Fil-Am director ready to take on Hollywood with ‘sweeping drama’

While the feverish Hollywood actors’ strike is still ongoing, Filipino-American filmmaker Gerard Pizarro is undaunted. The lawyer-turned-director is currently scouting cast members in the Philippines and LA for his ambitious Hollywood limited television series called Mt. Samat.

Pizarro may not be a household name, but the passionate Fil-Am director has been winning awards in the American film circuit for a decade now.

Pizzaro’s Mt. Samat has been described as a “sweeping drama of an orphan who rose to riches and wealth amidst time-worn wars and generational family feuds.”

Mount Samat, also known as the Dambana ng Kagitingan, is a shrine located in Pilar, Bataan built to honor the gallantry of Filipino and American soldiers who fought against the Japanese army during World War II.

But Pizzaro’s Mt. Samat will be based on the 2021 biographical novel The Man Behind the Uniform, penned by his own father, Tony Deleon Pizarro. The inspiring story will focus on Pizzaro’s father pursuing the American Dream beginning in Bataan, in the midst of war.

It is undoubtedly a big project, as the rags-to-riches story will be backdropped by historical events — a period drama that aims to cast the best Filipino actors, as well as actors from Hollywood.

Pizzaro, who said his favorite actor is Sean Penn, studied for four years at the American Conservatory Theater. “And I think my training as a lawyer, we did a lot of listening and observing, we watched,” so he intends to use those skills in casting and directing his film.

Big marketplace

Mt. Samat will be pitched at the American Film Market on 31 October. The AFM is an eight-day film industry event held each year at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel.

It’s a big marketplace for the film business, with more than 7,000 participants from 70 countries who attend to network, sell, finance and acquire films.

‘BLOOD on Canvas,’ Pizarro’s 2013 drama-thriller film, bagged awards at various film festivals. | PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF Pizarro Creatives

Even with Mt. Samat set to be pitched at the AFM to attract film buyers, it is currently being produced with a pilot episode that will open in 1941 with the Japanese invasion of the Philippines.

It will then unfold into a dramatic family saga, following the older Pizzaro’s experiences in Bataan before migrating to the United States in 1959 and his struggles as an immigrant before finding success.

Aside from the American Conservatory Theater, Pizarro also obtained training from the San Francisco Film School and the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

His 2013 drama-thriller Blood on Canvas, starring Kristen Doute and Stephen DeWitt White, bagged awards at various festivals, including Best Feature at the Michigan Film Awards and Best Thriller at the Honolulu Film Festival, and recognition at the Golden Ace Awards and Las Vegas Festival.