'Ang Maskot': From comic book to the screen

Who hasn’t been to a birthday party that featured a mascot? Unless you’re a wide-eyed seven-year-old, you of course know that the mascot is a mere façade and that there’s a real person animating the cheery and ‘bibo’ mask.

But what if that person couldn’t get out of the costume? For an entire day?

It’s a delicious premise that was first explored by artist Macoy Tan in “Ang Maskot”, a comic book that he created and later, painstakingly photocopied and sold beginning 2009. It later caught the attention of comic book fans and directors, Chris Costello and Mihk Vergara who decided to make a film adaptation.                            
“I wanted to make this movie the second Mihk showed it to me,” says Costello. “It was a great story that was full of great funny moments, and was full of heart. It was also already structured like a movie—it was so visually appealing.”

Tan eventually collaborated with the two in translating the pages of the story to the screen, writing the script and even creating a scene that wasn’t in his original comic. That scene later led to the casting of veteran actor Pen Medina, best known for his portrayal of character roles.

Medina is part of a star-studded cast who gamely signed on for the project, including young comedian Ketchup Eusebio (who plays the lead character), Alessandra de Rossi and Ramon Bautista. “It's really a testament to the strength of the material that we had an easy time convincing our leads for their roles,” Vergara says.

The 20-minute film required a grueling, nonetheless fun, three-day shoot. Vergara explains, “All our friends and family who helped out really came through for Chris and me.  It's less tiring if you're surrounded by people who really, really get you.”

All the hard work paid off earlier this year at the Summer Komikon 2013, when the filmmakers unveiled the film’s trailer. Costello shares, “when Mihk, Macoy and I showed the trailer, the crowd’s reaction loosened me up because they seemed to really enjoy it. The cheers were great, and I realized it’s because this film was really made for them—people like Mihk and I who love comics and film.”

The two plan to enter the movie in the short film category of the annual independent film festival, Cinemalaya. Inspired by last year’s festival entry, “Ang Nawawala” (What Isn’t There) by Marie Jamora, Costello also has a bigger vision for their short film. “My dream is to get a producer interested in further producing it as a full-length film.”

But even if no producer picks up the story, Vergara has every reason to hope it will reach its audience. “One word: Youtube.  If there's any indication that we, as an audience are welcoming to short form stuff, it's this. People watch webseries, viral videos that could be argued, are all shorts.  There's definitely an audience.”