An award-winning short film captures human connections through the lens of a photo booth

An award-winning short film captures human connections through the lens of a photo booth

Filmmaker Trishtan Perez breaks down the story behind the story.

I was covering Globe Independent Film Festival’s (.GIFF) Festival of New Cinema when I first saw The Man Who Isn’t There and Other Stories of Longing by Trishtan Perez. The 10-minute short is a series of non-sequiturs and micro-narratives on self-identity and human relationships, all contained within the cramped, sky blue space of a photo booth. 

In these brief glimpses of its characters — some appear only once, others many times — the film becomes an earnest and moving show of their quirks, their vulnerabilities, their comfort zones and their ups and downs. Each has their own purpose. They’ve come with family, or with friends, or with someone special, or they’ve come alone. It proves that there’s a lot to be said in body language and how feelings are a language in and of themselves. And it’s not hard to relate to the awkwardness of when you’re fumbling toward a personal connection, or the rightness of when you’ve finally made contact and built something together. 

 

The Man Who Isn’t There and Other Stories of Longing ended up taking home the award for Experimental Best Work at the Festival of New Cinema. Over email, Trishtan — who studied at the UP Film Institute — discussed how the concept of the short film came about, the process that went into its production, and how young filmmakers can tell new stories and keep the local industry alive. 

 

Young STAR: What drew you to filmmaking and storytelling and how has your journey been?

Trishtan Perez: I’ve always loved watching films since I was young and the lingering feeling that I have long after the credits roll has always been my favorite feeling in the world. The more unsettled or stunned I get, the better I consider the film watching experience. It is in this state that I get to think deeper about my life and about humanity in general. It is the realization that I could give other people that same effect through looking at myself deeper that really motivated me to pursue filmmaking and storytelling. It doesn’t even have to be life changing. The possibility that a simple idea in my head could reveal deep truths about ourselves already makes a project worth doing. The journey hasn’t been easy though. I’ve made films that ended up saying nothing at all. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to my film language so that I could drive my points across more clearly.

How did you conceptualize The Man Who Isn’t There and Other Stories of Longing? What inspired you to use a photo booth as a framing device?

I used to date this guy from Twitter and I always made it a point to have our photos taken together in a photobooth when we could. The photos started out from awkward to just kind of awkward to something that feels a little comfortable. In that small space, the little gestures, the deep sighs, the silence, the failed attempts for a kiss, the awkward poses, tell a story that speaks more than a thousand words. As two gay guys, the four corners of the photobooth felt like a safe space where we could try to be a little bit braver with each other in public. And I think other types of people could feel the same. When we pose for a picture, we only show what we want to project. But the little moments that show our attempts to present something else actually reveal a lot more than the photo itself. The single shot used for everyone forces to us the perspective of the photobooth, allowing us to see everything, sharing that moment of figuring out what to do next, and realizing that by the end of the film, we have actually empathized with these unfamiliar faces. 

 

It is the realization that I could give other people that same effect through looking at myself deeper that really motivated me to pursue filmmaking and storytelling.

 

Can you talk about the process that went into writing and producing the film?

The Man Who Isn’t There and Other Stories of Longing is actually the last film I’ve made in college. As someone who just wants to get university over with, I decided to do something inexpensive and simple to shoot. Unlike my classmates, there were only six people in my crew and the actors are all just friends and other acquaintances that I managed to trick into helping me finish the project. What I didn’t expect is that it is actually in these self-imposed limitations that I could dig the deepest when it comes to capturing a little part of the human experience. It was the most fun and easiest shoot in my film school life and I wish I could work again with the same limitation.

 

What was challenging about the project, and what did you enjoy about figuring out the technical aspects and watching the short come together?

We were only given a maximum of 10 minutes for our films in that subject and I ended up shooting much more than the time requirement allows. Having to take out a lot of the other small narratives and picking out the ones with the strongest emotional impacts have to be the most challenging part of the project. But I personally think that how my editor responded to the challenge made the film smaller and much more articulate, which is never a bad thing for me. Watching it all come together, I feel a deep sense of satisfaction. 

The Man Who Isn’t There and Other Stories of Longing by Trishtan Perez

Short and innocent glimpses of human relationships through the lens of a photobooth aching for connection.

Catch this Black Beret entry by Trishtan Perez tomorrow, May 21 at the U.P. Cine Adarna.

Admission is free and open to all. See you!

Posted by UP Film Institute’s Likha Adarna on Monday, May 20, 2019

What experiences and aspects of human relationships or connections do you aim to highlight through the film?

I wanted to create a singular story out of all the strangers that go inside the photo booth. I wanted to create this one big narrative of our collective experiences in life starting from being alone to the search of finding another human being to the exhilaration of finding company then ending up all by ourselves again. It is like a cycle that I’ve only learned to accept just recently. We may not experience all of this chronologically but we are bound to pass by these stages in life. It doesn’t have to be devastating. There will be a lot of good parts in between our stories and it pays to always remember them.   

 

What do you think the new crop of young Filipino filmmakers have to offer in terms of enriching the industry and telling new stories? How can we show and provide our support to emerging and aspiring filmmakers? 

The world is constantly evolving and it is the young filmmakers who accept these present truths without any bias to the past or expectations to the future. I think we accept these experiences as they come which make us have a perspective on things rooted on our generation’s collective consciousness. Young filmmakers should be given opportunities to tell the story of their generation through the help of film laboratories and festival grants that aim to develop their skills in filmmaking and help them be more mature as artists.

Tags:
#culture #gender #movies #profile

Share this:

FacebookTwitterEmail