After winning the hearts of viewers and film critics in the 66th Cannes International Film Festival and the 2013 Puchon International Fantastic (PiFan) Film Festival in South Korea, Filipinos will now have a chance to watch this much talked-about and potentially one of the most thought-provoking film of the decade starring PiFan Film Festival best actor JOEL TORRE together with PIOLO PASCUAL, GERALD ANDERSON and JOEY MARQUEZ plus a stellar cast of the country’s most talented actors directed by award-winning film maker, ERIK MATTI under the production of Star Cinema and Reality Entertainment.
Had a chance to interview Direk ERIK MATTI last week during a blogcon organized by Star Cinema for OTJ. According to Direk ERIK,
“For Star Cinema to allocate a budget of around 47 to 50M for OTJ – I believe that they too saw something in this film that is really worth that much producing, they somehow believed that despite the risk (being an action-thriller) that this movie could really work.”
DIREK ERIK MATTI
Erik Matti or Erik Charles Matti is an award-winning Filipino writer and film maker known for his works in Magic Kingdom (1997), Pedro Penduko Episode 2 (2000), Scorpio Nights 2 (1999), Rigodon (2012) and TikTik: The Aswang Chronicles (2012).
How was OTJ conceptualized?
“May driver kami sa shooting dati with Viva 10 or 11 years ago, galing siya sa kulungan at raket niya daw sa loob ay to do hits outside, that story stuck with me. I never wrote a script but I kept on thinking about that. I stopped doing films 6 years ago, then 3 years after bumalik ako. I decided to make a mini trailer for the idea of OTJ mga 8 to 9 minutes lang to get people interested. Then after that I wrote the script.”
Direk Erik also said that OTJ is not actually a die-hard action film. He said that he loves action movies but he always wanted to make a Bourne type of action film. If he was to compare OTJ with hollywood films he said that it’ll be more similar to Michael Mann’s HIT and a little bit of the THE PROPHET.
“Yung kwento ng OTJ ay more of a conspiracy theory, it is really something very interesting na kahit bawasan mo ng action it can stand alone but of course mas exciting kung madaming action.”
Direk Erik also said that after writing the script he employed the services of four (4) consultants and started interviewing military guys and prison personnel. He said that he discovered a lot of things about the theme of the movie – big revelations that are most intriguing and almost unbelievable at a certain extent because while it actually happens in real life, it is very hard to prove and concerned personalities of course will deny everything.
Here are some of the things Direk Erik found out from his consultants and his research that he shared during the interview:
- A hit man dismantles the gun that he used after a job so that it will be hard to trace.
- The only person that can take out a person out of prison is a military since the warden is also a military.
- Majority of this so-called prison activities of taking out prisoners to do a sanctioned hit happen in the outskirts of the metro. They usually have an outside guy to do the surveillance and plan everything before calling out a guy from the inside to do the hit within a 24-hour frame – which is the maximum number of hours of leeway before the next prison roll call.
- It works in a systematic way, a middle-man receives a job who then calls a prison insider who have a great amount of influence inside who will then orchestrate the safe passage of a hit man.
- Most prisons have CCTV cameras however some of them are just empty domes.
A CANNES WORTHY FILM
Direk Erik said that he is very proud of this movie. He said that the movie was made for local audience, that it is meant to be a local mainstream movie.
“It was not intentionally made for international film festivals and I was surprised that Cannes took notice of it (OTJ). They were actually thrilled about the film. Ang gusto ko lang naman ay makagawa ng movie na parang Bourne Identity o Enemy of the State ang dating at swerte lang at na recognize kami internationally.” Direk Erik explained. “Hindi ito arthouse, mainstream film siya. The movie may look like a documentary but you’ll be surprised that everything was staged. Everything was born out of research pati mga characters at nagkataon lang na may na touch kami na sensitive stuff dahil din sa research pero hindi ako si Lino Brocka, I don’t make movies to send out political or socially-relevant and critical messages. Ang maganda sa movie na to ay hindi siya kwentong third world – kwento lang talaga siya, I’m not playing on the third world flavor. Lahat mag-eenjoy panoorin to, lalo na mga politicians kasi makikita nila sarili nila dito.” He added.
DIREK ERIK TALKS ABOUT THE CAST OF OTJ
According to Direk Erik, OTJ is almost 4 years in the making. They were suppose to shoot 2 – 3 years ago. They also got to the point where he almost consider making it as an indie film and get a bunch of character actors just to get the project off the ground.
“Piolo Pascual was always there pero ang daming pinuntahan ng script na to. Si Piolo ang kauna-unahang nakatanggap ng script before anyone else. Yung mga supporting characters sa film silang lahat talaga ang mga first choice ko.” Direk Erik said.
- Vivian Velez who plays the middle-man in the film agreed to do the movie even if most of the time her face will not be shown and sometimes edited with a blurry silhouette. Direk Erik casted Vivian for her voice and enigmatic presence.
- Angel Aquino agreed to do an almost cameo appearance. Direk Erik said that he was actually scared to ask Angel to do the part since its going to be just a bit role.
- Michael De Mesa plays a politician in the movie.
- Leo Martinez plays a military man in the movie, Direk Erik said that Leo plays a non-stereotype General in the film which makes his character even more interesting.
- Other big stars appearing in the movie are Rosanna Roces, William Martinez, Nino Muhlach, Al Tantay, JM De Guzman, Empress Schuck, Rayver Cruz and Lito Pimentel.
“I couldn’t ask for a more professional set of actors than these guys.”
MORE ACTION FILMS
I asked Direk Erik if there was some hesitation in making OTJ since the theme of the movie tackles some sensitive issues that are as risky as the genre it belongs to right now.
“If you look at my filmography, lahat ng hindi pwedeng gawin yun ang ginagawa ko. Noong hindi uso ang bold dun ako gumawa. It’s really great that you can do other things than what’s generally accepted at a given period of time and to find out if the public will bite it. If it doesn’t work, then charge to experience. Sometimes you just want to push what you can give the audience.” He said. “I know that OTJ is a big risk but we’re happy with the kind of action film that it turned out. It’s not the usual action film that is reminiscent of the old style and we really want people to push for the film not to cash in on the project but because we believe that if this works, this will open up doors of opportunities for other kinds of mainstream action films in the industry. This is not a socio-political film but an engaging and exciting action movie.”
Direk Erik also said that there are already other film makers exploring possibilities of taking action movies to the next level. Bb Joyce Bernal is going to do one with Robin Padilla and he also heard through the grapevine that there’ll be a remake of an old manila cop film coming soon.
“Hopefully this will open up more opportunities for male-driven pinoy films for a change. Ang mga lalaki kasi ang tatamad magsipunta sa sinehan kung di pa pilitin ng mga girlfriends nila hindi manonood.” He adds
The most intense part of the movie was the chase scene according to Direk Erik. He also said that all the scenes were shot in less than 1 and 1/2 minutes so it’s going to be a fast-paced roller coaster ride for all the movie-goers. Direk Erik advised viewers to not go to the restroom during the course of the film. So it’s a strictly NO DRINK JUST POPCORN type of movie experience.
Can’t wait to see OTJ and it has been a pleasure talking to one of my idols in the Philippine film industry. I personally love his work in Pa-Siyam and the first Erik Matti movie that I’ve watched PEDRO PENDUKO Episode II: The Return of the Comeback. I still have a VCD of that movie at home.