The Execs Behind TBA Studios Have Big Plans for Philippine Cinema

More exciting films are in the pipeline from this local production house.

(SPOT.ph) 2019 marks the hundredth year of Philippine cinema and while a lot of great things have happened—from Filipinos becoming members of the Academy to successful runs of Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino and the QCinema International Film Festival—there's more in store for Filipino films and stories. TBA Studios is one of the local production houses keeping the industry alive with their diverse collection of quality films, and they have more plans for their projects, and for Philippine cinema as a whole.

TBA Studios is composed of Tuko Film Productions Inc., Buchi Boy Entertainment, and Artikulo Uno Productions. The production house is known for producing Mikhail Red's Oscar foreign-film entry Birdshot, JP Habac's rom-com I'm Drunk, I Love You, documentary Sunday Beauty Queen, and Jerrold Tarog's historical films Heneral Luna and Goyo.

Three of their biggest movies—Birdshot, Heneral Luna, and Goyo—are the first films to be included in media streaming platform Netflix's library. Films have gone from the big screen onto phone screens and instead of fear brewing in their heads and offices, TBA Studios welcomes it: "We also intend to produce original content for all these different platforms that are disrupting the industry," says TBA Studios president Vincent "Ting" Nebrida. "Instead of seeing digital advancement as a threat, we see it as a growth opportunity."

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Some of their several upcoming projects include Quezon, the third installment to their trilogy of historical films; Write About Love, which focuses on two scriptwriters, and their biggest project to date; and The Color of Fire, which is going to be set during the Japanese occupation in Manila. Aside from producing and creating these films locally, they're also in talks to partner with Western and Asian filmmakers, actors, and production houses to take Filipino cinema to the global stage.

At the core of TBA Studios is the ardent desire to produce quality Filipino films for the Filipino audience and beyond. "We are committed to delivering the kind of high-quality films that will uplift and give the Filipinos the intelligent alternative. That is how highly we value the market," Nebrida shares.

"Our creative instinct is the main driving force of TBA Studios," Eduardo "Ed" Rocha, one of TBA's executive officers, says. "The business side of everything comes second to our creative vision," he clarifies. A script and an idea come first before anything else, and that there is utmost dedication to producing the best outcome possible. He cites Heneral Luna as an example. John Arcilla has been in the entertainment industry for years, but has never gotten a leading role prior to the film. They could have chosen to cast a buzzier actor, but they thought Arcilla was the best fit.

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Rocha also says that it could take years before a film is finally a film you can watch. Heneral Luna was a 1997 idea, and the film only came to be in 2015. The Color of Fire has been an idea since 2005, but production is only yet to start. Most historical films demand research and pre-production that take years, and yet Rocha doesn't think of it as a deterrent to creating quality films. "We're heavy on pre-production here," he says, and it shows in how well-researched and written each of their films are.

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The folks behind TBA Studios are aware that in order for Philippine cinema to flourish, there must be investments made on the young minds and fresh ideas that keep it alive. "We have Writers' Room," Rocha adds, a special series of free workshops for aspiring filmmakers that they've carefully selected from a pool of entries. They also have paid workshops available to those interested.

Rocha admits that there are times he may disagree with a director or a writer, but he never lets it get to a point where the person he's working with drops the project completely, or walks away hurt or harmed in any way. "I never crush an artitst's spirit," he says.

In an effort to help local filmmakers further, senior vice president for strategic planning and expansion Carlos Villa-Abrille talked about Cinema '76 Film Society, a microcinema that screens local films and even foreign films. Local films often have to compete with foreign blockbusters for screens in mall cinemas, but with Cinema '76, Villa-Abrille says local films can get an audience, and movie-goers don't have to spend a lot to watch a quality film.

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So why do they do all this? "The Filipinos deserve the best, quality films," Rocha says. At the end of the day, every step and move made is to forward what Filipino films can offer. The folks behind TBA Studios envision a bright future for local films and while most of it is still under wraps, viewers have plenty of exciting things to look forward to.

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