the loving mother to Marty. She can’t help but be excited about the prospect of Marty having Sally as his first girlfriend. Bodjie Pascua on the other hand is the senior geek of the family. His field of expertise is slot car racing (it’s the matchbox sized cars that go around in plastic tracks). If the movie is to be believed there is a community of racers right here in the Philippines. Dad may not be an expert in love but just like his famous TV character Kuya Bodjie, he has a lot of wisdom to impart to our unlikely hero Marty.
Visually there’s a lot going on in each scene. There are weird monsters walking by. These are bullies, villains that oppress ordinary folk like Marty. In his mind they’re monsters. Then there are the colorful animated backgrounds from skies, carnivals to the dark castle of a house Sally lives in. Responsible for the look are Lead Visual Artists Jether Amar and Jethro Razo. Credited as Supporting Art Ninjas: Peyer Raphael Mutuc, April Fonda and Joshua Tata Selo Panelo. I’m sure there are other artists that participated. These are only the tip of the iceberg that deserves praise and congratulations.
Then there’s the production side that fill the gap between animation and live action. They are crucial in making the illusion that real people can interact with animation. These are: cinematographers Rommel Sales, Odyssey Flores, Production Designers Rocketsheep Studio, Rommel Laquian and Erik Manalo and Sound master Joshua Cantillon. Director Avid learned the hard way that hard drives could crash and destroy one’s hard work (Part of the reason the project took more than 10 years). Enter I.T. Warrior Hermie Cabrito to ensure, this no longer happens.
All of these talented, hard working people have come together to drive home the idea in SAVING SALLY. And that is if you love someone you should never pass up the opportunity of showing it. As difficult it is to see, the rewards always outweigh the risk. You never know what may happen to prevent you from being with that person. From that enduring Alfred Lord Tennyson quote: “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”