Aug 1, 2007

The Echo: A resounding Hollywood break for direk Yam

Toronto — I left Manila last July 25 and on top of my agenda is an interview with director Yam Laranas who is here for the shoot of the Hollywood version of Sigaw.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
When in Manila, I was texting Yam through Ricky Lo so I could meet up with him. Ricky gave Yam’s local cell number and later his Toronto numbers. I tried calling him several times but I think he was very busy with meetings. I called up Yam’s office last Friday and was told that he was again in a meeting.

Last Saturday, I finally got hold of him. He agreed to meet with me the next day, Sunday, at 3 p.m. on the corner of King and John Streets where he is staying.

I was seated at a bench and from afar, I could already see direk Yam

walking towards me. He was walking very cool and is so bagets-looking. I met him only twice in Manila and very briefly at that. But I still remember how direk Yam walks.

He arrived around 2:45 p.m., 15 minutes ahead of our meeting which was very good. We ended up drinking Coke — Diet Coke for him and regular Coke for me, at Tim Horton’s Donut shop on King Street. We finished around 5:15 p.m. and had several minutes for our picture taking right behind Toronto’s CN Tower.

Excerpts from my conversation with direk Yam.

What stage is The Echo in now?

We are in the preparation stage.

Is this different from the pre-production stage?

Yes. The preparation stage for The Echo will take two weeks before we start our shoot on Aug. 13. This involves set construction, camera and negative tests, briefing with prosthetics and makeup and deciding on costumes.

While we are doing prep stage in Toronto, we have a crew in New York. The crew is scouting and doing location hunting for our one-week shoot there.

So, after Toronto, you will still shoot in NY?

We will have 25 shooting days in Toronto, then one week in New York. Mostly exterior and it will only involve Jesse Bradford.

We have a studio here in Toronto, close to the Lakeshore, where we will shoot all the interior scenes. Pero meron ding some exterior scenes and we are recreating New York.

Did all the actors audition for their roles?

For the male lead, we sent out the script to actors and Jesse Bradford loved the script right away so we made an offer. He just finished My Sassy Girl opposite Elisa Cuthbert. He was also in Clint Eastwood’s Flags of our Fathers, Swimfan, Romeo + Juliet.

For the female leads, nag audition silang lahat. British actress Amelia Warner will portray the role of Angel Locsin. Scottish actress Louise Linton’s role was not in the original. She will be the best friend of Amelia.

How about the role of Iza Calzado? How did she get the part?

Our casting director was impressed with her in Sigaw. I asked if they would consider Iza for the role. The casting director said yes and asked for an audition material.

I asked a common friend of Iza and me to talk to her (Iza). I sent them part of the script. I also spoke to Iza’s boyfriend Jerry Garcia. I asked him if he can help her out especially with the accent. They did an audition video. From the several actresses who auditioned for the role, Iza was very fortunate to have gotten the role. (Check out The Echo in Iza is listed in the cast along with Jesse, Amelia and Louise.)

How big is Iza’s role in the film?

I think around 25 to 30 percent. It is a very good role for her. I hope after The Echo, she will get some offers in Hollywood. Aside from being a terrific actress, she is also very beautiful and a wonderful person.

When is Iza arriving in Toronto?

I think Aug. 20 and she will be here for three weeks. Jesse and Amelia naman will arrive on Aug. 6.

Aside from Iza, is there any other Filipino crew working with you in the production?

Yes. His name is John Barba, although he is not in Toronto for the shoot. He is the casting associate. He was born in La Union but born and raised in Chicago.

Who really pushed for The Echo to be produced?

When Sigaw became part of the 2004 Metro Manila Filmfest, I really worked hard through the Internet. I posted trailers sa blogs and sent out DVDs to the right people. Tessa Jasminez of the Variety wrote a mini-review of the film which caught the attention of Hollywood producer Roy Lee.

Roy is Korean-American and is one of the executive producers of Oscar Best Picture The Departed. His other film credits are Ring 1 and Ring 2, The Grudge 1 and 2, Dark Water and Lake House. His other completed films due for release include The Invasion starring Nicole Kidman, the American version of My Sassy Girl. (I checked Roy’s filmography at and found out that he has 18 films in various stages of production including The Echo.)

Roy later told me he was able to find out about Sigaw in the different blogs on the Internet and that he was able to read some of the reviews.

I thought it was only after the Screamfest in October 2005 that Sigaw got noticed by Hollywood bigwigs.

Hindi. Actually, after I spoke with Roy, it was he who mentioned he has a friend who programs for Screamfest. They programmed the film for the festival.

After the awards ceremony where we won Best Music, Roy told me not to worry because at least Sigaw will have a Hollywood version.

