Sunday, May 3, 2015

Of Solitude, Reflection, and Waves

An interview with Cebuano director Don Gerardo Frasco about his fascination with cameras, his first movie, and how it almost did not come into reality. 

I was first introduced to Don Gerardo Frasco, a Cebuano film maker, about a year ago. He, together with his cousin Ayana, came all the way from Cebu to Manila to meet up with a few people to help them release a full-length movie that they did. That movie is called Waves, a tumultuous love story between Ross (Baron Geisler) and Sofia (Ilona Struzik), and a battle between having to settle for indefinite happiness and the right thing to do. The movie is brilliantly pleasing to the eyes due to the perfect choices of locations made by Don, showcasing Palawan and Cebu. I have been to both places, and I haven’t seen them depicted that beautifully until I saw this movie. Aside from starting his own film production called Waverly Pictures, he’s currently busy with his brand of apparel Elated Industries, as well as being part of his family’s business, Liloan’s Titay’s Rosquillos and Delicacies.

Don Frasco with cousin Ayana Jimenez, who's the Marketing Officer for Waverly Pictures 

With his movie finally out on demand in Vimeo and a commercial release by Viva in June this year, things are looking to be busier than usual for Don. I caught up with him recently to know how his passion for making movies began, the pains and wins on working on his first movie, as well as his plans this year.

Hey, Don! How are you? What’s keeping you busy lately?

What’s keeping me busy is our clothing company, Elated. Also at the moment, I’m writing my next feature. I have the genre that I wanted to do, as well as the idea for the characters. It’s going to be a coming of age story between two friends, packaged in a road trip comedy — it’s going to be completely in Bisaya. I want to shoot probably next year, and since I have time, it will allow me to pursue other projects.

At what point did you realize that you want to make movies?

I really can’t point out the exact moment, it happened just gradually. I was always interested in photography; I was always interested in cameras, and during semestral breaks back in college, I would always enroll in photography classes and basic editing courses. When I graduated from accounting, my dad asked what I wanted to do next and I said that as a graduation gift he can put me back to school but this time taking up something that I’d be interested in — so he put me to film school. In film school, I enjoyed all the camera and lighting classes so I felt completely at home in cinematography. In New York, where I spent time studying film, cinema is highly regarded; it became my entire life at that point, up until now. While I was studying at the New York Film Academy, that’s when I realized that I wanted to make movies and I want it to be part of my life. I’m not sure if my interest in movies I got from my family, it was more of self discovery I think.

What do you like doing better, being a director or a cinematographer?

I enjoy cinematography. But I directed Waves because I didn’t know anybody in Cebu who directs or somebody I can connect with. This project was somewhat personal so it had to be told from my perspective. 

Let’s talk about Waves, how did the movie come about?  

It started when I visited Mangenguey Island in Palawan back in 2012. I went there with a friend. Originally we were going to stay there for three days but we ended up staying longer. Coming from New York, a place that’s really fast pace and there’s a lot of people, being on that island was the first time that I was able to shutdown. At night I can only hear waves. I still think that it’s one of the most beautiful places that I’ve been to. I thought that it would be such a privilege shooting there, so I started thinking of a story that would fit the environment of the island. What I remember from it is that the place was so beautiful yet so isolated. It almost like it forces you to reflect on your life when you’re there, alone. I really want to juxtapose that — really sad moments against really beautiful backdrops. In our local cinema, we love to put the spotlight on social issues so naturally poverty gets to be the main topic but I really think that there’s something more to our country and I want to showcase Palawan in that aspect.  

What was your goal in making Waves?

Just sharing emotion, I mean, everybody has gone through heartbreak.  

Why did you think that the Philippines was the perfect location for the movie?

I’m Filipino and really, just the fact that I wanted to highlight the Philippines, a lot of movies can be in different places but it was really important for me that Palawan would be the backdrop for this film. Being in that island in Palawan, I really want to amplify that isolation, that even though in some scenes, the characters were in the city, the spaces that they would be in were empty. Just like when you’re in-love, you’re in a bubble and no one exists, just you and that particular person. We also shot some scenes in Cebu, but we shot mostly in Palawan but in the movie we never really mentioned the places.  

Let’s talk about the actors, why do you think Baron Geisler and Ilona Struzik are the perfect Ross and Sofia?

I’ll start with Ilona Struzik because the script was written with her in mind. One of the goals of this movie was to highlight the Philippines and to make sure that it won’t look awkward that the characters would be standing in a beautiful backdrop such as Palawan, I wanted to cast aesthetically pleasing people so I thought that a fashion model could work. So I approached Ilona about the idea, and she was up for it. I wanted Jericho Rosales and Ilona to be Ross and Sofia, but Jericho was unavailable but to me, it has always been either Jericho or Baron or I don’t do the movie and it was really close to not happening. Baron is a really good actor, and we were able to contact him through mutual friends. I’m really lucky and thankful for both Baron and Ilona for trusting me with this project.  

What was the best and your least favorite thing about working on this movie?

The best thing about working on the movie was wherever the location may be, I really enjoyed the production. Being around people that I work with, and they were also my friends, and the fact that we were shooting in a beautiful island — those would be the best things. One of the problems that we encountered while doing this film was the logistics. We had to do land, sea, and air logistics. A lot of stuff got misplaced.  

What are you looking forward to the most this year?

I look forward to finishing the script for my next movie and start pre-production.

Follow Don and Waverly Pictures on Instagram. 

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