What it Takes to Make the Cut in Philippine Cinema

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Once referred to as the Hollywood of Southeast Asia, the Philippine cinema is brimming with exemplary talent among its actors, actresses, directors, and production team. Outside contemporary cinema, where trends and mainstream media are prominent, unconventional and underrated cinema also takes the stage and captures its viewers’ attention through artistry. 

A Glance at the Philippine Cinema

Philippine cinema has a rich history, from the black-and-white era to new digital and animated filmography. Beginning from the time when films were first shown in the Philippines, it was 1897 when Swiss businessmen sponsored the creation of Cinematografo in the Philippines. The first big screen entertainment across the islands of the Philippines. Although the films popularized by Cinematografo were Spanish-dominated, it spiked a brand new interest among Filipinos and filmmaking on a local scale. At the spur of Spanish-influenced cinema in the Philippines, native filmmakers have inspired the creation of artistic and cultural films – making films more distinct and closer to the roots of the Filipinos. 

Films in the Philippines used to be limited to documentaries and information dissemination. It later evolved into the development of different media entertainment films and real-time television. One of the first known locally produced films in the Philippines is believed to be the film about Jose Rizal, a film entitled as La Vida de Rizal. Alongside the production of this brilliant work, more alternative media emerged joining La Vida de Rizal

Dalagang Bukid was the first film made in the Philippines in 1919. Photo courtesy of Esquire Ph.

One of the most prominent names in Philippine cinema is Jose Nepomuceno, a prodigy director, and photographer who pioneered the motion picture industry back in the day. He produced quite a few hundred films, largely contributing to the growing ecosystem of filmmaking in the Philippines. In case you haven’t heard, one of his most famous films is the well-known 1919 motion picture “Dalagang Bukid.” However, Nepomuceno is a man of conviction, as he superseded his work with a masterpiece film entitled “Noli Me Tangere,” one of the most acclaimed films in the history of Philippine cinema. 

From the first few chapters of Philippine film history, we now delve into the diverse array of Films of the 21st century. Despite countless drawbacks of Philippine cinema, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Philippine cinema is flourishing stronger than it has ever been. However, since the onset of the pandemic, there has been a higher demand for films and documentaries that unleash the truth right where people can hear and witness them. Just as Hollywood and Korean films are popularized across the world, Philippine cinema is aggressively taking its rightful place in the global audience of film. 

How is a Film Made From Start to Finish?

Have you ever watched a documentary, movie, or series, and you just couldn’t help but feel in extreme awe about how speechless it made you feel? Whether or not your answer is yes, films of all sorts, including documentaries, series, and movies of different genres, go through a tedious process. One of the primary contributors to filmmaking is the budget it has a hold of before beginning production. 

Creating a film is made through 7 steps. While it may sound like a small number, it works around highly sophisticated tasks that branch from development to distribution. And since you already know that moviegoers aren’t just a handful of people, it works to entice and impress thousands to millions of people all over the world. To start, here are the seven steps of filmmaking from conception to completion. 

7 Steps of Filmmaking 

1. Development

In this stage, brainstorming, planning, and conceptualizing takes the main course of action. This is the stage where writers anchor information from books, resources, research materials, and interviews for consultation. Once all of these activities have been completed, the director approves the works along with the writers and comes up with a detailed outline of how the film will be created. 

2. Pre-Production

In the pre-production step, the film crew, cast, producers, writers, and directors come together to create a feasible schedule that can work around each of their calendars. These steps include deciphering the filming locations where the film will take place. Although it may not seem as a critical task, the pre-production step takes up a lot of time because the entire film crew must identify which location is most suitable for the film’s scenes and genre. Some films even make use of studios or green screens to ensure that they encapsulate the script and flow of the film they are creating.

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3. Production

In this step, the implementation of all planned activities will be made. The work begins with a keen attention to sticking with planned objectives and budget benches. In this step of the process, communicating around different teams and individuals is essential. Some processes of production include collaborating with new sponsors that a film may endorse. There’s ample creativity in creating a film, and a lot of the work involves sticking to the plans created. 

4. Photography

In this step, you’ll be working with the production team more closely. This is where the curtain shots, effects, editing, animation, and props come together. Here’s where the materials and other resources are outsourced and used for filmmaking, and in all of these prerequisites, film crew members need to ensure that all materials are in excellent working condition and all materials are acquired only from trusted brands and sources. Once the camera rolls, it is essential that all equipment and resources are part of the pre-production schedule and costing. 

