Just like the scene inÂ Ang Babae sa Septic Tank, I meet Chris Martinez in a coffee shop along Katipunan Avenue. I almost immediately joke about ordering âexpresso,â the drink of choice for the brash, self-absorbed fictional director Arthur Poongbato in the film (He just came from a film festival in Italy and meant espresso).
The I Do Bidoo Bidoo filmmaker and genius behind the hit comedies Bridal Shower, Kimmy Dora and Here Comes the BrideÂ sat down for ‘What It’s Like’ to talk about being friends with Eugene Domingo, treading the fine line between indie and mainstream, and his latest and most ambitious project to dateâa full-blown musical featuring the songs of Apo Hiking Society.
ThereâsÂ a scene in Babae sa Septic Tank when one of the filmmakers says, âF*** Cannes, weâre going straight to the Kodak Theater!â How did you react when you found out that Septic Tank was chosen to be the Philippine entry to the Oscars last year?
The film became, in a way, prophetic. Parang lahat nung nangyari dun sa tatlong filmmakers, nangyari sa amin ni Marlon (Rivera) at ni Uge (Eugene Domingo). Wala naman kasi kaming masyadong expectations sa movie. We just wanted to say something, our observations on independent film movement. And we just wanted to be honest, brutally honest, about how we feel. Lahat ng gustong mangyari ng tatlo sa pelikula nila, nangyari sa amin. Hindi nga lang tayo nakapasok (sa Oscars), pero nakakatawa. Tawa kami nang tawa. Sobrang saya.
One of the sequences in Septic Tank is a musical. Was that a sampler of whatâs in store for this movie, I Do Bidoo Bidoo?
I wrote I Do Bidoo Bidoo earlier than Septic Tank. I Do Bidoo Bidoo was written three years ago. It just so happened that medyo matagal yung development nito production-wise kasi itâs a very difficult project to start, to mount a musical as big as this. We had to build the right cast, find the right people, and also fix everybodyâs schedule. Kasi yung I Do Bidoo Bidoo itâs an ensemble, and we got all big stars. So itâs difficult to plot all their schedules together and you know, pagsama-samahin sila. And most scenes talaga, magkakasama sila.Â
In your films, Eugene Domingoâs character either falls into a septic tank, runs away from a hospital in a straight jacket, or untangles herself from a barbed wire fence. After all that you put her through, how can she still consider you as a friend?
Weâre really close. Sheâs my best friend. I really love her. Kahit ano namang pagawa ko sa kanya, OK sa kanya. Sa I Do Bidoo Bidoo, kakanta naman siya, tsaka sasayaw. Tapos meron silang love scene ni Ogie na papunta na sa gahasaâŠ yeah, sport naman siya, eh. Nakatulong talaga na close kami kasi alam ko yung mga bagay na nagawa na niya, hindi pa niya nagagawa, at pwede pa niya gawin.
Actually itâs a big challenge for her singing alongside Ogie (Alcasid), Zsazsa (Padilla), Gary (Valenciano). She prepared for the role. She took some voice lessons. We always want to offer something new, kaming dalawa.
Did you ever see yourself doing this together someday when you were still in college?
No. Wala naman kaming ganun naÂ plans for world domination (laughs). Hindi naming plinano. Siguro it just happened. Siguro we matured at the same time with our work, with our profession.
What do you guys do for fun?
I go to her house. She cooks lunch. Nagkakape kami, sa bahay lang niya. We also travel out of the country. Last year, nagpunta kaming New York, nanood kami ng sandamakmak na musicals in preparation for I Do Bidoo Bidoo Weâre planning a vacation siguro in October.
She recently went back to theater.
Yeah, Bona. I saw it two days ago.
Do you ever feel compelled to go back to your roots?
Inggit na inggit nga ako sa kanya eh. Sabi ko sa kanya, baka naman pwede akong umarte diyan? (laughs) Gusto kong bumalik sa theater ulit. Tapos if I have a time to write a play, gusto ko na rin sundan yung Last Order sa Penguin (which won him a Palanca). I think itâs time. After 10 years naman. Early 30âs sila doon, baka ito pwedeng 40-ish problems. Thatâs one of my goals, really, is to write a new play. Wala lang time talaga.
Do you consider yourself an auteur?
I would consider myself an auteur in some of my films like 100, and then thereâs Septic Tank. Hindi ako nagdirect nun pero thereâs something there that I feel strongly about. Itong I Do Bidoo BidooâŠ is very personal, itâs a celebration. Talagang binuhos ko na lahat dito.
At what point did you realize that you donât have to starve for your art?
