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On the set of Kokak

Kokak lead star Sarah Lahbati

The clock was fast ticking and it was only a few minutes before 10 p.m. — the official closing time of Fitness Express along Roces Avenue.

But no worries, the staff assured the clients. They could stay behind since Kokak was going to have a shoot there. In fact, it was set originally at 3 p.m., but production begged to have it moved to 10:30 that evening.

There was even a bonus — they could see celebrities in the flesh – Sarah Lahbati, no less.

At way past 11, with all the clients who stayed behind panting and gasping for breath after one hour doing various cardiovascular exercises, there was still no artista

Obviously there was a problem. The taping had been reset again to 1 a.m. The gym owner, Jaric Chua, said they couldn’t wait anymore. But personal tainer Billy James Renacia, who also appears in soaps and was the unofficial contact for Kokak, began to panic.

He understands delays in production. On his knees, he begged for a little more extension because the people in Kokak would be executed via lethal injection if they couldn’t shoot that scene. There would be nothing to air. Daily soaps are the most difficult to mount.

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What was causing the delays? For one, it rained unexpectedly that afternoon and pushed back the shooting sked. And just to show you the difficulty of producing a daily drama, there are two production units grinding simultaneously.

Unit 1 was under the helm of Ricky Davao (as director), who had some of the stars needed for this second unit that was being directed in turn by Rommel Penisa.

The gym owner relented and gave his blessings for Kokak to use the fitness center till after 1 a.m. He left behind his staff Junior, Eric and Wilson.

At 1 a.m., the production people began arriving and in tow was Vaness del Moral in curlers — ready to shoot. As it turned out, she had been waiting in her car since 2 p.m. What a patient woman.

Even Sarah had shown up earlier, but obviously found something more productive to do than wait in a vehicle.

The non-showbiz staff witnessed first-hand the various aspects of taping a soap opera. It was mostly waiting.

From left: Frencheska Farr, Direk Ricky Davao and JC Tiuseco – Photos by VER PAULINO

There was this bunch of young people gathered in groups. They were what traditionally were called “extras” in shoots. Being referred to as “extra,” however, had assumed a very lowly meaning through the years.

In shoots today, extra means extra rice during meals. People who are merely part of the crowd scene in the present generation production lingo are called “talents,” which is what is politically correct — for now.

They were there — waiting and waiting and took comfort in the fact that they were being fed well by production. The food as of that hour was rice, scrambled eggs and tocino.

They were also going to get financial remuneration at the end of the taping, which at that point nobody knew when. Some of the Kokak stars were still in Unit 1 that obviously was also suffering delays.

It was way past 4 a.m. when the actual shoot that required a gym scene began. What time did everyone go home? Almost 6 a.m. when it was a wrap. Pack up.

The extras, oops, talents had been there since 1 p.m. the previous day. It was the same with Sarah and Vaness. The difference was that the major stars waited in more comfortable conditions — like an air-conditioned car for Vaness. Also, they got paid more.

The public actually still couldn’t understand why some TV and movie stars get paid a lot more than the regular 9 to 5 person. All the artista does is to look pretty — for a scene that may last for only minutes on air.

There are a lot of people who are unaware of what goes on behind the camera and they believe that gives them the right to bash celebrities — privately or on the Internet. Those stars get paid huge anyway — so it’s okay if they suffer every time they get involved in controversies and become the target of gossip and maligning.

We can actually enumerate the reasons why celebrities get paid more. And may we stress that not every on-cam talent enjoys superstar fees. The salaries of secondary and especially tertiary onscreen players can make you weep.

Drawing out a list can take forever. But loss of privacy (very valuable to a person) is already one.

And there is the waiting. These are not half an hour of waiting — like an inamorato late for a date due to traffic. We are talking of almost a whole day of waiting (it takes long to set up cameras and lights, in case you didn’t know).

However, that is showbiz. The stars of Kokak understand this. They can croak all you want, but they have no choice but wait.

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