For award-winning director Dan Villegas, the ego is the biggest killer of dreams. Find out why as the master storyteller talks about his craft as well as past and present projects in this interview for Kapamilya Chat.
Even with an impressive collection of accolades, Dan Villegas is still no stranger to pressure, albeit he focuses on passion than awards. In this episode of Kapamilya Chat, the master storyteller relates the ins and outs of his chosen craft.
Someone told Direk Dan to treat every directorial project as a first. This way, he’d be more eager to exert his best effort. “Huwag mo nang isipin ‘yung awards o box-office. Problemahin mo na lang kung paano mo makukwento ‘yun ng maganda at tama.”
By the manner he talks about his job, it’s clear that success never crumbled his humility. And he wishes aspiring directors would learn the same. Borrowing the principle he learned from his former professor, filmmaker-icon Marilou Diaz-Abaya, he said, “Leave your ego at the door. Sa mundo, sa industriya natin, ang dami nang mayayabang, maiba ka naman.”
He further advised dreamers, quoting director and former professor Quark Henares, “Don’t try to be a filmmaker, be a filmmaker.” Dan stressed that it pays to be patient and kind. Therefore, aspiring directors must never get tired of waiting for the right break.
Besides, the break will surely manifest if you are genuinely kind and professional. “Both things don’t require talent. Hindi mo kailangan ng talent para maging on time. Hindi mo kailangan ng talent para maging disiplinado. Mas lalong hindi mo kailangan ng talent para maging mabait.”
The concept about dreams and ego, of reaping what you sow also applies to young stars. As the old aphorism goes: “Bilog ang mundo.” Dan cited the late Eddie Garcia as the epitome of professionalism, and every director and artist who worked with the luminary would agree.
Dan recalled filming “Hintayan ng Langit” in 2018. He could still remember how the beloved icon was patient and committed. He said Eddie wouldn’t mind waiting and is eager to explore the material, considering he’s already done a lot of films through the years. More so, Eddie reports an hour before the call time and he arrives with an inviting energy.
“Galing ako sa set ng ‘Exes Baggage’ tapos diretso ako sa set ng ‘Hintayan ng Langit.’ Around 6 am, sabi ko hindi na ako magbe-breakfast. Gisingin na lang ako ‘pag naka-set up na kasi 8am pa naman si Tito Eddie, babawi muna ako ng tulog. Maya-maya, kinakatok na ako ng PA, mga 6:30, ‘Direk, nandiyan na po si Tito Eddie, hinahanap daw po kayo,” the award-winning director narrated.
He continued, “Hindi nga siya on time, eh. Super aga niya! Tapos gusto niyang makipagkwentuhan tungkol sa pelikula. This was an 80 plus year old man.”
So, to newbies and up and coming stars, Dan had this to say: “Pwede ba huwag n’yo akong bigyan ng attitude? Kasi, who you ‘di ba? Kung si Eddie Garcia, the legendary Eddie Garcia, kayang maging ganu’n ka-professional, to be that kind to his co-stars and crew, bakit hindi mo kaya?”
He further emphasized that professionalism equates to longevity. He thought the most established artists in the country made it to the top because of their attitude.
Citing his experience in Almost Paradise, the filmmaker maintained the need for pre-production. This phase includes location-hunting, line memorization, polishing the script, and everything that’s supposed to be done before the actual shoot. This would help everyone breeze through the filming.
“’Yung mga actors from New Zealand, sina Christian [Kane], they prepare for the roles. May pre-production sila, may line reading, consultation with the director. Naisip ko, bakit hindi ganu’n din dito sa Pilipinas? Pagdating sa set, wala na tayong iisipin kundi mag-shooting na lang.”
He believes this setup is a win-win situation for both the actors and the creative team. It makes work smoother and also broadens the artists’ perspective.
Of course, nobody is perfect. Dan would acknowledge that artists won’t be in the zone at all times. He compares it to the off-nights of a cager. There are games when a player makes magic on the court but there are also days of poor performances. During bad days, the solution is team work.
Dan appreciates actors who are honest, citing Angelica Panganiban and Carlo Aquino as examples. When working for “Exes Baggage,” Angelica and Carlo would acknowledge their inconsistencies, giving Direk Dan more space to adjust. Dan likewise calls out his actor’s poor performance. And when he does, he expects the artist to open up as well so they can engage in honest communication.
The storyteller measures an artist’s talent by the level of authenticity. “Ang hinahanap ko personally as a director or a producer, ‘yung you don’t see the actor, you see the character talaga. Babalik ‘yun sa maayos na communication. It’s a team effort talaga.”
Now considered a gem in the filmmaking industry, Dan admitted going through burnout phases. And he thinks it’s a normal part of the journey. “At the end of the day, tao lang tayong lahat, napapagod. So, you have to get out of that hole.”
Dan learned from fiancée and fellow director Antoinette Jadaone the best ways to beat burnout, one of which is traveling. He would also recharge through reading books and his motorcycle hobby.
Be amazed by Dan’s vision by watching the next episode of international series Almost Paradise. Titled “Pistol Whip,” the episode revolves around a mysterious underwater disappearance of a vlogger who went scuba diving. Alex (Christian Kane) decides to work as a stunt man in a reality show about World War II battlegrounds, entwining him in the investigations about the unsolved case.
Catch Almost Paradise every Sunday, 8:45 pm on Kapamilya Channel, Kapamilya Online Live, A2Z, and iWantTFC.