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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 1, 2011

Jerrold Tarog: One of today's most talented young directors

ONE OF the youngest and most talented filmmakers in the country today, Jerrold Tarog started his career with three indie films, “Confessional”, “Mangatyanan” and “Senior Year”, all of them getting wide acclaim. He went mainstream last year with the “Funeraria” episode in “Shake, Rattle & Roll 12”, got rave reviews, and won two acting awards for its lead actress, Carla Abellana.

Born on May 30, 1977, he’s an only child born and raised in Canlubang, Laguna. He finished high school at UP Rural High and took up music, major in composition, at UP Diliman. “I was never really a film buff,” he says. “Musician talaga ako. I took up piano lessons as a child and in college, I was the drummer of a band. But the UP conservatory of music was just a stone’s throw away sa masscomm in UP and I took film classes. That’s where I got exposed to the works of Akira Kurosawa, Martin Scorcese and Woody Allen. Just like most college students then, I’m not fond of local films. But I appreciated the local films of the 50s and 60s, those directed by Gerry de Leon. I only got excited with local films when I saw Laurice Guillen’s ‘Tanging Yaman’ and Mark Meily’s ‘Crying Ladies’. In 2002, I was working with Audio Media and they referred me to Sen. Bong Revilla who got me as musical director of his filmfest entry then, ‘Agimat’. Then Dante Mendoza got me to score for his movies: ‘Masahista’, ‘Kaleldo’, ‘Manoro’, ‘Tirador’, up to ‘Foster Child’. I also started making short films. One of them, ‘Carpool’, was shown sa Gawad CCP. I met one of the judges, Ronald Arguelles of Cinema One, and he asked me to join their Cinema One Digital Filmfest. It so happened I just came the Sinulog festival in Cebu so marami kong footage. I cooked up a story incorporating it and this became ‘Confessional’.”

“Confessional” won most of the awards in the 2008 Cinema One filmfest and also won best film and other honors at the Star Awards, Cinemanila and and Cinefan festival of Asian and Arab Cinema. Jerrold himself co-wrote the script, directed it, edited and scored the finished film. He also starred in it playing the role of a videographer who meets a corrupt politician in Cebu who confesses his scenes to him. So his name won’t keep on appearing in the credits, he used many aliases like David Barril, Ramon Ukit and Roger Ladro. We doubt if any other local filmmaker has done this feat before.

His second work, “Mangatyanan”, is about a female photographer who is troubled by her past. She’s a victim of incest. He says he made it for Che Ramos, a theatre actress who really did well in the lead role and we’re surprised no one noticed her great performance. His third full length film, “Senior Year”, about high school life, got an A from the Cinema Evaluation Board and also got several nominations from various award-giving bodies.

How did he get his first mainstream assignment in “Shake, Rattle & Rolle 12”? “I really don’t know. Basta one day, Regal called me to direk an episode of ‘Shake’. I no longer asked why they’re getting me. Basta thankful na lang ako. I accepted it right away kahit na I’m not really a fan of horror films. I took it na lang as a good technical exercise. I thought it’d be a challenge for me to deal with the creative side kasi I’m used to doing things on my own. But surprisingly, di ako nahirapan as they gave me artistic freedom. Mother Lily met with me sa pre-production lang. After that, I deal na with Roselle and it’s important that we have the same objective. May scenes lang na pinare-shoot siya, like yung pagbugbog kay Carla. They want it to be more bloody and I saw her point naman.”

He now directs his first full length mainstream film, “Aswang”. “When they gave me the script, it’s based on the first ‘Aswang’ film of Peque Gallaga. I said I’ll change the story so I wrote a new script with Aloy Adlawan, who also worked with me in ‘Funeraria’. This has a more modern sensibility, hindi basta nanggugulat lang but more of a suspense thriller about two kids, Albie Casino and Jillian Ward who are escaping from hired killers Paulo Avelino, Mark Abaya and Nina Jose. They hide in this town populated by a clan of man-eaters who live in their own sugar plantation, with Bembol Roco as the mysterious leader. Monster movie din ito kasi merong creatures called abwak who can move underground to chase its victims. It’s also a forbidden love story between an abwak, Lovi Poe, and a human, Paulo Avelino.”

Aswang” got a B from the Cinema Evaluation Board and is now showing nationwide.

Mother Lily tells us she’s seen the film and she really got scared. “Takot talaga ang naramdaman ko and I screamed in the fight scenes between aswangs and humans,” she adds. “Aswang” got a B from the Cinema Evaluation Board.

What’s next for him after “Aswang”? “I’m directing the ‘Parola’ episode in ‘Shake, Rattle & Roll 13’. It’s about two girls, Louise de los Reyes of GMA-7 and Kathryn Bernardo of ABS-CBN, who get possessed by evil spirits. After that, I want to go back to indie films as I have materials na sa indie lang puede and not with mainstream.”