Fight Club: An Interview with the filmmakers of Give Up Tomorrow, Marty Syjuco and Michael Collins
Give Up Tomorrow is that nightmare you’d hope would stay in the confines of the theater. It’s a long-winded descent into the country’s glaringly flawed justice system. But the Chiong case really happened; an ugly mark that sticks out like a sore thumb in our judicial history. And not only that, the media was even part of perpetuating the grisly image of Paco Larannaga as this Satanic bad boy who initiated the kidnap and rape of two Cebuano sisters.
Pelikula Tumblr sat down with the two filmmakers after the second screening of the film last July in Cinemalaya.
Give Up Tomorrow was made over the course of seven years. You guys have hundreds of hours of footage. What was your approach in editing the film?
Michael Collins: We wanted to try to clearly show all sides of the story, to give voice to some who hadn’t had a voice yet in the reporting that has been done on this, to show something fair and let the audience make their own decision. That was always our goal. We also didn’t want it to be a news piece. We wanted it to be a film. We wanted people to connect with the characters emotionally onscreen.
Marty Syjuco: As fans of independent films and documentaries, we also wanted to entertain the audience because we knew that we can’t hold the audience, there’s so much programming, there’s so much competition, with reality shows, phones, we wanted to engage the audience and entertain them.
How was working with Ramona Diaz?
MS: We were lucky because Ramona Diaz mentored us. I was really inspired by her work and reached out to her and it was actually Raymond Lee who introduced me to Ramona. She lives in Baltimore and we live in New York so we drove down to Baltimore and we met her and she started advising us and eventually came on as an executive producer. She was the one who gave us access to all the grants and media funders. Having her on board as an executive producer really helped us because we’re first-time filmmakers and who’s gonna take a chance on us?
MC: And also I think what worked to our advantage was that people weren’t looking at the story as just a story from the Philippines. When we started to cut our [fund raising] samples as we were shooting little by little, they saw the universal appeal. That this is a story people could relate to all over the world.
MC: Ramona is a pro, she’s been doing this for a long time and we had no idea what we were doing. So as we were planning our next production shoot, we would ask her for advice and she really helped us to be more organized and approach it from a more professional point of view.
MS: She also helped flesh out the story. Before, we would just shoot and shoot because we weren’t living here so when we would come here we would just shoot everything. We realized that it’s better to shoot with intention rather than just shooting for quantity.
What do you think has changed in the system since you guys made this film?
MS: I think now is a really right time for change and judicial reform. I think what’s going on now is really exciting. We were the first to say we’re not pointing the finger at media in general. This happened fifteen years ago. The media now is a whole new generation. With social media and bloggers, it’s a whole different landscape now.
MC: Back then you had a couple of prominent voices in the media that could really set the mindset of the people and now there are so many voices so it’s a different time.
What do you think has been the biggest impact of the film so far?
MC: In the process of making this film, we recorded a video of Paco from prison. He said I’ll do this interview with you guys but when you go to Spain, deliver this message, so there was this 90-second message that was in the film. So we gave that out to the press in Spain and it spread like wildfire. It helped to get the Spanish public and officials aware of his case. Spain’s involvement in this altered the process of everything. We’re still seeing the effects.
MS: Maybe if we can continue this interview six months or a year from now, maybe the impact would be more tangible. Earlier, someone was asking us what our next project would be, but this is our project. We worked on his for seven years and we’re going to see it through the end. From distribution to outreach and eventually creating an impact. We’re just filmmakers. We hope it will become a tool that will spark something inside of someone who can really affect a change .
Interviewed by Don Jaucian in July 2012. Read his article on the film, Of Gods and Men, on Phillippine Star’s Supreme.
UPDATE: Give Up Tomorrow is extended until Oct 23 in selected theaters in Manila and Cebu. Check the film’s official Facebook page for schedules and venues.
Photo by Alex Badayos