‘Dark, camera, action!’

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ARMY green basic shirt, Uniqlo; khaki pants, Topman

He casually enters the studio—in his hoodie, jeans and with a backpack.

He looks every bit as “young” as I was told—“a young filmmaker.”

Twenty-two-year-old Gino Martin M. Santos is a fresh digital filmmaking graduate of DLS-College of St. Benilde.

He has come a long way from pitching his big idea to the Manila Film Financing Forum—with vital support from the Philippine Independent Filmmakers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (IFC) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

Tonight, his debut full-length feature, “The Animals,” premieres in this year’s Cinemalaya, a finalist, with nine other entries. It is competing for the top prize in the New Breed category, showcasing a new generation of filmmakers.

GINO wears graphic tee by Giordano.

“Honored. Being in line with established directors is quite overwhelming,” he proudly says.

But long before the winners are known, Santos confesses: “To be honest, awards aren’t my priority… the prize for me is the audience’s reaction. I want the film to stick with them even after the credits roll.”

A cautionary tale

Not so long ago, Santos, with co-writer Jeff Stelton, was just another student breezing through high school.

This is the subject of “The Animals,” which revolves around the lives of three affluent students within a 24-hour span.  Their innermost desires and emotions surface and the boundaries of morality are put to the test.

POSTER of “The Animals”

Santos wanted a film for students and parents alike. “I want to show the shocking things high school kids would like to keep secret from their parents, and what parents would like to find out. I want it to be an eye-opener for parents, teachers… and the youth,” reveals Santos.

Santos and Stelton remain true to their inspiration in setting up the story. “I used to organize parties back in high school, so, yes, this story is pretty close to my heart… I wanted a film about teenagers in our generation,” Santos explains.

Santos draws strength from a background not every aspiring filmmaker enjoys.

After workshops with Marilou Diaz-Abaya in high school, he interned with Cannes-winning Brillante Mendoza during the production of the critically acclaimed “Captive.”

Recently, veteran director Joey Reyes threw his support behind “The Animals.” With a treasure trove of lessons in his field, Santos charges everything to experience: “I am a sponge contentedly learning, and I’m always curious about everything.”

Dawn Balagot as Trina, talking to her friend about the party happening later that day

Cinemalaya 2012 runs July 20-29, with screenings at the CCP, Greenbelt and TriNoma cinemas.

Gino’s favorites

Movie director:

P.T. Anderson

Movie: “Magnolia”

Albie Casiño as Jake, getting ready for school

Actor: Sean Penn, Edward Norton

Actress: Monica Belucci

Fashion labels: Zara, H&M, Uniqlo

Motto: “I do not regret the things I’ve done, but those I did not do.”—Empire Records

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