‘Darna’ director Benedict Mique Jr. tells young filmmakers: Stop poverty porn in PH flicks

Published November 28, 2022, 11:18 PM

by Robert Requintina

Benedict Mique Jr.

Benedict Mique Jr., seasoned movie-television screenwriter and director of the popular series “Mars Ravelo’s Darna,” has encouraged young filmmakers to stop poverty porn in local movies and sell the beauty of the Philippines to the international market.

During an intimate dinner with the entertainment press in Quezon City recently, Mique urged young filmmakers to stop portraying the Philppines as hub for squatters, prostitution, and exploitation.

“Sana matigil na rin tayo sa poverty porn. Hindi siya nakaka-angat. Everytime we go to a festival, everytime we submit something to a festival, pag hindi poverty porn ayaw tanggapin. Ang hinahanap is poverty porn, exploitation. Hindi naman ganun ang Pilipinas. Nagmumukha tayong unggoy sa ibang bansa,” said Mique.

(I hope we can stop poverty porn. It doesn’t lift us up. Every time we go to a festival, every time we submit something to a festival, if it’s not poverty porn they don’t want to accept it. What we’re looking for is poverty porn, exploitation. The Philippines is not like that. We look like monkeys to other countries.)

He added: “Sana hindi na tayo tawaging exotic kundi equal filmmakers. Equal people na may society na pinapakita. Akala tuloy sa ibang bansa nakatira pa rin tayo sa puno. Akala lahat ng lugar sa Pilipinas squatters. South Korea presented their culture and they presented it in a beautiful way. They’re selling beauty: a beautiful country, beautiful places. Good things. Tayo ang binebenta natin prostitutes, squatters at probinsya.”

(I hope we will no longer be called exotic but equal filmmakers. Equal people with a society that is shown. They thought that in other countries we still live in trees. They thought that all places in the Philippines are squatters. South Korea presented their culture and they presented it in a beautiful way. They’re selling beauty: a beautiful country, beautiful places. Good things. We’re selling prostitutes, squatters, and provinces in the movies.)

Mique is hopeful that the next generation of filmmakers will do “better than us.” “I hope the next generation can do better than us. They can have better careers and better situations kasi we believe we set the path. Sana ma-achieve rin nila yung international success at dumating na yung time na pati yung government na tulad ng South Korea produces cultural and innate films and at the same time it gets international market. And they have the respect of the international market.”

(I hope the next generation can do better than us. They can have better careers and better situations because we believe we set the path. I hope they can also achieve international success and the time has come for a government like South Korea produces cultural and innate films and at the same time it gets international market. And they have the respect of the international market.)

Mique also criticized posturing of some young filmmakers and directors who have yet to prove their worth in the industry.

“If you’re a passionate filmmaker, huwag kang titiigil. Live to learn. Hindi yung live to be a celebrity para sumikat or posturing. Huwag posturing at sana real work. Right now, I’m noticing that there are many films and directors na when you watch, hilaw na hilaw. When you read their scripts masusuka ka. Kung sa craft talo na tayo paano pa sa international? Sa technical aspect nakakahabol na tayo eh – editing, cinematography because the technology is there and its affordable. It can be provided to us. So saan tayo madalas na talo – story!

(If you’re a passionate filmmaker, don’t stop. Live to learn. It’s not living to be a celebrity to become famous or posturing. Stop posturing and hope for real work. Right now, I’m noticing that there are many films and directors that when you watch, it’s raw. When you read their scripts, you’ll be sick. If we’re losing in craft, how can we go international? In the technical aspect, we’re catching up – editing, cinematography because the technology is there and it’s affordable. It can be provided to us. So where do we often lose – story!)

“How can you be good kung tatlong pelikula pa lang ang naisulat mo? There was a time I went to this gathering and they were introducing the people, eto si direk ganito direk ganyan, direk ganito, lahat sila director? Kaka-graduate lang pa nila gumawa ng short film or music video direk na? Direk word talaga is misleading. I think they should not strive to be a director, maging filmmaker ka. Master the craft instead of posturing. Train yourself,” said Mique, a freelance director.