(Laughs.) Matagal na po akong sellout. Ang tinapos ko po ay BA Business Administration. Tapos creative director po ako sa advertising. But there are projects wherein you are willing to take the risk. Yung, you do not expect anything in return. Like 100, Septic Tank. Dumadating pa din yung time na you spend for your art, and you donât care. So I try to keep it balanced. I know there are some projects that I do for the money. I know there are some projects that I do for the soul and I donât care (about the return of investments). And there are some projects na pwedeng mag-meet yung dalawa.
Whatâs the best thing about being a director?
Siguro yung that you bring out the best in the people around you. Kasi,Â for me, yun talaga yung trabaho ko bilang director. Iâm very collaborative. I will respect your ideas as long as you are aligned with my vision. And you have to do well. Kasi kapag napuri yung ginawa niyo, as cinematographer, as actor, parang feeling ko yun talaga yung success ko na napansin yung gawa nung mga tao.
Whatâs the worst thing about being a director?
Puyat. Sometimes I wish I started earlier kasi I started medyo late na. Sana medyo malakas-lakas pa ko. Kasi ngayon, Iâm 41. Medyo hindi na ako ganun katibay sa puyatan.
Actress youâd like to work with?
Anita Linda. Gusto ko siyang bigyan ng comedy film.
Actor youâd like to work with?
Eddie Garcia. After watching him in Bwakaw. Ang ganda-ganda ng Bwakaw.
Director whose filmography youâd like to steal?
Christopher Nolan? (Laughs) Marami, marami akong gustong director, eh. Hindi na lang siya masyadong active ngayon pero Quentin
(Tarantino) fanatic ako. Danny Boyle. Of course, Woody Allen.
How about local directors?
I have very high admiration for Chito RoĂ±o. (Lino) Brocka, for Insiang. Ishmael Bernal. Gusto ko talaga yung mga pelikula niya. He tries different genres sa filmmography niya. Gusto ko ring maging ganun.
Last movie that you really liked?
Brave. I saw Bourne Legacy. I liked it, pero hindi ko naman siya kailangang ulitin. I also enjoyed The Healing.
If you can change one thing about the Philippine movie industry, what would it be?
Ensure a guaranteed two-week run for local films.
Do you ever get starstruck with any celebrities?
Dalawang beses pa lang ako na-starstruck. Kay Noel Cabangon at kay Mario OâHara.
What is your idea of fun?
Traveling to places that Iâve never been to. Parang ngayon nasa nature trip ako. Gusto kong makita yung Niagara Falls. Gusto kong makakita ng mga natural wonders na (expletive deleted) wonder talaga! Tapos yung nakita ko sa Amazing Race na nasa helicopter sila at nakikita nila yung migration ng mga animals. Gusto ko nun. Gusto ko bago ako mamatay, ma-experience ko yun.
When was the last time you laughed so hard that you cried?
Siguro yung eksena ni Ogie and Uge sa I Do Bidoo Bidoo, the first time I saw it edited. Hindi ko siya kayang panoorin. Kasi nawawala ako sa concentration ko. Nawawala ako sa sarili ko, sobra niyang funny.
If you can have dinner with five people, who would they be?
With my family. Ang tagal ko na kasi silang hindi nakikita.
If your house is flooded, what is the one thing that you would save?
My Cinemalaya trophies. Kasi mahirap manalo nun eh. Yun lang, bukod sa cellphone ko tsaka pusa ko.
Youâre stranded in Temptation Island and havenât eaten for days. What do you think youâd see if you hallucinated?
Hainese chicken. And milk tea.
Where do you usually get your ideas from?
Mostly from experiences. Stories from friends. And minsan hindi rin ako makapagsulat kung hindi ako online.
What is the one question youâve always wanted to be asked?
What is your favorite book?
So what is your favorite book?
Wala. I rarely read. Iâm a watcher. Thereâs only one book na nabasa ko in one sitting. The Da Vinci Code. Kasi kakagaling ko lang nun sa Louvre (Museum in Paris). But I love reading film books and screenplays.
Do you still take public transportation?
Oo, isang beses. Late na late na ako for a meeting. Iniwan ko kotse ko, tapos nag-MRT ako.
Whatâs your definition of success?
Being interviewed by interaksyon.com.
Di ko alam eh (pauses). Siguro longevity. So siguro yung mga naging successful eh yung mga nagtagal na at umabot na sa pagdi-direct ng tatlo o apat na dekada. Tapos nakaiwan sila ng magagandang pelikula. Tumatak talaga yung gawa nila. Yun ang success. So wala pa. Malayo pa. Marami pa akong dapat gawin.
Complete the sentence. ____________, itâs more fun in the Philippines.