Read Shockya.com's exclusive interview with screenwriter and director Ron Morales, who’s making his feature film debut with the drama ‘Santa Mesa,’ which is set to be released on January 21, 2011. The movie follows 12-year-old Hector, played by Jacob Kiron Shalov, as he moves to Manila from the U.S. to live with his grandmother Lita, portrayed by Angie Ferro, after his mother dies. Unsure how to handle his new life, Hector joins a street gang, led by Miguel, played by Pierro Rodriguez.
Jose, portrayed by Jaime Tirelli, a photographer, sees the trouble Hector is getting into, and takes him off the street to teach him important life lessons. Hector also slowly eases into his new life by photographing Rosa, played by Lynn Sherman, who helps adjust to his new life in the Philippines. Morales discussed with us, among other things, how people’s tendency to try to categorize other people was the inspiration for the film, and what the casting process for the main characters was like.
Written by: Karen Benardello
ShockYa (SY): You both wrote and directed the upcoming family drama ‘Santa Mesa.’ How did you come up with the story?
Ron Morales (RM): Originally, I started with a province boy moving to the city, with the same story line. But after several drafts, I looked at it, and said to myself, I really don’t know much, from my memory of being a province boy, going to the city. So I just imagined myself as a child, having to move to the Philippines. Which I almost ended up doing as a child, but it was only for a shorter span of time. So I kind of used a lot of those memories, living in Manila and going back and forth to my mom’s home province. That’s how I came up with the initial seeds of the story.
SY: What type of research did you do into the daily lives of Manila residents before you began writing the script, and during pre-production as the director?
RM: Actually, I was visiting the area of Santa Mesa quite a bit, talking to the neighbors and the neighborhood kids. That’s most of my research, talking with them, in that one particular area. That’s a relatively safer neighborhood to shoot in. It was so interesting to me.
SY: Since you wrote the script for ‘Santa Mesa,’ do you feel that helped you when you were directing the film?
RM: It did help me a lot, because I knew the characters and the situations they would be in. Since I had researched most of it, I kept going back and forth for about a year, in terms of photographing the areas. Not just Santa Mesa, but other Shanty town areas in metro Manila. So I definitely felt it was a much easier story for me to tell. I have directed shorts of other people’s work, and ‘Santa Mesa’ felt a little more like home to me.
SY: Since ‘Santa Mesa’ is your screenwriting and directorial debut of a feature film, did you face any challenges while shooting the movie?
RM: The biggest challenge I had was with casting, casting the kids and a lot of non-actors. That was the biggest challenge for me. I think I spent two-and-a-half months over there, trying to cast all the kid roles, all the teenagers. Then I think we spent about six months looking for, and trying to cast, an American to come over to the Philippines. To me, that was the biggest challenge.
Not to mention, being on a lower budget, that always limits you in terms of what we could do and the areas we were shooting in. There weren’t too many nightmares, in terms of shooting the film. But I would say casting was the biggest challenge.
To continue reading this interview, please visit: Interview: Ron Morales Talks Santa Mesa | Shockya.com