The Flotsam Story… (Part 4 of 10)

THE MUSIC.  (And because it’s about music, there won’t be any photos this time.)

1 surftown.

8 love stories.

10 original songs.

Which one is yours?

The most exciting part about Flotsam is the music.  Joncy always referred to it as a musical and that always threw me off and frightened me because when I hear the term musical, it would bring me back to Chorus Line, Fame and Moulin Rouge.  Is Flotsam a musical? I guess so. It is a musical in that it has lots of original music sung live by the actresses and actors.

To be honest, I didn’t know how much music there would really be in the film because we only really had Marcus Adoro’s songs when we started.  Joncy was the music person between the 2 of us and he had already pegged Marcus’ 3 songs as part of the film.

Marcus (aka Surfernando) is the Jack Sparrow of arguably the best Filipino band ever, the Eraserheads.  But more than that, Marcus is also a storyteller slash filmmaker who’s been surfing before resorts filled up what is now known as surftown in San Juan, La Union.   So if anybody claims they have the first surf film in the country, they better check first because this guy was way ahead of everyone.

Musicians would regularly jam at Flotsam and I was a fan. So writing in music within the film was crucial because music was a big part of the Flotsam experience.

I had a slight aversion in dealing with rockstars. I knew that they were a different breed of people.  In my mind, if film people had their quirks, what more musicians. As much as I knew that I was not a music person, I also knew that music people were geniuses.  I know the value and power of music and working with geniuses was something I feared in this whole production. Usually, you’d finish your shoot, and then bring in someone to put music into the film. I was very familiar with that. But to work with music people way before, and then during–have live music performed and sang within the film—this was unfamiliar territory for me.

I remember having the first meeting on the long table at Flotsam. Half of the table were production people and the other half were music people.  And there I was…with all my assumptions making my preamble: “… I don’t want to deal with rockstars. I wouldn’t know how.”   I explained that I wouldn’t know how to tell if a song was great or not but what I can only tell is if it works for me or not. So to avoid hurting anyone, lets work putting the movie in front of the music—because that’s really what we’re trying to do here. So there I was trying to do the most sensible thing a leader of the band so-to-speak should do, trying to set up the most democratic way of being undemocratic because at the end of the day, what didn’t work for me and Joncy, was not going to be part of the film.

This was the music I listened to whenever I worked on the script of Flotsam. This kind of music, and don’t ask me how or why, worked for me.  This would be my beginning inspiration. Rachel Yamagata’s Meet Me By The Water–


Mia Sebastian, Kiddo Cosio and Bo Bismark were heart and soul of the musical team.  Wendell the wiz drummer was always on-board whenever needed, such a great and generous artist (and cooks great garlic shrimps!).  There were others and forgive me but I do not remember their names and I shall go thank them personally before this whole thing is over.   The music group was solid because they knew the music of the film better than anyone because they live it. They are Flotsam. So they own the music of Flotsam only now it will have to fit the modest confines of the story we wrote and whether or not it’ll work, we were about to find out.

After the meeting, I went to the US for a full month. So this was a rather strange movie production set up because I had left for America in April and prep the film that would begin principal photography on the 2nd week of May using Viber, Skype and Facebook as well as emails. Good luck, right?

I would wake up at 4:30 in the morning every day to a slew of messages asking for my opinion on something followed by chat sessions with the staff and the producers.  I would be 15 hours ahead of Philippine time.  There were always 2 concerns that we were always trying to figure out—casting and the music.  (Casting will be next blog entry.)

We started with 3 songs and we needed 10 so we basically had asked for 7 songs in 3 weeks. A little crazy? Yep.  As a person who does not appreciate cramming, I had to believe in it this time around.

They sent us demos and you have to understand it’s very hard to judge a song by it’s demo. For me at least. I don’t know how music producers do it. I guess that is their talent. I do not have that. So I trusted Joncy unless I felt really strongly about something, then I’d have it rearranged. I think there was just one song where we disagreed but Joncy wins, he is the music person and that’s that.

The music is inspired.  Of-course later on, I’d learn how much work they’ve put into writing these songs which I think is the more interesting story about Flotsam—and Mia, Kiddo and Bo have to write and talk about that.  I say inspired because I’m a relatively simple-minded person and they work for me but they also work for a person like Joncy who unlike me, is very sophisticated and choosy when it comes to music.  And then they work for everyone, the actors, even the crew on set. They just work. Every single song.

We sent the actors and actresses their songs and they all came early to the set to rehearse with Kiddo, Mia and Bo, Bo being the premiere music coach, and that was a whole movie happening behind the scenes as these songs came to life–from demo to on-set rehearsals and onto actual take, the actors and actresses owned the songs, used their character to interpret the songs and it was wonderful to watch.

One of the most important instructions I gave to our actors and actresses was to not perform the songs, this is not a concert, this is a movie that depicts what happens in Flotsam. And for me, the great thing about jamming sessions is that nobody judges you, everyone is there in the spirit of fun, generosity, community, storytelling and just being real. So this is what I wanted to see, a more real environment with all it’s imperfections and nuances. And that became fun to shoot.

Here are excerpts from the song Seagulls Fly, written by Kiddo and Mia.

Maybe you could be the swell in my symphony

Or I could be the biggest joke in your comedy

Secret signals in the club only I could see

Laughing at your lines all over again


City streets in the night with a drink in hand

Losing count of cigarettes and forgetting plans

Like a child running through a fountain 

I’d chase you through that park all over again


When the winds from the north put a chill in the air

You can look over your shoulder, and I’ll still be there

With our feet in the sand and your fingers

Tangled up in mine

All over again

Up until the last week coming into principal photography (shooting), they were still writing songs for us. I think Joncy asked for a specific sounding song and they delivered.  The music guided me in the filming as it served as the soul of the film. I always say that Flotsam is the movie and the music. We have great musical talents in the cast: Marcus Adoro, Solenn Heussaff,  Marc Abaya, Carla Humphries, and Franco Daza.  There really are two products.  Movie. Music. Way before filming, there was already an original soundtrack. There was the music.


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