January 17, 2012 at 7:14am
RON LAGMAN SCREENS COMMITTED IN TACOMA >>>
Saturday, Jan. 14, 6:53 P.M.: I walk down a blustery Opera Alley in downtown T-town, looking for an address and looking forward to the first public screening of filmmaker Ron Lagman's new work, Tapat Sa Pangako (Committed). Yet danger looms above my head - talk has grown this past week about an apocalyptic snowfall (GASP!).
Hey, anything can happen in 2012, right? We may be in for The Day After Tomorrow, tonight. Or tomorrow. Or perhaps the day after tomorrow. Point is, you can't take any chances. Before reaching The Space I scan the skies apprehensively. All clear. Good. I duck inside.
Lagman's bubbly wife Juliette (wo)mans the sign-in table, and gives me a bracelet along with a big smile. I soon spy the writer-director as well as one of Committed's two stars, Rick Walters. His unnamed character doesn't speak a word, only aggressive grunts while exercising in an early scene. Viewers soon find out how much of an animal he truly is.
Walters has experience with silent movies, acting previously in another Washington production called The Lone Russian. But showing your work to a roomful of guests doesn't get much easier.
"As an actor, I'm completely nervous," Walters admits. "It's a very, very personal art form, acting. ... Performances are a very large part of the experience that people take away from watching movies. So I feel largely responsible for the success or failure of (the film)."
Tacoma's Melinda Raebyne plays Walters's troubled wife in Committed, and approaches her complex role with the same, well, commitment. She began by writing a lengthy background history of "Maria," a name she also invented since Lagman's script didn't assign one to the part.
Says Raebyne, "I wanted to bring her to life."
Raebyne does this detailed prep work not just for her benefit, but for audiences too. "If (my performance) doesn't look real to you guys (the viewers), you're not going to believe it. ... It's my job to be able to know who this person is that I'm playing."
The Space fills quickly with dozens of supporters stopping by. With an awesome view of the Port of Tacoma as backdrop, Sleepy Pilot plays a set that, while toe-tappingly good, pretty much halts all conversations for the next hour.
The evening's raison d'être arrives at last. Every light is turned off; Tacoma from outside glows even brighter. Strangers battle politely for space to sit on the concrete floor before the show starts. In the near-dark, our sophisticated urbanite party now vaguely resembles summer camp, with the movie screen as our campfire.
Committed ends. It and its creators receive round after round of applause. At first glance, Lagman's disregard for dialogue seems an amateur, or at the very least antiquated, approach to moviemaking. But maybe he's nailed something. If something like The Artist, a silent French feature, can win Best Motion Picture at the Golden Globes this past weekend, maybe Lagman can help bring to the screen more works like his, in which visuals, music, and performance say everything we need to hear.
The soft-spoken artist, whose face always seems to shine with calmness, now looks pleased with the evening's results.
"I'm very relaxed, I'm very happy," he tells me. "I'm pretty glad at the turnout."
Committed recently received acceptance into its first (of hopefully many) fests, Seattle's Post Alley Film Festival (www.postalleyfilmfestival.com), and will play there next month. Lagman has also sent Committed to festivals in Tacoma, LA, Boston, even France's Cannes. Tonight's screening also served as a fundraiser for a longer work he calls Lolo.
The Tagalog word for "grandfather," Lolo places its fictional characters in true-life events. A post-WWII government act revoked the benefits of many Filipino veterans, including the film's eponymous hero, despite having fought for the U.S. in the Pacific theater. The film follows members of a community still fighting for privileges sadly denied to them decades before.
Lagman has given himself an ambitious deadline for a project larger in scope than Committed. He's already made arrangements to premiere Lolo at Tacoma's Washington State History Museum on Veterans Day of this year. Casting alone will take some time, for he wants specifically Filipino actors for greater realism.
Lagman knows he can meet this self-imposed schedule, since as a Filipino and Air Force vet he connects so well to Lolo's subject matter. No matter the demands, he has learned to adopt a philosophy essential to artists:
"I think the trick is (to) do the film for yourself," Lagman says. "I'm trying to make the movie that I want, and I'd like to see."
Check on Committed, Lolo, and other projects on www.ronaldjlagman.weebly.com.
Off duty rules.
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