ABS-CBN film exec on ‘LizQuen’ tandem going their separate ways
I think the timing was never right,” explained ABS-CBN Film Production Inc. head Kriz Anthony Gazmen as to why the popular onscreen partnership of Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil (“LizQuen”) was no longer seen either on the big or small screen after the pandemic broke during the first quarter of 2020.
LizQuen’s last project, the romantic-comedy series “Make It With You,” was discontinued during the first pandemic lockdown in March 2020.
Some observers say it was unfortunate that the Kapamilya channel was not able to maximize the love team when the network needed help the most—after it failed in its bid to renew its broadcasting franchise in July that year—much unlike the equally popular tandem of Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla (“KathNiel”), which has managed to do two TV series since.
“Of course, every time we do projects, we first consider the ‘gods’—I feel that KathNiel and LizQuen are already gods in ABS-CBN. We have presented several projects to Liza and Enrique, and they were very open. There were so many pitches but, for some reason, the timing was never right,” Gazmen told Inquirer Entertainment during a recent virtual chat.
“There was a time when we were already about to shoot something and then COVID-19 cases surged. Liza and Enrique were still afraid to go out then. There were a lot of back-and-forth discussions, up until we were supposed to do another one, and then Liza made the decision to change career direction,” recalled Gazmen.
In June 2022, Liza signed up to become an artist of Careless Music, founded by fellow actor James Reid. She has relocated to California, USA, since.
“Liza and Enrique will now go their separate ways in terms of their careers. We recently met with Enrique, who is now ready to do projects on his own. We’re cooking something up for him. We still have offers for Liza, but a lot of things depend on what will happen to the projects she and James are working on at the moment. Hopefully, the timing will finally work out,” Gazmen said.
Gazmen, who was appointed head in May, said there would definitely be a change in the direction where ABS-CBN Films is heading, especially under his leadership. “Also, the big change is really in our audiences. What used to work for them is no longer enough today. I have a feeling that if you give them the usual fare now, you will hear a lot of complaints. These days, you will know their sentiments in real-time, and these will be all over social media. That’s what’s good right now, we are able to get immediate feedback,” he observed.
In terms of what would change in Star Cinema, Gazmen said: “It will be bolder as a brand. It’s going to be younger. It’s going to talk to today’s audiences, or those who consume the most content. However, what people normally love about Star Cinema will still be there—its ability to stir the audience’s emotions, as well as its inspiring stories on family and friendship. This time around, its look will be so much different.”
The right person
Gazmen, who is also a writer and a filmmaker, succeeded former head Olivia Lamasan, who continues to serve as a consultant for the company’s film brands—Star Cinema and Black Sheep Productions.
Before his appointment, Gazmen served as business unit head of Black Sheep, which produced “Exes Baggage” (2018) and “Alone/Together” (2019).
He was a creative producer for Star Cinema in 2007 and steadily took on bigger roles to eventually become the creative director in 2015. His notable projects include “I Love You Goodbye” (2009), “No Other Woman” (2011), “One More Try” (2012), “The Trial” (2014), and “Etiquette for Mistresses” (2015).
“Medyo gulatan din,” said Gazmen of his reaction to being appointed as head. “Inang (Lamasan) has been my mentor for the longest time. Most of what I know about filmmaking, I learned from her. What I appreciate about her is that she has confidence in me. I will not forget her words during our turnover. She said, ‘I will not make this difficult for you. I’m here if you need me, but you’re empowered to do anything you want. I will not be breathing down your neck because I’m not that kind of a mentor.’ She is at a point now where she wanted to say, ‘Go on, my son! Shine! This will be all you.’”
During this interview in August, Gazmen said he has already managed to adjust and feel comfortable with his new job. “The only time I felt really stressed was when this was first offered to me. When I realized that my life will definitely change because of this, all my insecurities started creeping in. I started to wonder whether I’m the right person for this. Observing Inang and Tita Malou (Santos, retired COO of Star Creatives), I saw how highly stressful the job is and how much it could consume a person,” he began.
“But, of course, this is my passion. If I need to go the extra mile, I would. I would fight for this company that I love so much. I’ve always believed that ‘you are not your job.’ I guess this is also why the atmosphere in the office now is very light, even though I am with a team of workaholics. I’m actually the one forcing them to go on work leaves because, as a creative company, we represent life. How can we do that if we’re not living our own lives?”
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