HENERAL LUNA is in the last stretch of school tours and promotions prior to the movie’s release on september 9, 2015 and artikulo uno has already released a series of behind the scenes featurettes, including a production design video featuring carlo and myself. however, let me take you further behind the scenes and the design process for one of the sets featured in the current trailer, including trying to meet requirements for our first day of shoot.
a lot of the movie’s intense scenes was staged in this convent room where president aguinaldo’s cabinet staff would meet to discuss (argue) plans for the impending conflict against the americans.
we’ve started reading and studying the heneral luna script august of 2013. the script called for the cabinet meeting to happen in a convent. historically, the philippine government often had to move around and meet where it would be convenient and church convents would be akin to board rooms/conference rooms in our modern life setting. by this time, our govt had been driven out of manila and aguinaldo held office in the provinces. i started researching on visual pegs with photos of convents in the 1890s and any local government meetings i could find.
here are some photos of church convents in europe in the late 1800s. as a general rule, anything that is 1898 or earlier is acceptable but i tried to find photos taken in 1898 to catch details that were different from anything earlier of the period.
archive photos of government meetings we looked at included these ones here (sorry, i may not be able to provide complete credits and links from where i originally sourced these on the web; credits would go to their respective owners).
although the photo below happened after 1899 (look at what seemed to be an older manuel quezon 2nd person from the left), i was basically going for the feel of the setup and how they were seated.
this photo below from the philippine american war website shows gen. gregorio del pilar seated third from left. this was the 2nd Filipino Peace Commission that happened May 19-20 1899 with del pilar as head.
our location managers then presented different options of churches with convents or some multi-purpose hall we could use. eventually we picked tanay church and made an ocular of the room.
based on this location, i then proceeded to draw out the floor plan of the room, chose fabric for curtains, what set panels needed to be added, and the like. this also included going through hundreds of photos of props we could get and rent or buy to furnish the set. i had to remind myself we were working on a budget and this room will only be shot for 2 scenes so i cant go overboard with spending on props. in general, anything that i purchase for this room should and can be recycled to furnish other scenes. the curtains reappeared in aguinaldo’s room, the planters in other office scenes, and so on and so forth.
my sketch is dated february 28, 2014.
notes on my sketch and assignments on who is in charge of procuring them props or if they were set builds. we were only shooting in this location for 1 day and it was also our very first day of shoot, scheduled on march 27, 2014. everybody was excited and anxious.
the costume department had a stressful time as well because it took the casting team a while before the actors for the whole cabinet could be locked in a day before the shoot. we’ve already had some generic sized suits tailored but we cant say if they’d fit well yet. some actors were cast early on like buddy caramat, who we dressed up as a chinese businessman, along with leo martinez, menggie cobarrubias, and nor domingo. the rest we had to rush tailor their suits, which were finished just a few hours before camera grind.
in the meantime, the director, jerrold tarog, and cinematographer, pong ignacio, just finished shotlisting the whole film on the day before we started shooting. i held office at the artikulo uno warehouse and was occasionally called over for clarifications or revisions on layout and setup in relation to their camera angles and framing.
photo of jerrold and pong’s shotlisting camera angles with the whole cast marked by toy soldiers and the camera as an army tank. jerrold and i would additionally discuss whether i can put additional furniture pieces in areas that i feel should have those despite jerrold’s actors bumping into them. as a director, he would normally have his way so on occasion i dont tell him everything so he cant kill off my ideas even before we get to the set.
i shot a video that evening where we celebrated with wine.
a sharp contrast to the relaxed tone (thanks to the wine) in the artikulo uno’s conference room is the organized chaos in the art department warehouse. here’s a video i took of the staff that night while going through last minute checks and reminders. like i mentioned, you can never have enough time to be ready so we were also discussing about props needed in 2 shoot days ahead of time. ive already plotted out service pickup schedules and calltimes on the white board. carlo had to double check dressing up actors in either gala military uniforms or business suits in the convent scene.
a short clip upon arrival at the location in tanay at 4AM. we had about an hour’s rest while traveling to the site. the set guys did an awesome job and now it’s time to burn some candles (also on limited supply) and smoke some cigars, leaving ash on the table for effect.
pong ignacio, cinematographer. i shot this as i was about to step out of the room prior to a take.
it was a successful first day of shoot for HENERAL LUNA. sandwiching antonio luna (john arcilla) in the photo are jerrold tarog and ed rocha, producer. woot woot!
watch this featurette on HENERAL LUNA’s production design featuring carlo and myself. the video was produced by artikulo uno and directed by jp habac. cheers!