DIREK DAN VILLEGAS ON WORKING WITH A SCREEN WRITER WHO HAPPENS TO BE HIS GIRL-FRIEND
By Pablo A. Tariman
Seated beside Sarah Geronimo and Piolo Pascual, Direk Dan Villegas is a picture of uneasiness as he greets the media with a perfunctory hello and leaves it at that.
He knows it’s part of showbiz but the hooting and screaming coming from fans of Piolo and Sarah from the gallery seemingly creates a kind of discomfiture that he tries hard to ignore.
After which he retreats to himself as though content to size up the crowd in his own terms.
The Breakup Playlist is his first directorial project with Star Cinema after he bagged the Best Director trophy (English Only Please) in the last Metro Manila Film Festival.
As in English Only, Direk Dan has the distinct advantage of working with a script-writer director who happens to be his girlfriend in real life.
There are virtual kilig moments in the air as the fans of Piolo and Sarah let out piercing scream as the director admits for the first time in public the love of his life. “I must say it is doubly inspiring to work with someone you care for in private life,” he says as more hooting and screaming are heard in the gallery.
How they met is another scene from one of their films. He was invited to the gala screening of Tonette’s Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay and he almost didn’t make it because of the bad traffic. He took the MRT and alighted at EDSA-Shaw station and walked his way to the Shangri-La Theater for the gala. Midway into the screening, he was more than impressed. He thought it was one of the best films he saw. “I was even more impressed when I found out it was actually her first film.”
Later, the film admiration turned personal and the rest is history.
As in love and life, the two believe in the creative power of collaboration.
In any project, the two recognize the fact that nothing is accomplished when one acts like a mindless soloist in a project where everyone has to be a good part of a creative ensemble.
“I give my actors enough leeway to define their roles as they see it,” points out Direk Dan. In this aspect, the director is relieved Sarah and Piolo work very hard to make their scenes and characterizations their own.
For one, Piolo admits rapport is a product of how well one relates to his co-actors. “A director can only do so much when it comes to establishing rapport. It is always a case of it’s there or it’s not there. While we work on our own individual motivations to make our characters stand out, we also need the guidance of a director who can see the sequences in another objective light. In this sense, I enjoyed working with Direk Dan. Tahimik lang siya but he knows what he wants from everyone on the set.”
Direk Dan recalls the name Piolo Pascual often figured in their film studies when he was still a student. Now he is happy he was working with the actor on a personal basis.
How filmdom’s directorial duo regards the challenge of filmmaking is another matter.
For Tonette, doing films is an escape and it is a challenge how to make it entertaining. She observes Filipinos like to regard life in a lighthearted way and it shows in the choices of films they patronize. They don’t want films that mirror stark reality. “How to get them to accept that social reality in a light-hearted way is a constant challenge for us directors.”
Someone observes they are very mainstream in their approach to filmmaking and alternative in their creativity.
Direk Dan has his own approach: “As director, my main concern is to see to it the story flows naturally from one scene to another. Everything has to fit in what the script says and how the director perceives the execution. But sometimes in the location shoot, you discover another way to make one scene more than interesting. The advantage of having a girl-friend as co-worker is that we can consult each other anytime on sudden script changes. We can ask questions on the spot without waiting for the so-called right timing.”
Direk Tonette agrees: “We were drawn to each other probably because we believe in the power of film and how to make it more than interesting for audiences. We all aim for perfection but sometimes it is better if a scene looks less than perfect. Your eyes see one thing but your instinct feel another thing. It’s good to get out of a creative dilemma with an equally perceptive boyfriend beside you.”
Happily the two believe in experimentation in mainstream films and if many people watch that film, they are overjoyed by the power of change even among moviegoers.
It was their own way of getting even with formulaic approach to mainstream filmmaking.
He believes that some so-called serious films serve one purpose or another in one’s life.
She believes films have to entertain while she figures other films are sheer food for the soul.
The Breakup Playlist directed by Dan Villegas with script by Antoinette Jadaone opens in all theater on July 1.