Mikhail Red on working with Nadine Lustre: She never missed a beat | Inquirer Entertainment

Mikhail Red on working with Nadine Lustre: She never missed a beat

By: - Reporter
/ 12:10 AM January 05, 2023
Nadine Lustre as Lyra in “Deleter”

Nadine Lustre as Lyra in “Deleter”

Mikhail Red had heard nothing but good words from his colleagues about Nadine Lustre’s skills and work ethic. And after finally getting a chance to work with her for his award-winning Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) entry “Deleter,” the director now knows why the actress is one of her generation’s most decorated and celebrated.

“I have seen her films like ‘Never Not Love You’ and ‘Ulan,’ and I have heard a lot about her talent. Working with her, I found out that she’s a refined actress. She’s there to work. She’s no diva; walang kaartehan. Some of the scenes had her covered in blood and she had to act with prosthetics. And then, she would ask us if we needed another take,” he told the Inquirer in a recent group interview.


Nadine cared about the scenes; she isn’t the type who simply retreats to her holding area immediately after a take. “Merong siyang pakialam. She gives her input during the playback. She’s not like, ‘Oh, have already given you the shot, just call me when you need me,’” related Mikhail. “She’s collaborative and gives suggestions, but she also has confidence and trust in me—very respectful.”

Creating a horror film is a very technical process — one that requires performers to give or sustain their emotions while following a set of beats and marks. “The challenge in shooting scenes in the dark is that the camera focus is shallow. So if you miss your markers, the shot will have a soft focus. So her movements had to be precise: She had to step here, step there after three seconds, give the scream here, and then look to her left. Something like that. One mistake and we have to do another take,” Mikhail explained.


2022 MMFF best actress

Nadine never missed a beat. “She was perfect, hitting her marks, continuity and reactions. Sometimes, it was actually human error on our side that caused us to reshoot. Ganun siya kagaling,” he said of Nadine, who was hailed MMFF 2022 best actress.

Because Nadine understands the craft “from a technical perspective,” it was easy for the 31-year-old director to articulate the kind of scene or shot he needed. “In horror, you can’t just be all over the place in the frame and ignore the markers. But she knows why things had to be done that way,” said Mikhail, who’s behind such acclaimed films as “Birdshot” and “Rekorder.”

“She doesn’t go, ‘Why do we have to do it again?’ Kasi gets nya. She knows what I need,” he said. “I think that boils down to her experience. She has probably been in more film sets than I have.”

But one thing that really stood out about Nadine’s performance, Mikhail said, was how she managed to pull off the emotions and nuances—with nothing but props as “coactors.” In the film, Nadine plays Lyra, a “deleter” or an online content moderator whose job is to strike down graphic imagery and content on social media.

As such, Nadine’s character had to be “numb or apathetic.” And her scene partner, most of the time, was a monitor that wasn’t even turned on, so there’s no energy to feed off from.

“People have to understand na wala siyang kabatuhan. She had to emote while only staring at the lens. We only described to her what she was supposed to be seeing, and the reaction still had to be authentic. But she did it, because she has a vivid imagination,” Mikhail said. “What she did was like VFX (visual effects) acting, in a way.”

Director Mikhail Red

Director Mikhail Red

‘A huge success’

That’s why he couldn’t be happier that the MMFF jury acknowledged Nadine’s restrained and contained acting. “The emotions had to leak through her eyes and mannerism. I’m happy the jury and audience appreciated that style,” he said “It was a challenging and taxing role. It’s not the typical high drama that we Filipinos often associate with the best actress award — no big crying scenes and such,”


Aside from Nadine’s best actress win, “Deleter” won six other trophies: best picture; best director for Mikhail; best sound; best musical score; best cinematography; and best editing for Mikhail’s brother, Nikolas Red.

“I felt like a winner already when my brother won… My brother has been one of my constant collaborators since we were kids, and we try to be ambitious in terms of the genres we pursue. Winning best director and best picture were just bonuses,” he said.

While official box office figures have yet to be released, word around show biz is that “Deleter” is either fighting for the top spot or has already taken it. In any case, this is already a huge success for Mikhail, who admitted that, prior to the festival run, their target was to be at least third or fourth in the standings.

“I was surprised because horror films usually settle for fourth place in the MMFF. But we have been seeing an upward trend. I believe the awards will give us a boost. Nadine is also an icon among the youth, which, of course, also helped,” he said. Being part of MMFF, Mikhail added, was another item off his bucket list. “I’m the type of filmmaker who always wants to try new things. Joining MMFF was something I have wanted to try because it allows us to reach a wider audience. It opened doors for us. And I’m excited about the possibilities,” he said.

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