Why Bela Padilla believes Korean leading man deserves acting nod
As the coproducer of her upcoming movie, “‘Yung Libro sa Napanood Ko,” Bela Padilla admitted that box-office performance is something that she does care about. But it’s not the reason she ventured into filmmaking.
“Of course, we’re still conscious about how we spend our budget and what our returns will be like. But the goal really is to put out a movie that’s well-crafted; something that we can personally watch and enjoy. That’s the first objective for me,” Bela told the Inquirer at a press conference.
Bela is also the director and lead star of the said romantic drama flick, which is an entry to the first Summer Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). Yes, the traditional holiday-season MMFF already has a built-in audience. But whether or not that translates to this new iteration remains to be seen.
“I would like for it to do well in the box office so we can continue making movies. But I don’t know how to gauge the Summer MMFF yet, because it’s the first one ever. We’re used to spending money on Christmas Day for the normal MMFF, because we get bonuses and such,” the 31-year-old artist pointed out.
“But I love the idea that in a year, we get to have a few weeks again wherein only Filipino movies are shown … I hope that helps inspire people to support our own.” she added.
“Libro” follows Lisa (Bela), a woman who tries her hand at writing, after discovering an intriguing novel, titled “To Room 19,” in a Korean drama series she had watched. With hard work and perseverance, she fulfills her dream of becoming an author later on in life.
During her book signing, a Korean fan named Kim Gun-hoo (Yoo Min-gon) approaches Lisa and asks for an autograph. Before he returns to Korea, Gun-hoo visits Lisa once more and asks her to go with him to his home country. There he takes Lisa to the iconic filming locations of her favorite K-dramas.
However, Lisa falls ill due to drastic changes in weather. On her road to recovery, she learns crucial pieces of information about her past that can possibly change the course of her life.
“I began writing the script prepandemic, after watching the Korean drama ‘Because This Is My First Life.’ I found it uplifting. I stumbled upon it at a time when I was tired from work. And it was easy to watch because there were no villains—it just focused on the main characters’ journeys through life,” Bela said.
“I felt like it was the kind of movie that I want to see onscreen here in the Philippines; something that addresses personal or mental health issues,” she added.
Unlike her directorial debut “366,” where she had the benefit of a creative director supervising her, “Libro” was all on Bela. Making the task more challenging is the fact that 75 percent of the film was filmed in Seoul with the help of workers who only spoke Korean.
“I was responsible for everyone on the set. And you had to get along with new staff members we hadn’t worked with before. And there was the language barrier. But everything went smoothly in the end,” she said.
For Bela, one of the highlights of the creative process was working with Min-gon, a Korean-Canadian actor who started out his career doing indie films. “I’m thankful I was able to work with him because I learned so much in terms of acting. When you see the movie, you have to watch out for his acting,” said Bela, who felt that Min-gon gave a performance worthy of an acting nod.
“He was disciplined and he already knew what we wanted to do with the character from the beginning. So my wish is that Min-gon gets nominated … He deserves it,” she added.
Lorna Tolentino delivers
Speaking of performances worthy of awards, Bela expected nothing less from acclaimed actress Lorna Tolentino, who plays Lisa’s mother, a former overseas Filipino worker named Mary. “We all dream of working with people I admire. And that’s how I have felt about Ms LT since I was a kid,” she said.
Bela is related to the Padilla show biz clan through her mother, Meg Cariño, a maternal first cousin of Robin Padilla. Lorna, on the other hand, was married to the late Rudy Fernandez, who was a fraternal first cousin of fellow action star Robin.
“We have a loose connection of sorts. I used to see her in family reunions back then and I have always found her mysterious, intriguing. And as I grew up and got to watch her movies, I thought, ‘If I ever get the chance, I would like to work with her,” Bela recalled. “She has this energy about her. She’s youthful. I love the way she thinks and speaks. She’s very gracious.”
Needless to say, directing Lorna was a breeze.
“Before we did this one scene, I asked her if she needed a moment as the crew was setting things up. And she was like, ‘No, it’s OK.’ True enough, after I yelled action, tulo agad ang luha. If your actor is as well-prepared and as good as her, then your life as a director will be easier,” she said. “She was in tune with the character, so much so that I barely had to direct her.”
But that’s not to say that she doesn’t get nervous directing actors who are more experienced than her.
“Whether it’s a simple or big project, I still get nervous. I grew up as a movie and television fan, so whenever I arrive on the set, I still get amazed. And I hope I don’t reach the point where I lose it because the nervousness is also my adrenaline rush … It can work to my advantage,” she said.