‘Saving Sally’ Wins at LAAPFF!

Film festivals are a wonderful way to gain access to films you otherwise might never have heard of. They are also a fun glimpse into the film world of other countries and a way to see how we are the same and different. Saving Sally is a film from the Philippines that recently screened at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival produced by Visual Communications where it won the Special Jury Award and Audience Award for International Narrative Feature!


The film is a typical love story about a young guy named Marty who secretly loves his best friend, Sally. However, this film stands out because Marty sees monsters and the film is a blend of live action and animation. It gets even cooler because Marty is an artist who writes and draws his own comic books! Sally is an inventor/photographer who constantly is doing fun and crazy things. The film is funny, touches upon some serious real life issues and is a sweet romantic story. The mixing of live action and animation, and solely animated scenes is fun and refreshing.

You can watch the trailer here.

Following the film, they had a Q&A with the director (Avid Liongoren) and writer (Charlene Sawit-Esguerra). Apparently it took them about twelve years to make their film! Liongoren joked, “We were stupid and young. We thought it would probably take a year. Then two years later, still working, three, four, five, then ten.”

It was planned from the beginning to blend live action and animation. Liongoren and Sawit-Esguerra are big comic book fans and met at the College of Fine Arts in Manila. They are also fans of Neil Gaiman and really enjoyed Mirror Mask.


Twelve years is a long time when it comes to technology. They were asked if the technology they used changed over that time and they said it did. They first started filming in 2005, but lost the lead actress in 2008. Then they got a new actress in 2010 and newer camera. Also, they started using 3D animation before they realized that they needed to go more low key. Sawit-Esguerra explained how “usually a film like this has hundreds of animators and our film had five. We animated at the director’s house… it was really a small operation. The animators had just graduated college and now have kids.” Not only did the animators have a lot to do for the animations, they also created the fine art that is all over Marty’s room and each of the comic books that he makes!

In regards to casting, in 2005 they had small scale auditions. Apparently the lead actor was not really an actor, but they felt he fit the character very well. Unfortunately, the lead actress was not able to finish the film and it took a year to recast her role. Surprisingly, many famous actresses wanted to audition because they had heard about the film by then.

The film is primarily in English because the project started on Deviant Art and they were collaborating with artists around the world.

Marking a film obviously costs money. For the first four years, the filmmakers financed the film themselves. Later, they had some European financers who later backed out because it was taking too long. Sawit-Esguerra said it was “self financed at the beginning and end. It was a community project. So many people decided to help us. Promote it, draw things and more.”

The main character, Marty, has some really neat t-shirts and they are developing an online store that will sell his shirts! They will also sell some of the comics that were made for the film.

Saving Sally has a few more festivals lined up around the world and they have meetings for future projects they could not talk about yet. I highly recommend this adorable geeky love story film! Hopefully you can catch it at a film festival near you or hopefully they will have distribution soon.

If you are interested in the mixing of live action and animation, you can see a bunch of behind the scenes videos on their Facebook page here.

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