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An “Ex Press” Interview with Jet Leyco September 2, 2011

Posted by Richard Bolisay in .MOV, Festival, Interview.

Manila-based filmmaker Jet Leyco has two films at the 4th .MOV International Film, Music, and Literature Festival. One is for the Silvershorts competition called “Patlang” and another is a full-length feature called Ex Press. Jet sits down with Lagarista.com and shares his first filmmaking experience and his thoughts on the importance of local film festivals.

Ex Press is your first full-length and also your thesis film at the Asia Pacific Film Institute. How was the experience shooting your first movie?

It was exciting and puzzling at the same time. I try not to follow the traditional process of principal photography and stick to a more spontaneous method of shooting without a script in hand but with a story in mind. Day after day, pieces of the story started to come together as I edited the rushes. Eventually, I began writing scenes and monologues to weave the footage I took. It was more of documentary filmmaking plus a post set-up (with lights and dolly) shoot. Actually, I’m satisfied with the results. It is a combination of traditional and guerilla filmmaking.

Were you able to apply the things you learned from film school?

Yes. But still, it is my own voice that took over in the process. Knowing the technical details in filmmaking helps; however, it is the framing of a particular image or capturing a distinct atmosphere that is more important to me. I tried not to use conventional formulas as I believe that cinema has its certain process and pacing from writing and principal photography to post-production.

What’s the reaction of your teachers to Ex Press?

None of them have seen the film yet except for our production management professor who served as one of the panel members at the defense. She appreciated the film and thought it was distinct and looked a bit like Herzog’s movies.

What’s the advantage of a “no pre-production shoot” and improvisation? Will you recommend the same approach to other filmmakers?

I must say that heavy preparation will always be the filmmaker’s best armor. Eighty percent of Ex Press did not undergo pre-production, but I think my instinct in shooting images that I need and editing in mind (in advance) helps a lot in the process.  I recommend this approach in real time situations when things happen naturally, and all you got to do is frame them nicely in order to tell your story.

The film is heavy on monologues about dreams and memories. Are these your personal thoughts? Does the train in the film symbolize anything?

Personal thoughts—yes. But as much as possible, I try to create a certain behavior or ideology for each character so that the audience can relate to the story better. I think my views on certain issues are raised in the film in a very metaphorical way.

The train symbolizes a different atmosphere. It may be a means of transportation. A meditation of images. The society we live in. Some history we try to forget. And so on and so forth. Many things.

Who are your favorite local filmmakers?

Mike De Leon. Lav Diaz. John Torres. Khavn De La Cruz. Bernal. Brocka. Gerardo De Leon.

Why do you think people should support local film festivals like .MOV?

More than a festival, I think .MOV is a celebration of local cinema, music, and literature in which people can see a different kind of revolution, a revolution that creates no boundaries and borders between art and people. Every festival, no matter how small or grandiose, should be recognized and supported by its community. Also, .MOV is a way of remembering two great film enthusiasts, Alexis and Nika, who dedicated their lives to cinema.

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