Think we’ve got it tough in the USA? Director, producer Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s position paper “Sex Every 10 Minutes” addresses problems with the Philippine film industry. The suggested solution for filmmakers will shock you. Below is Diaz-Abaya’s unedited essay.
Today, March 26, 2001, a group which calls itself the Concerned Artists of the Philippines is staging a rally to protest what they perceive to be a “suppression of the right to Freedom of Speech”, citing as cause the withdrawal from theatrical exhibition of the movie “LIVE SHOW”, as ordered by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. I just wonder why these “artists” did nothing last year to protest the silent and total boycott of the Inquirer by movie producers. Armida Siguion-Reyna justified the boycott as the industry’s gesture of support for Ex-President Joseph Estrada who complained to his showbiz coterie against the Inquirer’s unfavorable write-ups about him. Only GMA Network films refused to connive with the movie industry, and went ahead to place print ads for the film “MURO-AMI” in this newspaper. I wish every success for the CAP rally today. It would disprove their claims and demonstrate that, contrary to their complaint, Freedom of Expression IS enjoyed I this country today, particularly in the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. I do not think that she cares to operate like Erap’s midnight Mafia which was ruled not by a Code of Ethics, but by a Code of Silence, a Code of Connivance, a kind of (in military parlance) CODE RED.
The Concerned Artists claim that theirs is not a political rally to denounce the administration’s party; or is it a denunciation of the Church, of His Eminence Jaime Cardinal Sin and of Msgr. Soc. Villegas. Rather, theirs is a rally to uphold ART. Whoever is serving as tactician for the CAP will be responsible for causing more harm than good for the reputation of “LIVE SHOW”. In an earlier statement, I diagnosed the Philippine movie industry to be very, very sick. I called for self-examination and for reforms. So far, I have received no response. It is time for me to divulge to the public, our audiences and concerned citizens, what usually transpires behind the scenes of sex movies these days. First, I ask, do our filmmakers really believe that the erotic genre has no impact on our current community standards and sensibilities; that they are carrying out a mission to reveal only the truth about human nature and the oppressive social conditions in our country; that their “art is (just) a mirror of life”; that theirs is an expression of compassion for “the poor people” who are dehumanized by poverty? When a sex movie is planned, do our producers and directors say: “We want to help the poor. Let’s save them from poverty by exposing social ills that dehumanize their condition? OR do they plot: “Sex ang kumikita. We have no choice. Let’s make a sex movie. O direk, bahal ka nang pagandahin ang pelikula. Yung pang Festival, ha”?
Regal Films Executive Producer Lily Monteverde herself has complained to me time and again, “Kung maging istrikto and MTRCB, mabuti na nga siguro, aksi ayoko naman talaga ng sex movie. Babæ din ako. Kaya lang, what can I do kung yun and kumikita? I have to survive.” I am disturbed not only about the kind and the quantity of sex-movies churned out in the last two years, but, more seriously, about the way these sex-movies are made, the way they are marketed with titillating titles and publicity photos, the proliferation of pirated video copies of adult movies (in Virra Mall and other tiangges, in Quezon Boulevard – peddled by children together with sampaguita garlands), and worst of all, the SUB-CULTURE which is created as a by-product of these sex movies.
I do not accept some filmmakers’ excuse that “Pelikula lang ito. Director/artista lang ako. Maganda naman ang shots ko, hindi malaswa. May istorya pa. Pang adult ito. Restricted sa mga sinehan. Walang masama.” In short, the message of the filmmaker is “I only make movies. I am not responsible for its effects outside the theater.” As a founding member, President for four years, and member of the Committee on ethics and Grievances of the Directors Guild of the Philippines, I am I possession of testimonies and documented complaints from actors and actresses who were exploited and sexually harassed by producers, directors and talent managers (a number some of whom are even joining the rally today) in the production of sex movies…
A SAMPLE of the current MODUS OPERANDI:
1. Talent scouts hunt for sexy girls and boys, usually from bars and other night life establishments. “Exotic” (sexy) dancers are preferred. They are already used to taking off their clothes in public.
2. The PROPOSITION: I will make you a big star. ‘Datung’ ito. Makakatulong ka sa pamilya mo. Mapapagaral mo ang mga kapatid mo. Basta’t maghubad ka lang. Magaling si Direk. Maganda and istorya. Kaya lang, kailangan mong mag ‘all-the-way’. Wag kang mag-alala. Pansamantala lang ito. In time, you will make the transition to serious acting. The fact of the matter is, that after one or two movies, the talent is considered laos, stale, and tossed back into the dustbin of anonymity.
