Very few actresses have successfully crossed over to work behind the camera.
In Hollywood, there’s Barbra Streisand and Jodie Foster. Locally, there’s Laurice Guillen.
Award-winning actress Gina Alajar joins this rare sorority with her regular directorial work on the GMA 7 show “Tween Hearts.”
Alajar, who also plays a long-suffering mom in the Kapuso afternoon soap “Hiram na Puso,” divides her week between on-cam and off-cam duties.
It can be quite challenging, she conceded: “It’s hard managing my time.” To start with, when it’s an acting day, she gets so absorbed in her role that she often neglects to check her phone until late at night.
“When I finally get to read my text messages, I find that my staff in ‘Tween Hearts’ have been trying to reach me,” she said.
But somehow she makes things work.
Young Kapuso star Bianca King, who wants to try directing as well, considers Alajar and Guillen her idols. “It’s good for her that, at such a young age, she already knows what she wants out of life,” Alajar said of King.
Alajar will conduct acting workshops at the Center for Media Arts of St. Joseph’s College starting May 5.
She learned how to direct by observing on set. “It was all oido,” she said.
She said she consulted her mentor, the late National Artist Lino Brocka, on her plans to direct movies. (She directed an episode in the 2007 film trilogy “Angels.”)
“I asked him for tips,” she recalled. He gave her a piece of advice that made a lasting impression. “Lino said that when all else fails, stick to basics. Forget embellishments; our goal as directors is just to tell a story.”
Her former-husband, actor-turned-director Michael de Mesa, also gave her valuable advice.
“I started with a one-camera set-up in the TV show ‘Dear Diary,’” she recounted. “When I began working with two cameras on other TV shows, Michael told me: Remember that kaliwa (left) is uno (camera one) and kanan (right) is dos (camera two).”
Speaking of her ex-hubby, she said she had long overcome the trauma of their separation and had no problems acting with him again—as in the TV 5 soap “Valiente.”
“We’re on speaking terms now. We see each other when we visit our grandchild with our son Ryan (Eigenmann). It would’ve been different if we were still quarreling. It would’ve been impossible to work together,” she explained then jested, “Like Mark and Jaclyn!”
(She was referring to De Mesa’s brother Mark Gil and former partner Jaclyn Jose, who are in the cast of “Valiente” as well. Alajar has been killed off in the Kapatid series and is back full time in GMA 7.)
When she gets to talk to the tween stars in the show she directs, does she share her own experiences as a former child star and teen actress?
“I don’t want to sound preachy, but I remind them to go easy on love, to focus on work.” She added, laughing, “But in the past, whenever Kuya Germs (German Moreno) heard me saying that, he’d chide me: “But you didn’t listen to me and married Michael when you were a teenager!”