Period drama Amigo builds village filming on location in Philippines
Period drama Amigo has built a period village filming on location in the Philippines. Set in 1900 during the Philippine-American War, it tells the story of US troops occupying a native village and fighting local guerrilla insurgents. It was filmed on Bohol, one of the country’s island provinces.
Planning and building the village for the John Sayles-directed project was a complicated process once the locals had agreed to host the production team for its four-month shoot. Different rates for the use of the land were negotiated depending on whether local landowners planned to grow rice at certain times, or whether their land was tillable in the first place. Then separate permissions were needed to cut native trees.
The local shaman sacrificed a white chicken and the clearing began, to create a plaza in the centre of the village. The Production Designer Rodell Cruz laid out a village of 14 bahays, ranging from one-room huts to the large house for the Mayor.
Maggie Renzi, Producer
Maggie Renzi, a Producer on the film, said: “After all this, the local shaman sacrificed a white chicken and the clearing began, to create a plaza in the centre of the village. The Production Designer Rodell Cruz laid out a village of 14 bahays, ranging from one-room huts to the large house for the Mayor. The Construction Supervisor Dan Fernandez brought down 30 craftsmen from Manila by ferry to build the village.”
The construction team lived with the native villagers for about ten weeks while they worked. Locals helped with the construction, which was all done with locally-sourced materials and just one power tool. Bamboo was transported to the site using a combination of the Abatan River and carabao, an animal related to water buffalo. Nipa shingles, a material used for roofing, was sourced from plantations along the river.
Renzi added: “The most spectacular element of the village was the stone church. Not stone at all, but styrofoam blocks on a bamboo frame built over a cinderblock/hollow-block house - the only anachronistic feature of the site. The completed village made a charming impression of the past, but it was our pretend church that dazzled visitors. Stone that wasn't stone, moss that wasn't moss; this was the ‘Hollywood’ that outsiders travelled to see.”
There was an abundance of support available from local authorities. The Film Development Council of the Philippines awarded the equivalent of USD15,000 towards the project’s post-production costs that were done by a Filipino company. In addition the Unit Production Manager had the phone numbers of all registered chainsaw operators in the region. On filming days they were paid not to use their machinery so that the noise wouldn’t affect the film’s 1900 setting.
The Unit Production Manager had the phone numbers of all registered chainsaw operators in the region. On filming days they were paid not to use their machinery so that the noise wouldn’t affect the film’s 1900 setting.
Having prop guns on set became an issue at one point when firearms transportation was banned by the Federal Election Commission. The Mayor of Maribojoc, the municipality on Bohol, was a great help throughout the shoot and ended up taking personal responsibility for all the project’s guns.
Filming equipment and processing services were provided by CMB and SQ Film Labs, while Hit Productions took care of music recording and Road-Runner Post-Production was also involved. All these companies are based in Manila and all worked well except for Road-Runner’s sound mix, which had to be re-done in the US.
Renzi concludes: “I'd say shoot in the Philippines. You will find excellent workers, art departments that can build anything and copy any props. We worked outside the usual system so we were less prey to the system of ‘overheads’ that are prevalent.”
Amigo opens today in selected US cinemas.
Photos by Mary Cybulski, Courtesy of Variance Films/Anarchists' Convention.
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