Behind The Scenes: "Hiram Na Alaala" (Borrowed Memory)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

When the time came to interview the people behind "Hiram Na Alaala", I jumped at the opportunity. You see, it's a show that started promising, delivered and exceeded expectations. Some of the stars like Dennis Trillo, Rocco Nacino and Kris Bernal already have shown what they can do in their past programs so having them in one show and a spectacular story only spelled that this is bound to happen, and ultimately - bound to succeed.

Hiram Na Alaala's Director, Dominic Zapata
Meet Director Dominic Zapata. He's done both film and television shows on the same GMA that have made a mark. You can count "My Husband's Lover", "Darna" and "Captain Barbell" to name a few. It's his eagerness not to be bound to limitations on the story, budget and technique that makes this an even greater thing to show Filipino viewers at home. It might be different, unusual, but surely the word interesting comes into the mix. They're banking on that interest on how their relationships on the show turn out when the diagnosis on Ivan happens, and perhaps make the viewers glued in the story.

When we were there, Otep was just being revealed, Ivan was also being prepared in the imminent encounter with Otep and their meeting with Andeng. Dissociative Fugue came from a lot of research by the writers. It doesn't typically happen but it does happen. 

Director Dominic says "Before we used to follow what they say as "What Aling Tale could understand", but now there's a lot of people who have internet, she asks, and can do research. It's something unfamiliar to the audience - but it's also unfamiliar to the actors too. They become more curious because they won't be able to see how they would do it. Even if they don't know it, it presents a situation for them to remark "this" as their chance to understand it. With the recognition that we've been getting lately in the international scene, we want to show more of what we can do and not be canned with the 3 other things like fantasy, comedy and drama only. You haven't seen Otep in the first few weeks of this show because we want to establish Andeng's heavy investment in feelings, on how she would be able to get over that identity of Ivan and go to Otep in his persona.. to the original, like San Miguel Beer. How will she love Dennis? How will she love Otep? You make her think that Otep is dead. She won't even consider other guys because she's investing emotions, she's investing time plus a lot of things that are different in Ivan. Ivan is more romantic, something different in story telling. We want to have Otep and Ivan to be in equal footing, you want to have Andeng have that certain dilemma. Before Otep comes in, that relationship is already established."

He then tells us about the actors. "Dennis and I have worked since I dunno, perhaps similar number of years in the industry. It's my first time working with Rocco though - and Kris, I worked with her when she was very young and I've seen the maturity. Even I as a Director I think I've also grown. When we're on the set, we talk about a process, how it gets to a point and how to get there. We don't rush it, we discuss it. I am happy because they understand that the craft is not an individual performance, they understand that they are just as strong as their weakest link. So they kind of pull each other, them as actors now understand the dynamics of characters. They know how it all comes together. I make them realize also that there is no singular performance that stands out. You can't pinpoint one actor to only have certain scenes remembered. You will remember the whole story and you can't be selfish about it with your co-actors, or the people who work behind the camera to make the whole thing worthy to be remembered."

"At some point you get to realize and work with the actors, if that is your process, if that's what works for you. Dennis is a very quiet person, but he's with them and hangs out with them. He's not that talkative but he wears his character. This is not all fun and games and they should be serious when they come to work. I can even say that Kris may be falling in love with him, I had to remind her "Kris, this is just acting ha! Relax! That's how he (Dennis) looks at people, but if you are falling in love, go ahead and indulge while the camera is rolling! Because if I cut the scene, you might lose that emotionally. If I see that their eyes talk, their gestures talk, I'm happy. If I would feel that the scene is not felt at that moment, I will cut it." I don't think there's any problem with chemistry." Director Dominic Zapata says.

"I don't have social media accounts. My phone is basic, I do listen to people though. Maybe eventually we'll have to look at that. Though really, I feel that's just the view of internet based viewers. Not necessarily the people who are not internet savvy. Like me, I'm not on the Internet, behaviorally the landscape is changing. MHL didn't rate as high as you might think but it was viewed a lot on Youtube and social media. Sometimes it's not representative of your viewers. Maybe soon but I'd pay attention to that when I get more sleep or get to drive at the same time. 

