Direk Paul makes time for Toni and Seve

/ 12:07 AM October 15, 2018

From left: Aga Muhlach, Bea Alonzo and Paul Soriano

Filmmaker Paul Soriano has a simple secret in maintaining a harmonious relationship with his equally busy wife, singer-actress Toni Gonzaga.

“We just make time for each other. It’s just about making time,” he told the Inquirer in an exclusive interview.


Juggling family and career, while raising a 2-year-old kid, can be tricky, he admitted.

For his latest film, “First Love,” Paul had to stay in Vancouver, Canada, for a month—to shoot the drama movie with Aga Muhlach and Bea Alonzo.


For “Siargao,” his Metro Manila Film Festival entry last year, he was stuck on the island for five weeks.

Being away from your loved ones for extended periods of time can be “tough,” he acknowledged.

His wife and son can’t tag along to his location shoots. “Toni is also tied up with her work here in Manila,” he conceded. “Plus, as director-producer, I have to be totally focused. I can’t afford to be distracted. I have no downtime. The little free time I have is usually reserved for resting.”

For “First Love,” he recalled, he and his skeleton crew of 20 staffers and five actors, had to work double time throughout the month-long shoot last June.

“We had shooting six days a week. It was tiring,” he recounted. “We didn’t have the luxury of having a hundred people on the set. We had to do everything ourselves. Aga carried the camera equipment. Bea also pitched in.”

With the assistance of a Vancouver production company, Aimer Films, Paul and his team ironed out an effective system.

Fortunately, he had previous experience with “crazy chaotic” out-of-town shoots— like on the Israel set of “Transit” (as producer) and in Surigao del Norte for “Siargao” (as director).


“This time, the challenge was shooting in a big, cosmopolitan city like Vancouver … where we had to deal with permits, visas, tons of paperwork. Aimer made sure everything would run smoothly,” he related.

It was also necessary to come prepared for battle, so to speak.

Before the entire cast and crew flew to Canada, Paul and his advanced party went to Vancouver for 10 days in April—to go location hunting, cast local actors, fix the logistics, finalize the details regarding transportation and other amenities, and lay the groundwork.

Paul Soriano (left) with Toni and son Seve in Florence, Italy

“I have a military-style work ethic. I prefer everything to be organized,” he remarked.

Moreover, in Canada, they had to abide by strict rules. “By law, we were only allowed to shoot for 12 hours. And you have a 10-hour layover … meaning, if you are going to work again the next day, everyone should’ve rested for at least 10 hours.”

Can such a system be applied in the Philippines?

“In my company Ten17P, we are trying our best to do it,” he explained. “I realize that it’s also cultural. Filipinos like to take breaks. We eat breakfast, lunch, merienda, dinner, midnight snack.”

In Canada, he noted, there was only one break. “Once we arrived on the set at 9 a.m., we’d shoot at once. The only break was six hours after the first take. If we started at 9, our one-hour lunch break would be at 3 p.m. From 4 p.m., we worked another six hours.”

“It was very efficient. Everyone came to the set prepared,” he volunteered.

How he hopes we can adapt the same process here. “I don’t think we can exactly replicate the Canadian system, but we can find a way to make it work. To me, the most important thing is the health of the people.”

Aspiring for work-life balance is key.

“You make time for the people you love,” he asserted. “At the end of the day, it’s a choice. I will never say I am too busy for my wife and son. They’re my priority.”

They are, after all, the reason why he works so hard in the first place.

Right before the promo blitz for “First Love,” Paul made sure to spend quality time with his family. “We went to Los Angeles to celebrate Seve’s second birthday. I wanted to show him the place where I was born, where I grew up.”

It was also the perfect time to unwind, before the start of the whirlwind of activities for “First Love,” which opens in cinemas on Oct. 17, the birthday not only of Paul, but also of Bea.

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