DIRECTOR DAN VILLEGAS AND THE LIGHTNESS OF BEING

Film Notes
DIRECTOR DAN VILLEGAS AND THE LIGHTNESS OF BEING
by Pablo A. Tariman

Direk Dan Villegas (English Only Please, The Breakup Playlist, Walang Forever) moves with a measure of detachment in any public gathering but reconnects easily only when questions are tossed his way.

Direk Dan Villegas with Arci Munoz and Gerald Anderson. “Don’t act, be yourself, be the character and take it from there.”

Direk Dan Villegas with Arci Munoz and Gerald Anderson. “Don’t act, be yourself, be the character and take it from there.”

His latest project, Always Be My Maybe, once more reasserts his lightness of being – of being natural, real and spontaneous.

“Don’t act, be yourself, be the character and take it from there” would seem to be his daily admonition on the set.

He says he deals with his material as fleshed out by his writers and work as a director in daily collaboration with his co-workers.

The film’s creative team – Patrick Valencia, Pertee Brinas and Jancy Nicolas – admits the film’s story was taken from composite tales of love and separation as they happened to friends and acquaintances.

The process of making a film script out of them is just one phase of the work done.

“I allow them to express their own ideas,” says Villegas. “I tell what will work and what will not and at the same time, I consult everyone what is the best way to make one scene very effective. In filmmaking, you collaborate every inch of the way.”

To be able to come up with an interesting story, writers must have empathy, they must know the language of their characters, they must be sensitive to nuances of varied emotions expressed.

But how come the films of Villegas look very light with it usual dose of humor but never fails to send a serious message on love and relationships?

In English Only Please, Villegas found a way to find humor in how Filipinos use and misuse the English language.

As one noted earlier, English Only Please was light and breezy until the romantic part sets in but still the film remains totally entertaining. It was a big relief from other comedy films with nothing sane to say about the contemporary Filipino way of life. Indeed, the film showed us what a good scriptwriter can do and how a director can make something unique about the material.

Dan Villegas with girlfriend Tonette Jadaone. He has true to life rehearsals when it comes to doing films about relationships.

Dan Villegas with girlfriend Tonette Jadaone. He has true to life rehearsals when it comes to doing films about relationships.

On the day one watched, one could very well sense a highly educated crowd laughing their heads off over new-found translations and mistranslations. True, Filipinos tend to translate literally, others translate from the heart and still others find a way to wrestle with the language in the most comic way imaginable.

You can see the same lightness in Always Be My Maybe which reconstructs previous relationships to make them real and yes, funny.

As cinematographer, Villegas has one distinct advantage on how to get the best out of the characters and in what frame or state of mind they should be projected on screen.

For another, his own true-to-life relationship defies labels and/ or description.

With director and scriptwriter Antoinette Jadaone as his true-to-life girlfriend, Villegas has good true to life rehearsals on which to view relationships.

He met Tonette (Jadaone) in the gala screening of her Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay and he almost didn’t make it because of 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,” he recalled earlier. 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.

He pointed out once: “I give my actors enough leeway to define their roles as they see it. 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.”

Dan Villegas with actor Gerald Anderson on the set of  "Always Be My Maybe." The actor is a fan of the director.

Dan Villegas with actor Gerald Anderson on the set of “Always Be My Maybe.” The actor is a fan of the director.

True enough, his latest project is about two broken-hearted people ending up giving advice to each other on how to move on.

The way Villegas works earlier fascinated actor Gerald Anderson that he was tempted to observe a shoot even if he was not part of the film. “I like the way Direk Dan deals with characters and the way he resolves conflicts,” added Gerald. “In this film, I got to work with a director who works with his heart and mind. And with his sense of humor intact.”

“Always Be My Maybe” directed by Dan Villegas opens in cinemas February 24.

It stars Arci Munoz and Gerald Anderson.

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