Pelikula Q&A: Jerrold Tarog
by Jansen Musico
There’s something about high school that makes it so important. Think of it as the awkward cocoon stage where maggots in the form of carefree young tweens evolve into bipolar butterflies suffering from a bad case of pre-life crisis. Whether you like it or not, it changes you. It gives you a role to play. There’s a wide selection to choose from not limited to John Hughes’ depiction of jocks, nerds, freaks, girls-next-door and Ferris Bueller wannabes. At the rate we’re going, we’re even seeing the emergence of teen hipsters and Gleeks. Oh my.
Jerrold Tarog was a high school metal head—a fact that seemed so farfetched when he met me with his boyish smile and a bulky backpack in tow. He came off more as geek than a rocker. “I was a geek,” he said rather proudly, “Even if hung out with the cool crowd or with my band, pagdating sa bahay nerd pa rin naman ako.”
If he isn’t making movies, Jerrold’s usually cooped inside his room playing Warcraft, reading books, or reveling in the symphonies of Stravinsky and Bach. He might be a director, but he is, first and foremost, a music lover and a musician. There’s not much difference, really. As Stanley Kubrick once stated, “A film is—or should be—more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings.”
He’s a mad composer, crafting pieces from the top of his head since college. His baptism of fire started in 2002 when he was asked to score Bong Revilla’s Ang Agimat. From there, he’s moved on to do work for a slew of indie films, collaborating with the likes of Brillante Mendoza. Soon enough he was making his own films starting with the short Carpool, followed by his forays into Cinema One Originals (Confessional), Cinemalaya (Mangatyanan), and the MMFF (the Punerarya segment in last year’s installment of Shake, Rattle, and Roll).
This month he’s coming out with Senior Year, the full-length sequel to Faculty last year’s biting ANC AmBisyon and Cinemalaya short about the Philippine education system. Jerrold’s going back to high school, not as a metal head but as a storyteller.
Pelikula: Let’s start with Faculty, since it’s a prequel to Senior Year. You said in your previous interviews that you wanted to focus on education because you think it’s the “starting point for change in society.” But what was it that made you zoom in on that specific scenario between the two teachers?
Jerrold: Practical considerations. ANC’s budget was so small I only had enough money for equipment, food, and transportation. So that immediately narrowed down the number of characters I could create. And then the actors would have to be people I’d worked with who’d probably agree to do it without pay. Thankfully, Che and Bea both liked the script and said yes right away. Finally, with no money for anything grandiose, I decided to just make it a war of words.
Pelikula: The dialogue was so natural.
Jerrold: I just wrote the dialogue thinking how Che and Bea would say the lines. That’s usually how I do it if I want things to sound natural. If it’s not that, then it’s usually semi-improvisation. Also, the basics: avoid TV-sounding dialogue and tedious exposition. Pay attention to rhythm. Never use the phrases “Hay nako”, “Alam mo”, “Siya nga pala” among other lovely cinema classics… Structurally, the rising tension was highly calculated. Both teachers had aces up their sleeves so the whole script was a matter of who’s showing which hand at what point in the story. You could see it in the way they move—who’s sitting down, standing up, charging, backing up, etc.
Che Ramos reprises her role as a teacher, this time in high school, for Senior Year.
Pelikula: You started Faculty with: “One day… in one of the more expensive colleges in Metro Manila.” We’re a bit curious; did you have any particular college or university in mind?
Jerrold: Secret. Those who know me well enough might have a good idea… Seriously though, it’s not exactly about one particular college. It’s more about an entire culture of mediocrity and apathy propagated by class. The “This isn’t fun anymore. I wanna go na.” line in the Ondoy argument…that’s a true story.
Senior Year is Now Showing in theaters nationwide. Support quality local films. Watch it. Special ticket prices are given to students and teachers.