Gov't pushed for a reduction in amusement taxes

MANILA — Digital technology, government support, new facilities and a sense of adventure in local filmmakers conspired to give the Philippine industry a shot in the arm.

The government pushed for a reduction in amusement taxes from city mayors. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also cracked down on piracy, instituting tougher laws and stricter penalties.

Creative forces responded with projects, including: tyro Auraeus Solito’s neorealist coming-of-ager “The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros,” which took top honors at the Asian Festival of First Films and received a special mention from the Berlinale’s Kinderfilmfest/14 Plus jury; gay-themed “Stray Cats”; Brilliante Mendoza’s “Masseuse” (2005), which played at Toronto and shared the Golden Leopard-Video prize at Locarno, and her 2006 drama “Kaleldo”; as well as chiller “The Echo,” which also attracted critical attention.

Production facilities also have begun to fill other gaps in the film landscape.

Hollywood-based Big Foot Entertainment invested $30 million (and reportedly will invest $120 million more) in a film school and soundstage it has built in the southern capital city of Cebu.

Another high-end production facility, Clark Shogee Studio, is slated for the site of the former Clark Air Base near Manila. It will cater to local demand from smaller pic producers. Studio is a joint venture between CyberCity Teleservices Philippines and Shogee Studios.

An initial $2 million investment (projected to reach $10 million by the third phase of expansion) will be funneled to a CGI and visual-effects venture at Clark Shogee. The facility will be capable of handling 2-D and 3-D animation as well as full pre-production and post-production.

Backers also are targeting tourism, and in three to five years, they hope the studio will become a major destination.

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