Cebu is making a name for itself in the Independent Film Industry. It is no secret that Cebuanos are talented and have great potential to make noise locally and internationally.
Remton Siega Zuasola is poised to follow suit. Beyond being a director, film maker and script writer, he is a story teller who aims not only to entertain, but to inspire his viewers with life realities and lessons. His own story portrays the epitome of a man who pursued his passion despite many tribulations. It is no longer surprising that his talent is recognized by many award giving bodies. What I find surprising though is the fact that despite his success, he manages to stay humble and simple.
ZeroThreeTwo was lucky to have a chat with Director Remton.
RSZ: I am the eldest among six children in the family. I always knew I wanted to make films so when I was about to go to college, I took up a course which would be very close to what I wanted to do. I then studied Advertising in the University of San Carlos which gave me the basic learning of what I’ve been doing right now. With my drive to learn and do more, I decided to study at the International Academy of Film and Television (IAFT) wherein I was able to have a greater grasp of the knowledge and skills that brought me closer to my dream of making films. I also directed a local travel show for three years and that has kept me busy for quite some time.
032: Film making can be an expensive field to be in. How did you get started in making films?
RSZ: Film making is indeed expensive! It requires a lot of equipment and financial maintenance. When I was working, I would save up a part of my salary to produce short films like 5 min films. When my peers and colleagues started recognizing my work, they were kind enough to give me support. They would lend me their stuff just so I could make my film. Imagine I didn’t have a laptop or camera, but I guess if you have the will then there’s really a way. Make sure you surround yourself with people who believe in your dreams and in what you can achieve.
RSZ: Nothing comes easy. Like many other aspiring film makers, I worked hard and waited for years to get a good break. My first big and official break came through with the short film entitled To Siomai Love (winner of the Gawad Urian for Best Short Film in 2010). It was recognized internationally and even premiered in New York. Through that, I gained more acknowledgement as a film maker thus making way for many other promising opportunities.
032: I know for a fact that you are not a mere director. You are also behind the idea of the stories in the movies. Where do you get the inspiration for these stories?
RSZ: Growing up, I was struggling. My family was struggling. We went through a lot of hardship. So at an early age, I knew what it was like to face the harsh realities of life. These realities turned to a collection of experiences I would later tell in my movies. It’s like having a piggy bank of stories. Every time I would make a movie, I can always get it from my bank of experiences.
032: You are also known from your film, Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria, which garnered you the Gawad Urian Best Director 2011. Can your share a brief background about the film and how it came to life in the big screen?
RSZ: Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria tells a story of a mail-order bride. It also shows how poverty affects people’s lives. The film became possible because I always knew I had to make a film that was bigger than To Siomai Love. I was happy with To Siomai Love’s success but I knew having a film that would run longer with a good story would make a difference.
032: You have worked with new actors to bona fide superstars. What’s it like directing them?
RSZ: I am quite fortunate that I work with very professional people. The director is a big factor for an actor or actress to agree with a particular project or role so it flatters me when they put their trust on me to direct them.
RSZ: P mainly tells the story of Pedro Calungsod and two other guys named Peter and Pierre and how their lives are entwined together. When I was starting my career, I always prayed to Pedro Calungsod for guidance and support. I did promise to make a film for him one day when I get the chance, but I never knew that it would come this soon. I think that it’s perfect timing – just in time for Pedro Calungsod’s canonization.
032: I think there’s a lot to watch out for on this film. When will be able to watch it?
RSZ: We are currently working on it. The team will fly to Rome to witness the canonization and shoot some scenes then we’ll continue shooting here in Cebu. We are hoping to release the film before Pedro Calungsod’s first feast as a saint.
Editor’s Note: The interview was done before the Canonization of Pedro Calungsod.
032: Now that you have so many opportunities in front of you, What do you see yourself doing in the next five years?
RSZ: Making more films I guess. I want to be able to make a name not just for myself, but for all the Cebuano artists. I believe that whenever I am recognized, it isn’t just my victory, but of the entire Cebu and country. This proves that we really have what it takes to make world class films.
RSZ: Start young! Never give up! I know it’s not easy and it may never be easy but you just have to hold on and believe that you’ll get somewhere one day. I recall the days when after shooting, we would only walk because we didn’t have enough money. We would just eat banana cue and drink ice water after a long day. There are even times when I would no longer have any coins in my pocket. These are some of my sacrifices and there’s many more, but that’s part of the journey that you have to take. Take it as an experience then make it your story!
If you’ve read this far, then you would understand why I am truly swept away by Director Remton Siega Zuasola. We get to see a man who never gave up and believes in the power of his dreams. Here’s a list of his sources of inspiration. It’s packed with international talent and films. You might want to ask Google for further help.
Wong Kar Wai – Hong Kong
Pedro Almodovar – Spain
Alfonso Cuaron – Mexico
In the mood for love
Marion Cottilard – France
Tony Leung – Hong Kong
Of course, I asked if there’s any Filipino artist he would like to work with.
PS – Thanks to Beverly Nunez who made the interview happen.