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What’s the secret behind Dormitoryo?

The cast of GMA 7’s horror-suspense (from left) Enzo Pineda, Lauren Young, Ruru Madrid and Winwyn Marquez. – Photo by ENIE REYES

MANILA, Philippines - It’s been a tradition that Sunday TV afternoon entertainment begins with a noontime musical-variety show and ends with either a drama, a teen-oriented show or a showbiz talk show.

This habit will be changed as GMA 7 offers Dormitoryo, a horror-suspense, starting Sept. 22 right after Sunday All-Stars. One doesn’t need to wait for Halloween to get spooked and goosebumps. It’s a spine-chilling afternoon laced with drama exploring themes on rivalry and revenge.   

“It’s first time (that we’re offering something like this on that TV block),” shares program manager Ali Nokom-Dedicatoria. “GMA is known for experimenting (in its program line-up). It’s similar with the Afternoon Primetime Drama. It used to be a tulog na oras and then (the network) started to put soaps. And the afternoon block remains No. 1 no matter what the (other) networks do. It is still strong. The 2 p.m. Sunday timeslot is also tulog, and so we thought, why not put something new, instead of having teen-oriented shows… Let’s try something different (this time).”

This daring and adventurous move banks on the idea that horror is part of Filipinos’ entertainment fare. They have acquired a taste for tales about elementals, ghosts, haunted places, psychic power and life after death. Before Dormitoryo will finally take the early-mid afternoon Sunday timeslot, Kapuso Movie Film Festival aired Hollywood and Philippine films of varied genres and narrative forms. According to Ali, “horror-fantasy gets the biggest audience share. We can say there’s a potential… We feel it is a strong show. It is different. We trust the creative team and our director, Jun Lana. We’re happy that we were able to convince him to do the project. He is busy being the creative director of all GMA shows, and at the same time, doing indie films. He is excited about the concept, which he agreed doing. ”

As the title suggests, the Kapuso horror-suspense is set in a dormitory whose story tackles “the concerns of today’s youth. The teenagers can relate to it. Filipinos like the idea of getting spooked and scared. This is the reason why we have such movies as Shake, Rattle & Roll; year in and year out, there’s horror (to watch in the theaters).” So, be ready for the scare tactics, the Dormitoryo way.

The Dormitoryo story came to being during those pitching (in ideas) sessions from the network’s pool of writers. The brains behind the show had to decide on whether the setting (dormitory) should be inside a school or outside of it. It went through the approval and timeslot matching stages. Dormitoryo was supposed to premiere in August but it needed some fine-tuning before getting the go-signal to tape the pilot episode.  

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Leading the cast is Lauren Young, who will take a breather from her recent contravida role. “We are impressed with her performance in Mundo Mo’y Akin,” says Ali. “She is the one we’re looking for and she fits the role.”

Also in the cast are Joyce Ching, Ruru Madrid, Enzo Pineda, Winwyn Marquez and Mel Kimura. New Kapuso faces Annicka Dolonius, Mayton Eugenio and Ash Nordstrom auditioned for their roles. Ali says it’s like hitting two birds with one stone as one of them could be “future dramatic stars of GMA.”

Dormitoryo will see Lauren studying Mass Communication at Branwood College and live at the Holy Spirit Manor, where a student named Maika Benitez died. Her curiosity leads her piecing together the little truths about Maika’s death. Viewers will also chance upon lessons on love and friendship as they take the “whodunit” pace and plotline of Dormitoryo.  

Contrary to the common lifespan of TV series in recent years, Dormitoryo will only air for one season, shares Ali. “It is equivalent to 13 weeks. If it’s for an afternoon prime, it will run for 16 weeks and more. If it’s once a week, it is good for 13 episodes, which is equivalent to three months. But it also depends on the story. I think we can box (or can) it for 13 episodes. If the ratings are good, we can extend it and do another dormitory story. It will be a story of another person, which also revolves around the dormitory. It doesn’t necessarily a horror. (It could take another genre.) There’s a room to expand (the story)… If it’s a hit, which we always hope it to be, we will do another story.”

After all, the creative team has a story map, which helps the members define the boundaries and territories to explore and the perspectives to meet audience’s expectations. Hopefully, Kapuso televiewers will never get lost in the maze of Dormitoryo.

 

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