Despite the issues, which hounded his government post as chief operating officer of the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) not too long ago, actor-turned-appointee Cesar Montano remains unfazed by the anonymous complaints about his leadership. Instead, he says he is all the more focused in bringing reforms to the sub-agency of the Department of Tourism (DOT) with his vision of making the country the “Film Capital” of the Asean region, and eventually the rest of the continent.
In a small huddle at his TPB office, Montano said it made sense to use his influence and expertise in the entertainment industry to open up this new opportunity in tourism.
“By bringing together all segments of the entertainment industry – networks, film outfits, post-production – we may just come up with the strongest force to promote tourism in this country,” he stated.
‘Film it in One Minute’
Montano related how he and Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) chairman Liza Diño are collaborating to launch a regional film festival, focused on building up the Philippines as a film tourism capital, with the theme “Film it in One Minute.” They will first bring the challenge to universities and colleges all around the country to enjoin student filmmakers to submit one-minute masterpieces.
“There will be prizes that are inviting enough for students to participate, and they will be asked to focus on what makes them proud of their localities – whether it’s a thing, event, place, person or delicacies,” he said.
The winning films, he said, may be developed into full-length movies with financial support from the agency.
Besides the regional festival, Montano also vowed that TPB will support all Filipino filmmakers and artists participating in international film festivals as unofficial ambassadors of Philippine film tourism. However, he will also move to encourage these indie filmmakers to entice foreign tourists to come to the Philippines through their movies by showing the more enticing locations in the country, instead of solely using poverty as a backdrop of their work.
“We want to empower independent filmmakers to do this with financial support because we are aware of their limited budget, so they can instead highlight places that are worthy to visit,” he elaborated, adding that slums or depressed places are not the monopoly of the Philippines. Even first world countries have their own share of poor neighborhoods too.
“Since marketing falls under my jurisdiction, we can allocate a budget and ask them to create stories that use the places we want to promote. We have so many beautiful tourism spots in our 7,107 islands and that’s the thrust of our assistance to our talented filmmakers.”
Moreover, Montano said he and Diño are scheduled to attend the 70th Cannes Film Festival, which culminates on May 28, where they plan to invite producers, directors, actors and other film industry luminaries to dinner and present them the idea of doing movies in the country.
Montano stated that the ultimate goal of the TPB and FDCP partnership is to develop a film fund to give Filipino filmmakers the ability to co-produce with Hollywood entities for films to be shot in the country.
“Not only that, we can also offer post-production here as we have so many excellent post-production facilities and very talented people, including animators,” he added, noting that the best animators abroad, especially in Hollywood, are Filipinos.
“We will turn the table around. So when there’s work here for Filipino animators and post-production personnel, dito na lang sila, dito na sila magtatrabaho [they’ll stay here, they’ll work here] and the whole country benefits.”
Montano has also been working for tax-free incentives for foreign outfits who shoot movies in the country. So far, the provinces of Bataan and Bohol have already given a go-signal for a tax holiday should a foreign film be shot in their localities.
“A province will have the opportunity to earn from such a set up through hotel accommodation, transportation, and food establishments, among others. What will be part of the deal too is that half of the production crew should be hired among the locals. Think how much income filmmaking could generate if the production runs up to five months.”
Very optimistic of their plans, Montano is looking for the concept to be implemented within the year. soon.
A movie project already in development is one that was pitched to Montano by a Commission on Higher Education (CHED) commissioner. Titled “Blood Brothers,” the production espouses education, culture, history plus tourism.
Set in the 1300, the movie revolves around two indigenous brothers, one of whom is converted to Islam. When the Spaniards come, they join forces to fight the conquerors.
With a projected budget of P30 million, the project is still considered a Hollywood indie production, but Montano, who also has experience in directing movies, nonetheless wants to cast Hollywood actors for the film, hoping that a foreign company will help beef up the fund.
Ribbed that he should star in the movie since he experienced acting for a Hollywood project (“The Great Raid” shot in Australia), the TPB COO said he is open to a cameo role since his job in the government agency is full-time.
“What’s important here is to show the pristine parts of the Philippines – like Palawan, the Gigantes Island in Iloilo or Siargao. On the marketing side, we want to show places that already have ready infrastructure for tourists, like hotels, transportation and amenities enticing a visitor to stay longer.”
He said that he is using New Zealand and Australia as his models, which have become popular choices as movie settings for Hollywood productions. He has set his sight on the countries that bring in the most tourists – China, Korea, Taiwan, USA and Japan – to make their own movies here.