DIRECTOR MAE CRUZ-ALVIAR ON FINDING HER AUDIENCE AND DEALING WITH THE YOUNG AND POPULAR
By Pablo A. Tariman
Direk Mae Cruz-Alviar is fully aware that she is living in the world of make-believe and that she has to deal with two young stars with a huge mass following in “Can’t Help Fallin’ in Love.”
To be sure, she has earlier worked with Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo (Crazy Beautiful You, Pangako Sa’yoand 24/7 In Love) and she has witnessed how the two has evolved through the years.
But the basics of good collaboration remains the same every time she starts a new project.
One of which is that it is important that when they work together, they are on the same wave-length.
Points out Direk Mae: “My routine at the start of every project is to sit down with them to discuss the project and also to get to know them (if I haven’t worked with them yet). I want to know what their views are on the story, their characters, their personal take on love and such. This practice trains them to think more critically about the roles they play and to learn to collaborate with their director. This also helps me see what we could use based on their input in creating their characters. I also lay down ground rules for those I will be working with for the first time. Especially young love teams, I always have to remind them not to let work get affected by their personal problems and to always take work seriously. After all, they still are kids! For those I’ve already worked with, it’s a chance to catch up and see how they’ve grown or changed.
What’s important is that the expectations of each other are clear and that we work as a team to reach our goal. Also, being much older than them, I have to know how to communicate with them in a way we could understand each other. I have to understand their language and for them to understand mine as well.”
It doesn’t come easy but for Direk Mae, the bridge to good collaboration begins with gaining the actors’ trust and respect. “It is also important that I get to know them well enough so I will know how to handle them. Since you are dealing with young people, it helps to be nurturing but to also have an iron fist when needed. I also take time to talk to them or even have fun with them when we are not working. It’s important to build that bond with them.”
Happily, Direk Mae has seen the two young stars evolve from beginners to professionals. For one, she noticed the two now take acting seriously. “To them this is not just a popularity contest nor is this a fleeting thing. They are actors and they see this as a career. They understand and appreciate the craft and they give 100 per cent to it. They are also critical thinkers, really understanding the scenes, their characters and the progression of the story.”
One thing that she liked very much is that the two has remained humble and grounded. “They don’t act like divas and are very warm to everyone and with no exception. Lastly, they are very appreciative of their status, the people who work hard for them and the fans and supporters who tirelessly show their love to them.”
After doing several romantic comedies through the years, the big challenge for her is how to make the new project different. “What I’ve come to realize is that surely you have to retain the same elements of ‘kilig’ and fun and drama. I know this is going to be different because for one, the casting is different, the attack is different—and the story is different from the others I’ve done. I feel that this is a good mix of romance, comedy and drama—not too cheesy, not overly comedic, not melodramatic, not too mature, not too juvenile. You have to know the brand of your actors. I honestly had a difficult time finding the right flavor since my actors are just fresh from a very mature ‘Barcelona’ and yet they are realistically just at the cusp of adulthood. I feel that we achieved in finding the right mix that the film requires.”
On the whole, she enjoyed working again with the popular love team plus working with her production and creative teams.
“We were filming out of town a lot and there were a lot of things to see which I enjoyed as well. However, the filming schedule was very tough. Being with this group made it fun and less stressful. The kids were so cooperative. My team also did their best in making the shoot run smoothly. As I always say, what goes on behind the scenes are the best memories of every project.”
Thus far, she has logged 22 years in showbiz which is practically half her life. “Looking back, I’d say those were my growing up years where I really learned about life. Almost all my life lessons happened there. Those years were exciting, scary, painful, fun and most of all humbling. I made a lot of mistakes and my learnings were life changing. It was like a rollercoaster ride of emotions and all my experiences in those twenty-two years made me who I am now.”
Of her mentors, she likes to single out Rory B. Quintos and Olivia Lamasan.” They’re like my mother hens in the industry. They’ve guided me not just in directing but also in life, in general. They also give me a good bop on the head whenever I need it.
I also learned from Direk Marilou Diaz Abaya who taught us in our Master Class in Directing under Star Cinema. I also learned from all the directors I’ve worked with. I’m so fortunate that I got the chance to work with so many of them and to learn from all of them. I also learn from the actors I’ve worked with, my production and creative team who have various experiences with other directors as well. But most of all, I learned from my own mistakes.”
With all the varying profiles of film audiences she has to deal with, she tries to achieve something not necessary to please all of them. “Yes, I do keep my audience in mind. After all I create films for them. My goal is for more people to watch it so that the message of the film reaches more people. But it won’t get to a point where I will end up with a hodgepodge of a film just trying to accommodate the various audiences. Ultimately for me, what’s important is we tell a good story and that we impart values and send out a message that the audience can learn from.”
“ Can’t Help Fallin’ in Love” directed by Mae Cruz-Alviar opens in cinemas April 15. It has been rated B by the Cinema Evaluation Board.