Surf’s Up: Mark Mabanag talks “Archipelago”

archipelago mark mabanag luke landrigan

Archipelago, the debut film of Manila-born director Mark Mabanag, was released earlier this year in 2015.

Shot over a period of three years, Archipelago is the first-ever Filipino surf documentary, its subject matter focused exclusively on Philippine waves and surf culture.

Archipelago delves into the heart of the surf life, sport, and culture in over eight different locations around the Philippines, including Baler, Siargao, and La Union. The film features some of the Philippines’ most talented surfers showcasing their athleticism and passion in the water.

SineScreen took the opportunity to chat to Mabanag following Archipelago‘s release.

Hey Mark! So, where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Manila, but now based in La Union.

When did you first realize that you wanted to – or actually could – pursue a serious career in photography and filmmaking?

I worked as a Human Resources practitioner in different corporate companies for almost 7 years. During those years, I spent my weekends outside Manila surfing or skateboarding, and filming my friends at the same time. When I felt that I was having a lot of fun filming surfers and skateboarders, that’s when I realized that I need to step down the corporate ladder and do the thing I’m really passionate about.

What do you love the most about creating films? 

The things I love most about filmmaking is that I am able to express what’s on my mind, and I get to travel and surf a lot.

Luke 10

So, why choose surfing as your subject matter?

I wanted the film to achieve two main goals. The first was, make the world know that Philippines is a legit surf destination. The second was to highlight that the majority of the surfers featured on film have no sponsors and earn their living as surf instructors, fishermen, and habal-habal drivers. This film provides exposure to our talented surf locals so they may get sponsorships later on.

Did you structure Archipelago as a film from the outset, or did you start creating a narrative after collecting various pieces of footage?

The film depended on the different footages I was able to collect. It was actually challenging because I was filming different surf spots around the country, plus the weather and waves are always unpredictable, so I need to make sure I was at the right area at the right time.

Carlito Surfing Archipelago

What kind of budget did you have? Was it a self-financed project?

At first, Archipelago was self-funded by myself and surfer Luke Landrigan, who is part of the film! By the time I’d released the first trailer on YouTube, sponsors like Quiksilver and other brands started to come in and support the production of the film.

What cameras did you use in and out of the water?

I was only using a Canon 7D at first, but when Sony came in to sponsor the film, I started using three of their cameras: the VG900, the A77 and the Sony Action Cam (for water and underwater filming).

What are your hopes for Philippine talent and cinema in general?

I believe there’s still more to be done in Philippine cinema, and I hope that upcoming filmmakers get exposure later on.

What filmmaking plans do you have for the future?

I’m currently in Siargao Island right now putting work on my second surf film titled “Days Of Filth”, and at the same I’m also working on my documentary about the history of Philippine surfing.

Thanks for speaking to us, Mark. Ingat!

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