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FOX makes first Filipino film

by philstar Global — 09/05/19

FOX, home to hit series and Hollywood movies, makes its first foray into the Filipino movie-making industry.

FOX Networks Group (FNG) Philippines produces its very first film, the horror-thriller Maledicto, which rolls into cinemas nationwide on May 1.

According to the film’s description, Maledicto tells the story of Fr. Xavi (played by Tom Rodriguez), a former psychologist who becomes an exorcist after the tragic and mysterious death of his sister, Mara (Inah de Belen). He meets Sr. Barbie (played by Jasmine Curtis-Smith), a young nun who has the special gift of charism. Together, they deal with the case of Agnes (Miles Ocampo), a seemingly perfect teenager who starts manifesting demonic behavior that will rock the foundations of the church and put one’s faith to test.

The film is co-produced by Cignal Entertainment and Unitel, with ABS-CBN Films tapped as distributor. Maledicto is directed by Mark Meily.

In a roundtable media interview last Thursday, Jude Turcuato, senior vice president and general manager of FNG Philippines, expressed his excitement over their pioneering film venture, which he said is a result of thorough planning. They spent at least two years on studying nearly 100 scripts and pitches before going for Maledicto. They started filming the original production in March 2018. The movie is now “99 percent complete.”

Asked why they opted for the horror genre for their debut as film producer — over a rom-com that may have a better chance at the box-office — Turcuato said the main reason was the quality of the story.

“I’ll tell you, I wanted to find a good rom-com because that was almost a sureball way of being a box-office hit… because you look at the Top 10 box-office hits of the Philippines, it’s either rom-com or a Vice Ganda film, right? Even last year, (the hits) Excess Baggage, Hows of Us, they’re all rom-com. Even with horror, the best horror last year was The Nun, and it wasn’t a Filipino film. So, definitely, we looked at all of it, but the genre didn’t dictate the choice. It was the quality of the script and how people will get entertained.”

Turcuato added that the decision to choose Maledicto also had a lot to do with the pace, the subject matter and “I felt like that it would entertain people differently as a genre. It’s a horror-thriller. I think most of the Philippine horror, is just horror. There’s no thriller aspect to it. That combination, for this one, was the one we felt would give us a really good shot.”

He admitted to having some concern over how the film will fare amid what seems to be an ongoing horror trend in Philippine cinema, but “I’m leaving it up to the strength of the script, and it happened to be horror.”

Before casting the stars, they had to consider and watch the actors’ body of work

Tom was cast upon the recommendation of Unitel.

The TV executive continued, “When I saw Jasmine in Transit, I thought, perfect, this is the person to do it. Miles was actually a revelation because she doesn’t have a film that’s similar to her character, this is totally different, but we’re all shocked at how she’s able to transform herself. Even the supporting cast is topnotch.”

Other cast members include Eric Quizon, Martin Escudero, Franco Laurel, Nonie Buencamino, Liza Lorena, Menggie Cobarrubias and Shamaine Buencamino.

Turcuato wouldn’t confirm how much did they spend to produce the film, only saying that their distributor had told them that their budget was “much, much higher than normal.”

Maledicto also serves as Meily’s return vehicle to the genre. The award-winning director (Crying Ladies, Baler, La Visa Loca, etc.) last did horror in 2016 with the Cristine Reyes starrer Elemento. “I think it was also (great) timing with Mark Meily because he had just come from taking up his Masters in Singapore a couple of years ago when we appointed him. And the Masters classes were more on how to create a hit movie, what are the aspects of culture and society now as to why a movie becomes a hit, so I like that he has that knowledge now. That was in the back of our minds.”

Turcuato, for his part, has produced projects before but these were either related to sports or documentaries and reality shows, not “scripted content.”

“I had to go through a lot of the things that needed to be done to get this off the ground,” he recalled.

These included working a lot with the screenwriter, the Palanca-winning Jonathan Guillermo, on the script itself, which roughly had 14 iterations. One of the things he was also very particular with, as executive producer, was the audio and the sound. “When you watch Hong Kong, Korean and Hollywood films, it’s really at the forefront if not the most important part of a movie.” Thus, Maledicto takes advantage of the Dolby Atmos surround sound technology.

“This is an experiment for us. We didn’t need to do this because our parent company is already very successful in Hollywood doing it. But we wanted to be able to kind of take that learning and bring it here, and maybe to a certain extent, improve and upgrade the quality of Philippine cinema as well, if we do it. I mean, I’m not saying, we’re going to revolutionize the industry or anything like that, but we do want to bring a lot of Hollywood into the Philippines as far as the quality of storytelling (is concerned),” Turcuato said. 

What’s next for FOX in the Philippines? More films, maybe? “It depends on how this will turn out. A lot of it depends on how many good scripts we come up with. I will say this, (Maledicto) already has a ready sequel if it does well.”

This article was first published here