3. AUDITIONS, on a “casting couch” for a “taste test” and “take home” by the producer and/or director. The talent’s body is inspected, her teeth checked. She may need “adjustments”: lyposuction, breast-lift, and/or cosmetic dentures. The producer/director interviews the talent, promises to respect and take care of her. Talent is reluctant, but is reminded that the Proposition is worth it. It’s irresistible, too good to be true. She’s very lucky. She is convinced that it’s an honest job. It pays much better than other jobs like being a waitress, bank teller, tour guide, etc. It’s only her body, not her person, which will be exhibited. She starts to believe that I have a beautiful body. I’m not ashamed to display it. Inggit lang kayo. Trabaho lang ito. Sometimes, they test her for obedience and “willingness”. If she obliges and passes and actual lovemaking test, she gets a downpayment for the movie. Of course, all transactions are presumed to be consummated by (officially) consenting adults. The reality, however, is quite another matter. One of the many complaints about sexual harassment received by the DGPI, handled by me, involved a 16-year old talent who threatened to sue a director for sexual molestation during a sensuality workshop, conducted in preparation for the minor’s performance in a “wholesome” movie, starring Judy Ann Santos. After countless hearings and protracted investigation, the girl and her parents withdrew their complaint, but only AFTER they took P 1,000,000.00 as “danyos” from the producer. Case closed, like all the others that I personally handled. The director was spared from lethal injection — the penalty for statutory rape. Casting is a lucrative business. Anyone waiting in the sidelines for an acting break is material for exploitation by casting directors, assistant directors, production managers, schedule masters and many other kinds of predators.
4. SHOOTING. Sex scenes are shot clinically by a dozen staff and crew. Bold star is cajoled/coerced to take it off, take it ALL off. If she hesitates, she is yelled at for being maarte, mahirap katrabaho, palitan na yan! I know of one shooting scene where a male talent got an erection while performing a sexy scene. The director called for a break. When the actor’s erection had subsided, it was back to work, business as usual. Still photos are taken for publicity. Sex scenes are extended as a safety allowance, so that just in case the MTRCB rates it X, the exposures can be shortened, but not deleted. Movie is rated R-18. Lulusot. Pag dating sa probinsya, ibalik natin yung mga na-cut. I personally know that some producers, after previewing their sex movies, decide to re-shoot, or shoot additional sex scenes, if the first batches are not “bold” enough. “Kulang pa. Bitin. Dagdagan natin.” The producer’s formula is one sexy scene every ten minutes of film time. “Direk, you can do whatever you want, shoot it your style, deliver your message, basta give me 6 to 8 sex scenes.”
5. PROMOTIONS. Print, radio, TV, film and personal appearances to launch the career of a new bold star. She is coached to mouth all the soundbites. Sana po suporta ninyo ako. Maganda po ang pelikula. Panoorin po ninyo. Further, she/he is prodded to make controversial, sex-teasing innuendos: describe the steamy, bare-all sex scenes, her “modern” views about sex, her aspiration to be a serious actress someday, her nobility in providing for her family. She sings and dances, wearing skimpy costumes, in noontime television programs. Best of all, if she can be manipulated by her manager to pick a public fight with an aging, “has-been” bold star whose throne the ingenue is about to grab, the box-office receipts are guaranteed. Sexy, publicity photos are published in newspapers and tabloids. No age restrictions for buyers/readers. New talent gains publicity mileage, gets noticed by rich businessman/politician, is paid from P5,000.00 – P10,000.00 for a night of “tricks”. Manager takes 10% – 35% commission.
6. THE PRODUCT. Next time we watch a sex drama movie, let’s not ignore all the aspects OTHER than the story, direction, photography, etc., which go into the making of the movie. I am reminded of a brand name RUBBER SHOES, high-end, expensive, high quality, manufactured by thousands of tiny hands of child laborers/slaves in third world, Southeast Asian sweatshops. I like the rubber shoes; it’s high-tech and durable. BUT I PREFER THE CHILDREN, so I don’t buy the shoes.
7. SHORT TIME. A new, young bold actor/actress has a very limited professional life span. Producers have this idea that once a bold star has bared-all, there’s nothing more to see. The next, new, young, bold star replaces her. I urge the Philippine movie industry, our audiences and concerned citizens to re-consider the impact of one, or two, or two hundred sex movies, not only on adults 18 years old and above, but on all other sectors of civil society, especially women and minors, whose choices in life are compromised at the altar of what some filmmakers call “ART”. I urge aspiring movie stars to resist their exploitation by moviemakers. There are many ways to pursue a movie career other than by taking off one’s clothes. I have made my stand public. I know I shall be punished by the industry, but this will not be the first time I am challenging the showbiz status quo, and posing a threat to the prevailing modus operandi for greedy profit. Censorship and “church intervention” should not be used as alibis for bad movies, and the memories of Lino Brocka and Ishmæl Bernal should not be invoked to dignify the current controversy. Brocka and Bernal fought for something else. They fought for genuinely progressive ideas about the artist as citizen. They upheld their integrity even at the expense of their personal comforts. They died impoverished because the chose to remain poor and to go to jail, rather than to prostitute their art. Sadly, we have not yet fully internalized their legacy. Genuine artists concern themselves with human beings and issues BIGGER than themselves. No artist is entitled to a monopoly of human rights, of insights, or of Freedom of Expression.
In closing, I re-iterate a call for reforms in the Philippine movie industry; for earning and deserving the privilege of self-regulation; making better and more kinds of movies; and for sharing space with our viewing public, in order that they, too, may empower themselves and exercise their right to uphold their faiths, their convictions, their sensibilities.
LET US BEGIN TO REDEEM OURSELVES NOW!
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