(How can you be good if you’ve only written three movies? There was a time I went to this gathering and they were introducing the people, here’s a director like this, a director like this, a director like this, all of them director? They just graduated and made a short film or music video and now you call them a director? The word director is really misleading. I think they should not strive to be a director, be a filmmaker. Master the craft instead of posturing. Train yourself.)

Asked about the TV series and movies he watched recently, Mique said: “Are you familiar with the Korean series Start Up? Ang galing! The way they set up Sandbox, ang galing! I finished watching the series. I watch everything. I’m a film and television buff. You have to update yourself with what’s in kung ano ang bago at maganda. Everything is accessible now.”

(Are you familiar with the Korean series Start Up? It’s great! The way they set up the Sandbox, it’s great! I finished watching the series. I watch everything. I’m a film and TV buff. You have to update yourself with what’s in what’s new and beautiful. Everything is accessible now.)

Early years

At the same gathering, Mique recalled her trying years in show business as scriptwriter after he graduated from Letran College. Mique said he would think he was the dumbest person alive whenever award-winning screenwriter and playwright, Ricky Lee would criticize his scripts.

“Halos mapaiyak ako nuong nagko-comment si Ricky Lee. Wala bang maganda sa sinulat ko? Pero sabi ko nga mas maganda kung maghigpit siya kasi if he’s being nice or kind, he won’t get the best from you.
Mangiyak ngiyak ako nun kasi akala ko maganda na ‘yung sample script ko. Pangit pala,” he said.

(I almost cried when Ricky Lee commented. Wasn’t there something good in what I wrote? But I said it would be better if he were strict because if he’s being nice or kind, he won’t get the best from you.
I cried because I thought my sample script was good. It’s ugly.)

Thanks to Lee, Mique has turned his dream of becoming a scriptwriter into a reality. Now he’s also a director.

Following a fun night with Lee recently, Mique said that he wanted to help five aspiring scriptwriters by giving laptops and eventually help them to write for films.

Mique recalled meeting Lee at Star Cinema 23 years ago really changed his life. Here’s Mique’s story which he shared on social media recently:

“After training as a scriptcon for ‘Labs Kita Okay Ka Lang’ and being a scriptcon for ‘Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay’ and “Anak,” I was supposed to go to TV and be a second assistant director.

“I was excited about this because it’s a big achievement for someone who just came out from college. I also thought that this was an easier path in becoming a director.

“But Direk Rory (Quintos) told me to become a creative assistant instead for Star Cinema and a meeting was set with Direk Olive (Lamasan).

“I was ready to turn down the offer if one did come along but while hanging around the waiting area of Star Cinema, Ricky came out of a room, where eventually I found out it was at a meeting of the Creative Development Group (CDG) of Star Cinema.

“I never get starstruck by celebrities or actors but I got excited when I saw Ricky. I felt that I can learn so much from this person.

“So instead of becoming a second AD I became a creative assistant for Star Cinema. We worked on the comeback movie of Robin Padilla and he became my head writer for “MMK” and creative consultant for the soaps I was involved with and now a good friend and almost family.

“I guess it’s his fault why I became a writer or a creator for more than 20 years until now. I literally owe him my first scripts because of the 21k he loaned me for my first computer.

“That computer started my career. From that 21k my life as a writer/filmmaker flourished. Kumbaga sa negosyo yun ang naging puhunan ko.

“That’s why now, I want to return back the favor. I want to sponsor five young people who want to be a scriptwriter but don’t have the means to buy a computer or a laptop.

“If you know someone who fits those descriptions please tell them to pm me. They can send me their profile, a story about themselves and their sample work.

“I will also teach and guide these five people to write and eventually make their films.

“And for those who want to help, you can also PM me, maybe we can sponsor more aspiring scriptwriters and filmmakers,” said Mique.

