Our acting workshop was a sad-funny experience, but we never say die

Our acting workshop was a sad-funny experience, but we never say die
John Paul Coronel with two young female workshoppers —PHOTO BY VIDA VERDE

I’ve discovered that traveling the extra mile to Isabela to conduct a theater and acting workshop on my own initiative for a planned film is not a walk in the park. Even looking for three girls to play the children of a mother who is also a herbalist and healer did not come easy.

Such were the primary concerns of Agos Media, which was initiated by the award-winning visual artist, blogger, teacher and polymath Bon Labora and my own BVV8 Media Productions.

We made three casting calls in the towns of Tumauini and Cabagan in Isabela and Tuguegarao City in Cagayan, but public reception was cold. We did the searches in a barangay hall and the biggest mall in Tumauini, but the locals hardly warmed to the prospect. They were simply starstruck teenyboppers wanting to quickly be in the limelight, through the accessibility that TikTok offers.

We announced the auditions online, on radio, and in the daily vlogs (commonly regarded as the in-thing these days) of a popular DJ in town. We put up tarps in conspicuous locations, particularly in places where people milled around. But our efforts were in vain: Only two malnourished but enthusiastic colleens who were at the beck and call of our contact person showed up.

Of course, we were familiar with the ads and promos of major media networks—TV5’s “Artista Search,” ABS-CBN’s “Star Quest” or reality show “Pinoy Big Brother,” GMA 7’s “Star Struck”—and their regional and provincial touring groups as well as independent multimedia entities looking for talents.

In these campaigns, the locals would flock to the search site at the drop of a hat. Ours paled in comparison with their marketing strategies. But we persisted.

From left: Director and visual artist Bon Labora, Vida Verde and the author —PHOTO BY BON LABORA

We relied on personal recommendations, and finally began the acting workshop in the first weekend of March. Vida Verde, our conduit in the film project, was very accommodating and supportive of our pursuits. (Unfamiliar with Vida? She is the cancer survivor and sexy actress who became popular in the mid-‘80s through such skin flicks as “Nene,” “Desperada,” “Katawang Putik,” and “Raid: Casa.”)

See: Remember Vida Verde, sexy actress of the ’80s?

Vida, who wants to pursue her idled acting career, is now based in Tumauini. She will play the healer in the film tentatively titled “Pasasalamat.” We plan to shoot the entire full-length feature in Tumauini in the next few months by locking in the cast, including Vida, and crew.

In her enthusiasm and in an attempt to be an example to the girls, Vida joined the acting workshop that started hours after the 9 a.m. schedule.

The two eager-beaver girls were the early birds at 11 a.m. Then, after a few minutes, three other girls appeared courtesy of a former barangay (village) health worker who confided that she needed work after her services were terminated by the officials of Barangay Arcon.

My basic acting exercise consisted of introducing oneself by singing one’s complete name to the tune of “Happy Birthday,” “Bahay Kubo,” and “Leron-Leron Sinta.”

It was fun, but the girls mostly couldn’t get through singing an ordinary song the way they would a pop tune. They were shy, or lacking in confidence. There were other exercises but the girls did not perform well. Understandable: They were, after all, new to acting workshops.

But we never say die. In the orientation, we emphasized that the acting workshop was not solely intended for them to become film or TV actors, although it’s part of our objectives. We told them the workshop is for personality development as well.

With a limited budget, Vida and I bought food for the workshop participants, of which they partook. But in the afternoon, the three girls did not show up anymore. The earlier promise of one of them that she would invite their male classmates and peers went up in smoke.

The next day, only one girl came. She brought along a companion who was not interested in the workshop. We encouraged her to take part even for a few minutes. She did, and then she left to go to church.

John Paul Coronel, Vida’s adopted son, joined the workshop for a short while just to get the feel of it. When no one came anymore, we decided to call it a day—until the former barangay health worker appeared with a boy and a girl. But they were more interested in eating than acting. 

Vida was alternately disappointed and angry.

She lamented that thereabouts, people seemed to want money immediately. “How saddening,” she said in Filipino. “When I started in showbiz, I was paid little. But I persevered because I wanted to be an actress. If ABS-CBN or GMA would conduct auditions here, oh my, they would line up even if they’re shy.”

Our productions have yet to become well-known, which was why we were largely ignored by would-be stars. We know that establishing our reputation and credibility will take time. But we are not quitting because we are convinced that what we are doing is worthwhile.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.