How Aga & Bea made Paul’s dream come true

Di­rec­tor Paul So­ri­ano with wife Toni Gon­zaga and their son Seve dur­ing a re­cent fam­ily va­ca­tion in the States. ‘My First Love was the per­son I chose to spend the rest of my life with…the mo­ment I knew that it was my last.’

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - with Ricky Lo

‘I worked hard and fought my way to earn the right to di­rect an Aga Muhlach in First

Love,’ says Paul. ‘And there’s Bea Alonzo, one of the best ac­tresses of her gen­er­a­tion. The dream got big­ger when she agreed to be a part of the film.’

It’s a small world, af­ter all. So says the song that wel­comes vis­i­tors to any Dis­ney­land in the world.

And so it is in the case of di­rec­tor Paul So­ri­ano and Aga Muhlach. Did you know that Paul was two years old when his father, Jeric So­ri­ano, di­rected Aga in the 1984 land­mark “youthori­ented” flick Hot­shots, the se­quel to Maryo J. de­los Reyes’ Bagets which also top­billed Aga (in­clud­ing Her­bert Bautista and Ray­mond Lauchengco, plus Gary Va­len­ciano). “I was seven years old when I saw Hot­shots,” re­called Paul who has just di­rected the Aga Muhlach (as he re­ferred to the ac­tor) in

First Love, co-pro­duced by Star Cinema, Viva Films and Ten17P (Paul’s own com­pany named af­ter his birth­day, Oct. 17, which also hap­pens to be Bea’s birth­day and the open­ing date of the movie).

“I have watched Hot­shots sev­eral times,” added Paul, along with Aga’s other star­rers, as part of Paul’s prepa­ra­tion for First Love which he de­scribed as “a dream come true” made pos­si­ble by Aga and Bea. (The movie was shot en­tirely in Van­cou­ver.)

Lest Con­ver­sa­tions spoil the sus­pense, no clues will be given as to what hap­pens to Aga’s and Bea’s char­ac­ters. Just find out for your­selves.

A love story cal­cu­lated to pinch movie­go­ers’ hearts, First Love de­parts from Paul’s other movies which tack­led more se­ri­ous themes, such as Tran­sit (the plight of an OFW), Thelma (about a track-and-field ath­lete; for which he won Best Di­rec­tor), Dukot (about a kid­nap­ping case),

Kid Ku­lafu (about the rise of Manny Pac­quiao) and Siar­gao (Best Di­rec­tor and Sec­ond Best Pic­ture win­ner in the 2017 Metro Manila Film Fes­ti­val).

In this Con­ver­sa­tion, Paul talked about the long and wind­ing road to the ful­fill­ment of his big dream.

How was work on First Love com­pared to work in your pre­vi­ous movies?

“This was the most chal­leng­ing film I’ve ever worked on. It was a bat­tle to make this film a re­al­ity, but it was all worth it at the end of the day. I’m so hum­bled to say that I was able to ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with one of the best ac­tors in Philip­pine Cinema, Aga Muhlach. I’ve al­ways wanted to work with him and I worked hard to make this hap­pen. It took three years of pitch­ing con­cepts and sto­ries to Aga, but none of them re­ally worked out. But Aga al­ways told me, ‘Let’s find the right story be­cause I re­ally want to work with you.’ And he was true to his word.” So how did you fi­nally find the “right” story?

“I pitched more con­cepts to him. There was even a time when I was in Los An­ge­les and I found out he was in Las Ve­gas. The next day af­ter he said he was free to meet, I drove from Los An­ge­les to Las Ve­gas just to pitch him a con­cept and again he told me, ‘Let’s work on the con­cept, but I re­ally want to work with you.’ Then weeks later, I thought of this con­cept. He in­vited me to his home and I pitched it to him. Be­fore I could even start my pitch, he told me one thing, ‘Paul, I want to work with Bea Alonzo.’ When he said that, I knew this was the right con­cept be­cause in my pre­sen­ta­tion which I had printed out, I had a photo of him with Bea Alonzo. I worked hard and fought

my way to earn the right to di­rect

an Aga Muhlach and it was a dream come true.” How did Bea get into the pic­ture?

