You just directed your parents, Laurice and Johnny, for your first short film Labing-labing. What was the first thing you required of them?
I don't remember requiring anything from them except for them to be there! Being with them everyday at home, and talking about the craft most of the time, I knew them both as individuals and as actors so it was very clear for me from the beginning that they were perfect for the role and how clearly they understood the material.
What was the worst thing about directing your folks?
Honestly, I dont think I experienced 'the worst' during our shoot. It was so easy to direct them and we were having so much fun. Hindi nila ako talaga pinahirapan. Akala ko patatagalin nila yung shoot sa kakachika or something, pero hindi! Si daddy, usually he has a cutoff (time) when he's working, but with my shoot he didn't. He almost walked out on me though! Kasi natatagalan kami sa pag set-up nung isang eksena sa hallway ng ospital. Mahirap kasi yun ilawan. Eh na-stress si daddy kasi may iba pa akong actors na pinaghintay. It was a big lesson for all of us in the staff. Malaking pasasalamat naman namin na hindi siya umalis. Binilhan ko siya ng malaking burger at fries at pagatapos nun okay na siya. At napaka ganda ng eksenang ginawa niya after the midnight snack.
People loved you in Endo, your first film for Cinemalaya. How'd you think people are going to receive you in Sanglaan?
I dont know yet. I always don't know how people are going to react. Sanglaan is very different from Endo. Iba naman yung character ko sa Sanglaan--mas paloob siguro (ang mga reaksyon). Very shy. Eh sa Endo sobrang hindi shy si Tanya. Sana magustuhan rin ng mga tao ang Ina sa Sanglaan.
I think time comes sometimes when you feel strongly that there's something you need to say, meron kang gustong i-share, o iparamdam. When I wrote Labing-Labing it was as simple as that. Hindi ko naman naisip na matutuloy yung pelikula, but it was so easy for me to write, parang may grasya talaga kung baga. It came at a time when my family was also really going through a tough period in our lives (nung magkasakit si daddy) but a period in our life also when love was so strong in our family. Ang sarap din na pakiramdam talaga nun. Hindi ko pa naman ikino-consider ang sarili ko na director, dahil ang dami ko pang hindi alam at hindi nagagawa. I think that directing is a dangerous profession. Your heart should always be in the right place. Kasi napaka- powerful niyang tool para sa mga manonood. Kaya ako, I'm taking my time and just learning every step of the way.
Do you have an anecdote about your strangest/weirdest experience while filming?
Nasa tondo kasi kami, Pritil, yung location ng pawnshop sa pelikula (Sanglaan). Tapos nagpapahinga ako sa may van, mga alas dose pa lang 'yun ng gabi. Biglang pumasok yung driver ko at sabi sa'kin 'Ma'm ililipat ko lang yung sasakyan kasi may lalaki sa labas na may baril. Parang kanina pa yang may hinihintay e.' True enough when I looked out my window, just a few feet away from the car was this guy nga na may baril talagang hawak at ni hindi man lang niya tinatago! E di linipat namin ang sasakyan. Mga dalawang minuto palang ang nakakalipas, nakarinig na ako ng gunshot.
Who's the better actor: mom or dad?
Pag nanonood ako sa monitor, may mga ginagawa sila na napapaisip na lang talaga ako na 'Shet. magaling nga talaga sila.' Ang layo layo ko pa sa talento nila. And I guess its really hard to tell from this film, kung sino ang mas magaling na actor, kasi they feed off each other talaga. At yung mga tingin nila! Jusko po. Ang mga tingin tumatagos. I guess what I can say is that they have individual strengths. May mga specialty sila kung baga. Si mommy I would say her strength is really subtlety. I love taking close-ups of her because she says so much with her eyes, and her breath. Hindi siya umaagaw ng eksena ever. But it's never flat. Andun ang buong pagkatao niya, pero hindi nagtatawag pansin. Si daddy naman, para sa akin ang malakas niyang puntos naman ay yung vulnerability niya. 'Yung bang kahit kunwari nag-iingay siya o nagpapatawa, pinapalusot pa rin niya yung underlying na takot at helplessness. And when he switches that on, ang lakas-lakas ng tagos sa screen. Pareho sila talagang napaka-heartfelt ng performance dito. Ang sakit sa dibdib.
What's the best advice you got from a director?
I get advice from my mother all the time who's also a director, pero other than her siguro ang susunod na natatandaan kong advice talaga ay galing kay Direk Marilou Diaz-Abaya. I dont remember the exact words (I'm forgetful talaga) but it was how when you write, or when you're directing a scene and you're choosing your shots, laging: "WHO do you LOVE, and what are the sacrifices you make for the one you love?" Sa akin nagstick talaga yun sa utak ko when I was making the film. Lalo na't Labing-Labing is a film about love. Siguro magkaakibat narin to at yung sinabi ni mommy kamakailan lang na, kapag wala kang malakas na mensaheng kailangang sabihin, that would be a good reason for you not to make a film.
Labing-labing premieres together with several other shorts from the Marilou Diaz Abaya workshops this Saturday July 25 at the Cinemalaya at CCP.