After the Screamfest screening, Los Angeles Times film critic Kevin Thomas reviewed Sigaw and said that Laranas, a master at creating an ominous atmosphere; builds to an exceptionally rigorous, satisfying conclusion.

The film later won the Orbit Award at the Brussels International Film Festival Gagnante.

Who is the investor of The Echo?

There were several offers that came up. One was with Sam Raimi pero di natuloy. Then we found Right Off Entertainment who gave us $5 million for the film. Bale this is just for the production cost.

Who is handling the sales for the film?

For domestic release, we haven’t signed with anybody yet. We will wait until the film is finished but for international we have QED International.

We are very fortunate that we pre-sold the film in the Cannes Film Festival last May. We did not have any material just the script and we sold some territories already.

Then when Jesse Bradford was confirmed for the male lead, the film got stronger boost sa sales.

How did the concept for the original Sigaw came about?

At first, Mother Lily wanted me to do a love story. She really loved Ikaw Lamang Hanggang Ngayon (2002) starring Richard Gomez and Regine Velasquez.

But then Roselle, Mother’s daughter, thought otherwise kaya I really blame her for this. Gustong gusto nya kasi ang Radyo and Balahibong Pusa. She said, horror o thriller ang gawin mo. I think dun ka magaling. So in the end, it was Roselle who prevailed.

When I was thinking of a concept, I really wanted a horror version sana of Kisapmata. I’m an avid fan of Mike de Leon kasi. But that did not materialize.

One time I was on my way to a commercial shoot. I think it was 4 a.m. and I was till sleepy. I live in a building in Pasig City and on the 24th floor. When I got inside the elevator, may dugo sa walls nito. I was surprised and medyo kinabahan ako.

When I got into the lobby, there were so many people. Apparently a foreigner was allegedly killed by two women. For several days, people were afraid to take that elevator.

I worked in out on that idea and sat down with writer Roy Iglesias who penned the script.

Is Roy your friend before you worked on Sigaw?

No. I have always wanted to work with Roy. I think he is one of our best writers. Roselle introduced us.

Pwera kay direk Mike de Leon, who are your other favorite Filipino directors?

I’m also a big fan of Peque Gallaga and Chito Roño.

Aside from being the director, will you also get credit for the original version?

Kaming dalawa ni Roy, sa opening credits it will say, Based on the film Sigaw by Yam Laranas and Roy Iglesias. Hindi acknowledgment yun ha? Ha ha ha…

But the writing credits will go to Eric Burnt who is also one of our producers. He was co-writer of The Hitcher and Romeo Must Die.

Who is representing you in Hollywood?

I got signed by ICM in August 2005. This was very rare because hindi pa nun confirm ang The Echo. I am an unknown Filipino director with no Hollywood credit pa but they signed me up. This is the same management which handles the careers of Mel Gibson and Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.

Other any other people helping you map out your career in Hollywood?

Bale ICM serves as my agent. Then my manager is Evolution Entertainment then I have a lawyer who studies the deals for me.

There must be a big cut from your talent fee? Ha ha ha!

Hindi naman. My manager and agents get 10 percent each and my lawyer gets five percent. Bale 25 percent lang. (I asked direk Yam if it’s okay to divulge this confidential information but he said okay daw).

How long have you been away from Manila?

I left in April. I was in LA most of the time doing pre-production work. We moved to Toronto I think two weeks ago.

I am staying in an apartment in downtown Toronto. Dun sa building namin, I think there’s just three of us from the film. The rest live in a nearby building. I am not sure but I think that is where Iza will also stay.

What are the working hours for the film?

We only work for 12 hours no overtime and no weekends. Then there is a 12 hours interval after your last shoot. Halimbawa, if we finished 1 a.m. we can only shoot at 1 p.m. that same day. They are quite strict on this.

How different is it working here compared in Manila?

I am really glad that I have advertising background. It is almost similar yung presentation. We also have audition, presentation, approval of costumes and location. Medyo maluho sa production. We have one staff each for costumes, set, art direction, hair and makeup.

Any ready project after The Echo?

Right now I am focused muna with this. After our Toronto shoot, we will go to New York. Then to L.A. to review the edited parts.

Ang alam ko I have a three-week off. I hope this is in October because it will be my son’s third birthday. I really miss him and my wife (who works in the news department of ABS-CBN). Then back to L.A. and fly to Toronto again where we will do the post production of the film.

I also finished a documentary for National Geographic. It is a one hour show which we shot in Manila.

When is the tentative release date of the film?

It’s not final yet but we are working for Spring 2008.
Ferdinand Lapuz, Toronto Correspondent
Philippine Star

No comments: