Saturday, December 19, 2009

'MERIKA... Behind The Scenes

From an e-mail sent by writer Gil Quito

Doy and I agreed on the detailed sequence treatment and basically divided the sequences in half. Doy, the veteran writer, took care of the beginning and ending section, and I an equivalent (in terms of number of sequences) swath of the middle section.

We were surprised that we did not need to revise the script after we finished the first draft. Often, when there are two or three writers working on a script, the styles and personal touches are somehow different and so there has to be a few more drafts to hide the joints, as it were. But in this case, the sections that Doy and I had written immediately melded right at first draft.

Somehow, I had the singing voice of Nora Aunor in my mind throughout the writing and I just allowed it to guide me and help me through the intense pressure we were working in. My hope was to come up with scenes that would have a bit of melody and some consonance with the voice that was Nora's..

Anyway, what you see on the screen is actually the first draft. We did not have a second draft... not even a 1 & 1/2th draft. As far as I remember, we added only one scene after we handed the script to Gil Portes, This is the scene where Nora goes to the top deck of the Empire State Building, gazes at the glittering city spread out like an offering below her, cries without a single other soul aware of some epic collision going on inside of her, and is lifted out of her reverie by the watchman with the swinging lamp who reminds her that, Miss, it is closing time. Frankly, as I try to recall this scene, I'm no longer so sure if this is how it came across in the actual film; at this moment, I remember how it was as I wrote it more than the actual film it came to be.

Gil Portes of course was the guilding hand of the whole enterpise, and one of his best decisions was to cast the amateur actor Cesar Aliparo for the role of Lolo Caloy. He never acted before or after that film, but he still became one of the more memorable embodiments of the Filipino experience abroad.

At that time, way before the Invasion of the I-pods, the Walkman was still a novelty and we thought Doy's idea of Nora giving Lolo Caloy this modern device was a bit of a novelty in itself.

As for the opening wordless sequence, I can tell you that Gil Portes shot it exactly the way Doy wrote it. Doy did an expert job setting the tone of all that was to follow which made the impossible enterprise much less impossible for me.