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IFFAM: Erik Matti Hatches Plans for ‘On The Job’ Franchise

Filipino director Erik Matti is known for his eclectic body of work that includes “Honor Thy Father” and “Seklusyon.” His 2013 effort, “On The Job” travelled widely and won several awards including two at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, and was nominated for an SACD Prize at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight.

Matti is at the International Film Festival and Awards Macao this week with the action thriller “BuyBust” that is showing in the festival’s Flying Daggers strand. The film has shown in Bucheon, Fantasia and the Berlin Fanstasy Filmfest.

Inspired by real life events, “On The Job” focused on prisoners who are temporarily released to act as contract killers on behalf of powerful people. The film is now part of a rapidly expanding franchise.

“On The Job 2” is currently filming and is due to complete principal photography by February, with a view to releasing it in the Philippines on June 12, 2019, the country’s independence day. This will be followed by a five-part series.

Because of the scale of the story, Matti is also considering making a four hour condensed version that incorporates both the original film and the TV series. “That would be a feat,” Matti told Variety. “And I don’t know if we can do something with it theatrically or in festivals.”

Between his festival appearance in Macau and shooting the series, Matti is simultaneously working on two small horror films. One will be done by February 2019 and the other completed by April.

“Honestly, I had a bit of trepidation while we were completing the film,” says Matti. “Before starting, I viewed a lot of Asian action films to make sure that we do something uniquely Filipino. We are not a martial arts action movie. Yes, we have characters that know martial arts because of their training as soldiers but as I witnessed in a lot of the brawls we saw on YouTube during our research, the fights are all awkward, dirty and unpredictable. And that I think is what makes our action direction unique to the rest of the action choreography in other Asian action films.”

“We are a country where we don’t fight using martial arts,” Matti continues. “We’re a brawl country. When we fight in the Philippines, we fight by scratching people’s faces, grabbing the hair, stabbing, clumsy punches and grappling. Knowing how most Asian action movies are judged by how specific and fancy the action choreography are using fantastic leaps and clever acrobatics, I was scared that they wouldn’t accept the dirty, gritty, action filmmaking we used for “BuyBust.” Although some action fanatics were disappointed by the raw ‘unstudied’ ‘clumsy’ fights that we based on a lot of real-life YouTube fight videos in the slums, we were happy that Other picked up the frenzied, immediate mood and tone we achieved. I get bored by well-edited martial arts fight sequences that are too specific and precise.”

Matti’s rigor has clearly worked, as “BuyBust” has been appreciated the world over and is on its way to attaining cult status amongst action fans. “We’re happy that a lot of the international critics and audience picked up what we were going for and totally enjoyed the film,” says Matti. “We didn’t want a well-staged dance, we want raw brutal mayhem.”

Another Matti film “Pintakasi” was at the Macao project market in 2016. “Since “Pintakasi” involves an FBI story and the news of the bombing in Indonesia, we are now trying to put up the financing for a three-way co-venture between an American film company and an Indonesian film company,” says Matti. “It’s quite ambitious to pull-off but we’re trying to see if there’s a potential for this synergy between three countries.”

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