I don't usually talk about the ratings but I tell them before we begin the show, if your show is badly crafted and it rates bad, you are in trouble. If it's well crafted and it rates good, then it's perfect. If it's made well and not rating well, I am primarily a story teller so I have to check on it why and if I'm telling the story well. Sometimes it's a slow burn, it has to be also in a high point in the story. I might make adjustments but I have to see first if it fits the picture. I have to see the ratings at those points so I don't get influenced by mere knee jerk reactions." said the HNA director.

Shyr Valdez was also there. She plays Araceli Corpuz, the aunt of Joseph and Chris which is played by Rocco Nacino and Kenneth Paul Cruz. She's a sweetheart in real life, she made us welcome in the set and she was eager to talk about the project that afternoon. Her role in the series could be someone you would hate, but compare to some people in real life. There are social climbers among us but she takes it even further by living the life because Otep hasn't surfaced yet during this interview. Later on, she figured she would benefit from it and took it upon herself to be in the mansion, as Dennis Trillo's persona is still in limbo. 

Shyr says "She's not actually bad, but Araceli is hopeful to have a good life. Otep was her answer and was mad at Andrea because she's the hindrance to that dream. It's complicated already in the story and the twists and turns will reveal in week 7 and the ones after that. I am so excited about Dennis Trillo and Kris Bernal's characters because their chemistry is different. When I see them on screen I can't help but fall in love with the pair because they look good together. The Director is also great and we have a very intelligent soap opera, a very intelligent show. I hope the viewers would be able to see how intricate this is made. The characters attack the role full with passion, full of reality that when you are in that situation, you'll probably do the same thing. When you're longing, when you're in a difficult situation, I hope the audience sees that. It's not just difficult with the one they are going through the sickness, but more so with the people around them. It's very rare to see negative views even on social media because we have intelligent viewers." She enjoys portraying character roles, the pivotal one would be the one in Carmela because she says she really did get a lot of hate with that. She's also part of indie film "Maratabat: Pride and Glory" which talks about Muslim rido and it's dealings with family and politics, she hopes you get to see that too.

Julia Lee plays Gelai the ever supportive best friend. She says "It's crazy but wherever Andeng is in the story, Gela will just be there to support her. As with the arrival of Otep, you will see a huge shift in the story. One minute you're seeing them okay, then one scene they'll be in a difficult one. You can even say that in this story, there are no real anti heroes. If you see them, they only have some source on why they are like that but no one is just evil because they want to be the bad person. There's always a reason why they act that way. It's a good thing to have 4 actors who play the role and interpret it that greatly." 

Kenneth Paul Cruz plays Chris, the brother of Otep played by Rocco Nacino. "I didn't know why Ivan was saying he's Otep. I felt he was taking us for fools. As a brother of Otep I still believed he was still alive. Andrea and I felt the same thing. There are not much feedback on social media about my character but there are a lot who says they're happy about my role and Aunt Araceli. The things Regina does to help us, that's really the thing makes us revolve around Ivan's character. They want me to stop Aunt Araceli from doing things but they're still having fun with it. When Otep goes back in the picture, it will be much complicated because I have been able to keep close with the character of Ivan. I already call him my "Manong" and have little doubt already then the real Otep comes into the picture."

Kenneth is already a bit thin than the last time we saw him, but he's working hard to keep fit. He's done a lot of roles in Cinemalaya and other outfits, he's glad he is able to save a lot but he's here to improve and experience new things. Like in this project, he doesn't know who's going in and out of the scenes and he's always asking them for tips whenever he gets the opportunity. He still gets the same recognition in McDonald's outlets, he still sees the one who played Kuya in the commercial and they wish to have a sequel of that. It did help him a lot in his career and he's forever thankful for that. He also hopes to have someone as a love team soon, whoever they plan to give him he's okay with that but prefers the new artists. He hopes to work with a lot of ladies soon as he's still single I heard. He's 19 and his Mom says he can have a girlfriend when he finishes college. He's a former Tiger but is now attending classes in a school in BGC. He plans to work in a cruise someday if things in the industry doesn't work out, but it looks like GMA has a lot of plans for him. He wants to be a leading man too someday.

We'll have to save the best things with our interview of Dennis Trillo aka Ivan and Kris Bernal aka Andeng in the next part of this series. We'll show you more of Hiram Na Alaala soon on part 2 including very nice photos of the pair, I'm sure you'll like that! I hope I can interview Rocco to add a third one, perhaps soon. :)


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