Some of Mique’s notable screenplay on television include episodes for “Maalaala Mo Kaya,” “Magpakailanman,” “Momol Nights,” “Till I Met You,” “Marimar,” “Captain Barbell,” “On The Wings of Love,” etc.

Fighting for concept

Mique lamented that the entertainment industry has a long way to go in terms of compensating filmmakers.

“Ang ipinaglalaban ko sana is if you have a concept they have to pay for it. Kasi right now if you’re a writer at nagpitch ka, may writing fee. Pero how about the concept? If you’re working for a network, any concept that you make, it belongs to them,” he said.

(What I’m fighting for is if you have a concept they have to pay for it. Because right now if you’re a writer and you pitch, there’s a writing fee. But how about the concept? If you’re working for a network, any concept that you make, it belongs to them.)

Miquer added: “For me, ang concept is parang anak ko na ‘yan. It’s like you’re getting me. And when you’re getting me, you’re getting my 24 years of experience. Sure ka na maganda ang makukuha mo.”

(For me, the concept is like my child. It’s like you’re getting me. And when you’re getting me, you’re getting my 24 years of experience. You can be sure that you will get a good one.)

Lone Wolf

Mique has also established a film company called Lone Wolf.

Why Lone Wolf? Mique explained: “Marami akong kaibigan sa industriya pero wala akong barkada. I’ve been a lone wolf. May mga friend naman na tumulong sa akin pero I hire different people from the industry naman. It’s a noble thing to provide jobs. At saka I’m proud to say na nagbibigay ako ng bonus. For every project, you can ask yung mga naka-trabaho ko, part of the earnings, I share it. I spread it sa mga staff.”

(I have many friends in the industry but I don’t have close friends. I’ve been a lone wolf. There are friends who helped me but I hire different people from the industry. It’s a noble thing to provide jobs. And then I’m proud to say that I give a bonus. For every project, you can ask those I have worked with, part of the earnings, I share it. I spread it among the staff.)

Prior to the pandemic, Mique said that Lone Wolf already listed 11 projects in the coming years. But COVID-19 got in the way and plans have changed.

“There were 11 projects in the pipeline before the pandemic. Five for iWantTV, pero isa lang ang nagawa roon. May four pa kami roon. May dalawa pa kami sa Dreamscape pero hindi rin natuloy. Meron pa kami sa Solar at Regal Films. May Star Cinema pa.

(There were 11 projects in the pipeline before the pandemic. Five for iWantTV, but only one was done there. We have four more there. We had two more with Dreamscape but they didn’t work either. We also have Solar and Regal Films. Star Cinema also.)

“Sabi ko nun set na ang company for the next two years kasi nga 11 films. At malalaking films ito hindi siya basta-basta films. So everything we do is a dream project. Halos lahat ng projects ko may social issue. What we want is yung material mo may gustong sabihin pero dapat entertaining pa rin,” he also said.

(I said that the company is set for the next two years because there are 11 films. And these are big films, not just any films. So everything we do is a dream project. Almost all my projects have a social issue. What we want is that the material has something to say, but it should still be entertaining.)

One of the projects produced by Lone Wolf was the 2018 movie entitled “ML” or martial law.

Asked why he made the film, Mique said: “I just wanted to introduce to the millennials what martial law is all about. That’s it.”

Mique said that he’s happy for the streaming industry that creates more jobs to the industry. “Creative people will always have a space in the industry. Wala man theatrical andiyan naman ang streaming. I’m happy for it because it’s providing jobs sa industry. Right now as we talk, ang daming shoot sa streaming. Kulang nga ngayon ng editors, production staff kasi may mga project sila sa streaming.”

(Creative people will always have a space in the industry. Even if there is no theatrical, streaming is there. I’m happy for it because it’s providing jobs in the industry. Right now as we talk, there are a lot of shoots in streaming. There is a lack of editors right now, production staff because they have streaming projects.)

 
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