Miguel Pascua is a Communications graduate from the University of Santo Tomas. Niño is his first short film project where he served as the director, director of photography as well as editor.
His Juree Philippines 2019 submission, Niño, is a story of a teenage boy craving his father’s attention who bizarrely experiences menstruation for the first time.
We speak to him about writing a story that’s deeply personal to him, about the reversed gender roles, and challenges in his production.
A Personal Story
Niño started as one of Pascua’s major projects in his last year of university. In a team of 10, he pitched a coming of age story where a boy gets his first period. The team decided to go with the idea and the writers starting working on it.
“During pre-production, we joked around that I was touchy about the story and that it reminded them of my desire for my parents’ attention and approval.”
Pascua claims it is common for rookie directors like him to make films too personal and too close to home. It came as an awakening to him when he realised how much the story had hit him.
“We approached the story like any other, arranged the narrative with plot elements and exposition in mind – with me ending up whisked up away into the story.”
A Story With Reversed Gender Roles
The team wanted to explore several themes in Niño. They arrived on Niño having a softer disposition, fulfilling the traditional gender roles of a mother in the household like doing laundry, cooking and doing the chores.
Cielo, Niño’s female friend, is loud, brash, speaks her mind and has the boyish athleticism that boys Niño’s age generally possesses. Mariel Valentin, who plays Cielo, really shaped the character with small details like sitting with her legs casually splayed open and the way she comments on Niño.
Challenges of a Limited Budget
“The biggest challenge was achieving the first scene’s long take on a limited budget. We survived by taking turns with the camera and having scripts and cues hidden behind objects off-camera.”
Time was also a big challenge he faced, running against the clock meant that they had to shoot for 18 to 20 hours a day with the only rest time they got being the travel time between locations. They ended up mitigating scenes that took too long to film by shooting some afternoon scenes at night and shooting certain night scenes midday instead.