“Then there was Bea Alonzo, one of the best ac­tresses of her gen­er­a­tion. The dream got big­ger when she agreed to be a part of the film, and I knew I had to make the most of this mo­ment, to fight and work hard to make sure this story got told. Bea is a gen­uine pro­fes­sional who seeks only per­fec­tion in her craft; she’s se­ri­ous about her work and that’s all I could ever ask for. Bea made my dream come true and I’ll for­ever be thank­ful and grate­ful to her for this, for trust­ing me with this project.” And how was the ex­pe­ri­ence of fi­nally work­ing with Aga and Bea? “It was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to see these two great ac­tors cre­ate their char­ac­ters right in front of me. Aga and Bea were very col­lab­o­ra­tive and very gen­er­ous; they did ev­ery­thing I asked them to do, they would also even sug­gest their own ideas on how they would want to at­tack their char­ac­ters which made the story bet­ter. They came ev­ery day to the set pre­pared and ready to go, ready to work. What I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ated the most was they gave their all to this film, I could feel their pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion ev­ery day on set.”

When did you be­come aware of Aga’s rep­u­ta­tion as a fine ac­tor (which of his movies have you seen)?

“The very first film of Aga that I saw was Hot­shots, which was di­rected by my father, Jeric So­ri­ano. I fell in love with that film. I was about seven years old when I saw it. Grow­ing up, be­ing around the in­dus­try be­cause my grand­fa­ther Nestor De Villa be­ing an ac­tor and my father be­ing a di­rec­tor, the name Aga Muhlach I would al­ways hear; his name was al­ways as­so­ci­ated with box-of­fice movies, top-rated TV shows and one of the coun­try’s top en­dorsers. He was al­ways win­ning an award and to­day is known as one of the best ac­tors in Philip­pine Cinema.

“I’ve seen a lot of his films. I re­watched a lot be­fore I worked with him on First Love. I saw Hot­shots, Sana Maulit Muli, All My Life, A Love Story, Dubai, In The Name of Love, to name a few.”

Small world, right? Be­fore, it was the father who di­rected Aga and now, it’s the son. “Yes, I know. Hot­shots was the first Filipino film I ever saw and I

loved that film. I kept watch­ing it over and over again. I still have the Be­ta­max copy of I Hot­shots Hot­shots. be­lieve that was ahead of its time!” Love What evoke mem­o­ries for you does (re­call First your first-love ex­pe­ri­ence)?

“First Love re­minded me that my First Love was the per­son I chose to spend the rest of my life with, the mo­ment I knew it was my last, and that’s Toni, and be­cause of that love with Toni, I am now able to ex­pe­ri­ence a love like no other, and that’s with Seve, our son.” What does the movie re­mind you about Toni and your­self?

“That we con­stantly work on our mar­riage and re­mind our­selves that we are each other’s First Love. We al­ways try to do some­thing new and fresh, find some­thing to do for the first time, make sure we find time to do things that we’ve never done be­fore and most im­por­tantly right now is make time for each other, and make time for Seve.”

Af­ter win­ning ma­jor awards for Siar­gao, do you feel pres­sured/chal­lenged to sur­pass your­self? (Paul pro­duced but did not di­rect Mary, Marry Me, an of­fi­cial 2018 MMFF en­try star­ring his wife Toni Gon­zaga and his sis­ter-in-law Alex Gon­zaga.)

“I al­ways feel pres­sured and ner­vous with ev­ery film that I do, with ev­ery story that I tell. That’s be­cause I’m so passionate and love what I do. I work hard ev­ery sin­gle day, never stop learn­ing and to make sure that each film, each story I tell is the best work I know I’ve ever done and this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

With Aga and Bea, and Ed­ward Bar­ber (left­most) and Al­bie Casiño (right­most), two of First Love’s young cast: I al­ways feel pres­sured and ner­vous with ev­ery film that I do, with ev­ery story that I tell. That’s be­cause I’m passionate and love what I do.

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