Today we bring you an interview with Filipino Filmmaker Vincent Soberano. Vincent’s short film Blood Hunters was shown last year Fighting Spirit Film Festival 2018. We gave Vincent 30 questions about Philippines, the Film Industry and Martial Arts, so if you want to find out more, carry on reading.
What’s the best part of the Philippines?
The islands! Especially the uncharted ones.
Describe yourself in three fictional characters?
1) Batman 2) John Wick 3) Rocky
What are three films you recommend other people watch?
1) Rocky 2) Apocalypse Now 3) The Shawshank Redemption
What inspired to make the film Blood Hunters?
I wanted to meld Filipino mythological characters into an Asian version of Blade and Sin City combined.
What was the most challenging part of filming Blood Hunters?
The full-length movie was tough to film because of the size of the film crew and cast (total approx. 200 people) and the remote locations where we shot in. It was also my first full-length narrative film and coming from a string of short films and TV documentaries, it was new territory for me.
What was the biggest lesson you learned while filming Blood Hunters?
Being hands-on with the budget, critical of any contracts, and don’t be too trusting and nice when it comes to disbursement of production funds. (We ran out of money 2/3 in the filming and I had to raise more funds to complete the movie.)
How do you want audiences to feel when watching Blood Hunters?
Action, excitement, and relaxation, knowing that they are watching a fantasy-action comic book type of film.
What do you see as the future of Blood Hunters?
We are now pitching Blood Hunters as a web series for one of the big platforms.
How would you describe your filmmaking style?
I’m very action-centric and I plan my scenes to be as riveting and exciting as possible.
Do you have any exciting projects coming up that you can tell us about?
Currently editing my latest film Circle of Bones and gearing up to co-direct a studio film in the Philippines next month.
What’s the proudest moment of your career so far?
Winning my first Best Picture award for my short film, Blood Hunters, which led to getting funded for the full-length feature.
What advice would you give people who want to get into directing?
Be prepared. Don’t just dive into it because it sounds “cool” or “prestigious” - no matter how confident you are, or how good you think you are, if you’ve never directed a movie, find yourself a mentor who has. Study the trade, know the technical as well as creative aspects of it. Most of all, learn to storyboard! Not talking about drawing a comic book. I mean storyboard all the scenes which includes visual representation of camera movements, angles, and transitions.
What do you think is the future of martial arts/action films?
Martial arts action films are notorious for lacking in drama and story development. Many successful martial arts action films are filled with incredible, high-budget, high-level action scenes which can distract the audience from criticising the story. But for other martial arts action films that don’t quite measure up to the action standards of movies like The Raid, mediocre action scenes must be coupled with a very compelling story that the audience can appreciate. Take for example, Warrior (starring Tom Hardy). The fight scenes were good, realistic and not-too-spectacular. But the story was powerful and the acting was masterful. It was almost hard to categorise the movie as purely an action film, although it had tons of martial arts action.
How does the Filipino Film Industry differ from the American Film Industry?
Looooong story. But number one, Philippines is a third-world country. The film industry here is light-years behind Hollywood. The standards, salaries, benefits and management is sub-par. Albeit there are so many Hollywood-quality artists and talents here in the Philippines but without the money and the funding, they are limited to making low-quality films compared to Hollywood. For example a $1M budget for a film is already considered super-high budget in the Philippines whereas in Hollywood it still falls below low-budget standards.
How do you think the Filipino Film Industry could improve?
Government support in terms of real funding, promotion and distribution, the way China has done it.
Describe your writing process.
I start with an idea or synopsis, and then create a treatment of the entire storyline. Next, I focus on every main character and develop them individually and in relation to each other. Next, I mend them back into the story and change the story as needed for the characters to fit. Once all the pieces are in place, I weave the action into the story, as well as the twists and turns, going sequentially until I reach the climax.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Not really. I’ve been writing stories, poems and little novelas as a child, as long as I could remember.
What are your favourite kind of stories to write?
Action-based drama and fantasy.
What is your background in martial arts?
I have been practicing martial arts all my life. I have won several world titles in Muay Thai and I have coached MMA to most of the top UFC fighters from China. I owned several gyms in Beijing and Shanghai since 2006, and am considered one of the pioneer MMA coaches in mainland China. My students were the first Chinese to qualify and fight in the UFC. I was also a coach in the UFC’s “The Ultimate Fighter (China) - Season One.”
Which martial artists inspire you?
Bruce Lee, of course, tops the list. Then there are others like Jackie Chan and Jet Li. And not to forget the martial athletes like Anderson Silva and GSP.
What is your favourite stunt you’ve ever done?
The wired stunts I did in the superhero comedy film, “Gandarrapido: The Revenger Squad” were crazy scary and exhilarating.
What’s the most challenging part of doing stunts?
The precision and technical planning are most challenging and important. Any miscalculation and mistake in planning can result to severe injury and even death.
Do you have any advice for when filming action sequences?
Plan, choreograph, practice, pre-vis, and then shoot the scene only when you are fully prepared.
How has your experience been with Fighting Spirit Film Festival?
It’s been good. My short film Blood Hunters was selected in the festival.
How has Fighting Spirit Film Festival impacted your career?
Hopefully through the short film Blood Hunters, which cost me only $10K to make, it can show how I can make a good quality action film with a very low budget, and still win accolades in the international stage.