Copyright MediaConnex Asia 2017

My First SAFF Experience

The Southeast Asian Film Financing Forum’s (SAFF) Conference in 2016 was an eye-opening experience for this writer…

Last year, at the ScreenSingapore Conference and Project Market, I attended a talk entitled “Producer or Distributor:  The Sales Agent in Hollywood And The World,” which was headlined by a veteran sales agent and producer by the name of Kathy Morgan.  To be completely honest, I had not really known anything about her apart from the information on the event guide and booklet that they had given away to registered participants.  It described her as “Principal, Kathy Morgan International & Executive Producer of the Oscar-winning The Danish Girl.” 

That was more than enough to pique my curiosity though so I attended her talk, and almost a year since then, the impactful words she had shared to us still rings very true to me today, for what I was initially expecting to be a technical forum on producing and distributing turned out to be a very profound discussion on persevering in your craft and trusting in the forces that be in working out things for you on the path to your dreams.

Kathy Morgan began her talk with a very funny and unforgettable anecdote that went on something like this, “So now that you figured out you are passionate in this craft, let me tell you, ‘Congratulations on being in showbiz.’  And while I’m at it, allow me to also add, ‘Condolences on being in showbiz.’ ”  That surely stirred laughter and life into the audience for so many of us could understand and relate to the polarity of being in this industry.

It was an overall humbling and encouraging experience to hear a veteran like Kathy Morgan, whose career in the motion picture industry spans 30 years, discuss about her ups and downs, triumphs and trials in her film journey.  Although she had been involved in worldwide sales of film starting in the ‘80s with such heavyweight titles as Platoon and The Last Emperor, it is the 2015 romantic drama film, The Danish Girl, starring Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander, that Kathy Morgan is more known for with today’s generation.

And speaking of The Danish Girl, it was such a surprise for everyone in the room, most especially myself, to hear directly from the source herself that the film actually took over 16 years to make, from script development all the way to distribution.   My not-as-experienced filmmaker self was originally expecting a story that was typical in Hollywood – coveted script shopped around to producers then made within a couple of years with bankable talent.  No, that was actually very far from the real story.  Thankfully, Miss Morgan had been an integral part in the story development phase, a story she did not want to give up on notwithstanding the countless years that had passed by before The Danish Girl finally saw the light of day.  She stamped forever in my mind this biggest lesson of all in the process of The Danish Girl —When you believe in a story so much, time becomes irrelevant.  The only thing that matters is getting it made because great stories transcend time.  Great stories carry onwards through generations.” 

Those words will always be etched in me as I carry on with my own filmmaking journey, especially now when it’s been a rather testy time for Hollywood with scandals and sexual allegations unraveling every day, with each revelation more staggering than the last.  It’s been challenging to want to keep up with this craft when the very pillars of the industry itself are the ones sabotaging what is sacred and valuable to the world of visual storytelling.  Thankfully, not all hope is lost with beacons like Kathy Morgan and all the other knowledgeable and giving industry players at ScreenSingapore, who have proven that no matter the often undesirable changes in the industry, great stories will always prevail.


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Janice freelances as a Screenwriter and Director in the Philippines and the U.S., but her first, great love will always be Creative Writing. She's contributed for dailies and magazines in her island hometown of Cebu from the age of 14. One of her most exciting writing gigs was in the Film section of the now-defunct lifestyle webzine, Limité, in which she got to interview one of her filmmaker heroes, Richard Linklater in New York City in 2012. When she's not writing or daydreaming up stories, Janice loves to go backpacking around small islands, making driftwood art, and playing with her Shih-Poo dog, Brandy.

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