5. Wrap

This step is primarily focused on finalizing the filmed scenes, engineered sound, music score, and script technicals that the film is required to accomplish. Included in this step is the task of ensuring all materials and equipment used are returned or well accounted for in the film production’s inventory list. 

6. Post-Production

In the post-production process, the film footage is sequenced according to the script. Here is where extensive editing is conducted, and visual effects, extended music sound effects are included. In this step, it is important to review the entire work and receive feedback to ensure that all parts of the film are flowing smoothly and according to plan and accurately deliver the script.

7. Distribution

In the distribution step, information dissemination is made about the film, here is where endorsers, advertising materials, and different types of propaganda are taken into action. Producers get their money back in this step. Since films require a particular streaming platform, be it a physical movie house or a platform online, it is required to have good connections with production companies for its film to be released to the public audience. 

Watching films on the big screen makes it seem easy for viewers to perceive how the film industry is like, and how films are made, from an idea to a two-hour running movie. However, in the seven steps we mentioned above, we’ve shared a glance about how challenging and tiresome the film industry and filmmaking is like. Despite its points of difficulty, the rewards and joys that come with filmmaking also comes to a grand. We hear about “The Academy Awards” or “Cinemalaya Film Festival Best Motion Picture,” and we are reminded of how the film industry shapes the minds of its viewers through one motion picture at a time. 

Philippine Cinema : What is the MTRCB?

Also known as the “Movie and Television Review and Classification Board,” the organization is a government agency that is responsible for the standard review of media, such as television programs, films, documentaries, and news stations. The organization is working to promote intelligent and responsible viewership across the country, ensuring that all media materials, from words uttered on television programs to film script and production, are of high quality and execution. The organization is also at the center of work that ensures all films and media in the Philippines are distributed legally and with the highest quality.

Why are Good Films Underrated?

Outside the common view, most films become overrated because of actors and film fans. Included in this influence are advertisements and the appreciation of the bandwagon. Underrated films are considered to be those that are outside of the trend. Film lovers are the most common population who become fond of these underrated films, while actors and film fans are the groups who appreciate regular and “overrated” films. 

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (2005) is one of the early and successful indie films in the Philippines that gave way to mainstream recognition to its lead actors and the film itself.

Considerably, the film industry is also dominated by big-name production companies. Whichever works these companies produce, they take on the largest part of viewership in the industry. Some underrated films are those that are referred to as “indie films.” Indie films is a term coined to describe independent films. This means that the film production came from one that is not belonging to a large company such as Warner Brothers, for example. 

Independent films can go from anywhere, to name a few; they can be feature or short films or documentaries. The main idea is that indie films are created outside a major film studio ecosystem. Indie films are also distributed differently compared to large scale studio produced works. In independent films, there is a lower demand from popularized actors or advertisements since more independent films acquire their talent and resources from non-popular sources. However, this does not mean that indie films have less value than conventional major-company-produced films. Indie films are just as excellent as major-company-produced films; sometimes, they even exceed the standards of major-company-produced works. 


Here you found out what makes the cut in Philippine cinema. A lot of work and brain energy goes into creating a well crafted film. Despite countless challenges, filmmakers all over the world, and in the Philippines most especially, come together to continuously shape and inspire viewers through quality and life-changing films. In any genre, films have a way of touching people’s lives. Be it in comedy, drama, musical, or any other selection; films have a way of communicating to people through their unique expression of ideas and their construction. And at the end of the day, most people (if not all) will have one or two films they would refer to as their favorite. This is one of the main reasons why filmmakers are endlessly driven to create films that impact people’s lives, be it just a scene, line, or one second of an hour’s worth. 


PH Cinema is not dead — it is changing and evolving. (2021, September 26). FDCP. https://www.fdcp.ph/updates/ph-cinema-not-dead-it-changing-and-evolving

Admin, W. (2020, October 5). The 7 stages of film making (development, pre-production, production, photography, wrap, post-production, distribution). WWI Virtual Academy. https://wwivirtualacademy.com/the-7-stages-of-film-making-development-pre-production-production-photography-wrap-post-production-distribution/

Dorsch, J. (2022, March 30). The History of Philippine Cinema. ReelRundown. https://reelrundown.com/film-industry/filipino-movies

For the love of Philippine cinema: A look at the industry amidst the pandemic. (n.d.). The Benildean. Retrieved November 4, 2022, from https://tinyurl.com/ktmky7bp

Seen in Scenes: How Women Change Philippine Cinema – COMMONER. (2022, January 1). Medium. https://tinyurl.com/6246peup

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