Martin Edralin: Through the Lens of a Filipino Canadian Filmmaker

Being able to tell stories through film is an experience a director will forever cherish. Filipino Canadian director Martin Edralin is a self taught filmmaker who found his way into the world of film through passion, perseverance, determination and hard work. His short films have won awards and his recently released first feature film Islands which had its showing at South by Southwest, has received the Special Jury Recognition. OBRAA had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Martin Edralin who has given in depth information about the process he had gone through in the making of his films and about himself as a filmmaker.

Martin Edralin was born in Toronto to Filipino parents who immigrated in 1978. He grew up in the neighboring suburb Mississauga. Interestingly enough, he didn’t go to film school. In his undergraduate studies, he was a business and English double major. By the last year of college, he took a media course as an elective and fell in love with film. He appreciated it in a way where he took everything he learned from literature and just without thinking about it, applied it to film. He then started watching everything he could get his hands on and from there, it became a slow process for him of figuring out that movies were made by human beings and he could be one of those human beings.

“In that media course there was an assignment where you had the choice to write a short essay or you could do a 1 minute film. I guess that was my very first start. It wasn’t a serious film but I remember taking it very seriously even though it was 1 minute. I remember also being very difficult for me to organize and imagine what I would say and how I would try to say it in that medium. I also remember thinking that it was so challenging that I would never want to do that on a much bigger scale but I think it was challenging because I cared and I loved the idea of making a film.”

Martin both writes and directs his films. He found the process of writing very hard up until now. Despite that, he forgets all of it when production takes place. He feels focused making his films along with the people who helped him bring them to life. He would be happy to have somebody else do the writing but he finds it difficult to direct something that he didn’t write since they end up very differently. Martin is a person who knows how to focus on the task at hand and doesn’t give in to pressure easily.

“I had no idea what it would look like after the edit. I read in books or I would hear people talking about how when you’re in production you have to start to edit in your head. I did that a little bit but I think I was just so happy to be filming and working with people. That’s all I was really focusing on with of course a little bit of the editing. I also didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself.”

His short film entitled Hole which was released in 2014 won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Live Action Short Drama at the 3rd Canadian Screen Awards. After 8 years, it’s still a hit playing 2 or 3 festivals a year.

Hole (2014) was the first short film that he made seriously. The other short films were made with some money he saved up. Those said short films became his hands-on training. Before making Hole, he worked at the Canadian Film Center as a production coordinator where he got to see filmmakers go through training programs, see what they did well and see what they failed at.

The process of making a film involves a lot of people from the cast to the production crew. Martin shared about how he found it very hard in the beginning to gather people since he really didn’t know anybody in the industry. He would find volunteers online, most of which have very little experience. Nonetheless, he did a lot of research on his own and even bought a video camera to learn how cameras work and how to speak the language of cinematography.

“I never really liked learning from other people and so I had to do that stuff myself. I bought an editing program. I didn’t edit the films but I just had to know how it works. By the time I made Hole, and by seeing other people go through training programs, I had hired the people I had met through there. Some of the crew I had hired to volunteer on those other productions through the training center, some of them I just liked who they were. I’d seen their work, liked it, so I had more trust in those people. I also knew better how to communicate with them and how to direct them.”

With regards to meeting deadlines, there’s flexibility involved due to public funding. He imposes deadlines on himself but they’re flexible. Martin takes his time in crafting films and he gives importance to structure. Until he has the bones of the script, he would not start the writing process since it would be difficult for him to make radical changes. He also recalls a moment in the process of making his first feature film Islands (2021) which won the Special Jury Recognition.

“I wanna feel like the main structure is as tight as possible. So if by the deadline I feel like it’s not there, I’m not gonna force it. Maybe it works for other people but it doesn’t work for me. For Islands, there was at one point about a year before production where I started to figure out what the movie might look like but I didn’t finish the script until about a month or two before we shot it. Fortunately, the team was very patient with me and I just told them it’s just not yet ready. By the time it was ready, we pretty much started shooting in like 4 to 6 weeks.”

On coming up with new ideas for films he would create moving forward, Martin is blessed with having many. They constantly come to him naturally, sometimes out of nowhere and sometimes inspired by something he hears or sees. Over the course of his career as a filmmaker doing short films, time made him realize he needed a space to tell a longer story in the form of a full length feature film. It was very difficult for him to think about the full story in like 90 plus pages versus 10 or 15 pages but he loved the experience in production and on set.

In relation to whether he’ll do feature films from now on or go back to making short films, he said that he hopes to always do whatever he feels like doing if he’s lucky enough to. His main focus at the moment is making feature films.

Martin Edralin serves as an inspiration for everyone who aspires to become successful in their dreams and ambitions in life. No obstacle can defeat the burning passion inside of you when you put your mind and heart into it.

Written by Jan Marbella

Jan Marbella is a Digital Marketing Intern of PS Media Enterprise and a 4th year Bachelor of Arts in Communication student of De La Salle University DasmariƱas.


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Martin Edralin: Through the Lens of a Filipino Canadian Filmmaker
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