Direk Wenn is a movie fan at heart

- Mario E. Bautista () - May 28, 2003 - 12:00am
One of the most trusted young directors today at ABS-CBN is Wenn Deramas. He is the director of Star Cinema’s new movie, Ang Tanging Ina with Ai-Ai delas Alas in the title role, and the new TV show, Buttercup, starring Claudine Barretto, Piolo Pascual, Diether Ocampo, Carlos Agassi, Onemig Bondoc, Assunta de Rossi, Ciara Sotto and Mico Palanca.

Unlike most young directors today who are Masscomm graduates, Wenn has a Hotel and Restaurant Management degree from UST.

"But I’ve been an avid moviegoer since I was six years old," he says. "My mom is a die-hard Noranian and when a new Ate Guy movie opens, she’d wake my sisters and I at 5 a.m. so we could line up at the box office at 6 a.m. in time for the theater’s opening at 8 a.m. And she’d watch it twice before we go home. Even my older sisters are movie fans. One is an avid Helen Gamboa fan while another has Hilda Koronel as her idol. After Mass each Sunday, we’d go to a movie."

His life is as sudsy as the soap operas he directs. The youngest of five kids, he was born on Sept. 15, 1966. He was six months old when his father was sent to Vietnam to work and never came back. "We all thought he died there, until word came that he married a Vietcong woman and had five kids with her," he relates. "My mother sent my three sisters and one brother to school all by herself. My father eventually brought home his family here and he lived with them. When he lost his job, I was required to help them financially. When he died two years ago, I felt bad because I felt no pain at all. I shouldered all his funeral expenses and cut off all our ties with his second family who got all his death benefits from the SSS. It’s my mom, Lydia, who’s been always very supportive of me, even of my being gay. As I was growing up, relatives would ask her if her son was gay and she’d say ‘Oo. I prefer that kaysa maging drug addict siya.’ At 17, when my Kuya Elmer saw me putting on make-up, isinumbong ako sa mom namin and she only said: ‘Bakit, ikaw ba ang bumili ng make-up niya?’ Ang Tanging Ina is my own tribute to my mom who, like the character played by Ai-Ai, really worked very hard and made a lot of sacrifices to bring up her kids all by herself."

Why is his name Wenn? "It’s really Edwin. My nickname is Winwin but my mom is Visayan and she calls me Wen. In high school, I’d spell it with an H between E and N, then I made it double N na lang," he explains.

In college, he was active with theater work. After graduation, he applied at ABS-CBN and was hired as a production assistant in Tatak Pilipino.

"I served coffee to the hosts, Gel Santos and Jim Paredes. When Teysi ng Tahanan started, I applied as talent coordinator but producer Deo Endrinal asked me to be a writer instead, so even if I had no formal training with writing, I ended up writing, and later, directing the episodes in its Kung Maibabalik Ko Lang portion. This started my writing career and there was a time I was writing for nine shows simultaneously, including dramas like Calvento Files, Maalaala Mo Kaya, Star Drama Theater and Flames. Then they assigned me also to be the executive producer of Calvento Files. I said I wanted to direct but our boss, Cory Vidanes, rejected the idea. They gave the directing job to Lauren Dyogi, who taught me a lot about camera placements and other technical matters. When Lauren started directing movies, I launched myself as a director in Calvento Files. I directed an episode starring Amy Austria about a girl raped by her playmates. They liked it well enough and so they asked me to direct other shows, like Flames and Star Drama. When they gave Claudine her first soap opera, Mula sa Puso, they chose me to direct it. When Charo Santos saw the first episode, she was so angry. First shot pa lang, pinintasan na. If my self-confidence wasn’t strong enough, I’d have been discouraged. But I took it as a challenge to improve my work. When Claudine was assigned a movie with her soap leading men, Rico Yan and Diether Ocampo, ako rin ang pinagdirek nila so I branched out to the movies. I also megged the film version of Mula sa Puso. When it ended on TV, they asked me to direct Claudine in Saan Ka Man Naroroon, where she played triple roles, and later, in Sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan. Now, we’re together again in Buttercup, where she plays Meg, a hopeless romantic who’s obsessed about getting married. Inspired by Friends and Sex in the City, Meg writes a journal like Sarah Jessica Parker and we hear her views about life and her relationships. We chose the song Buttercup because it’s a favorite of the crowd in Hard Rock Café. The moment they start playing it, everyone gets up and starts dancing."

Why was he chosen to direct the launching film of Ai-Ai? "I think it’s because they liked the romantic comedy I did with Jolina Magdangal, Kung Ikaw ay Isang Panaginip," he replies. "I’ve never worked with Ai-Ai before but I’m a big fan of hers. I watch her concerts and I think she’s born to make us laugh. But Ang Tanging Ina is more than just a comedy. It also has its touching dramatic moments where viewers will see that Ai-Ai can also excels in drama."

In the story, Ai-Ai marries handsome men like Edu Manzano, Tonton Gutierrez and Jestoni Alarcon. How did he make this credible? "You may not believe it but Ai-Ai looks really beautiful in the film. You won’t wonder at all why these men fall for her. She has four kids with each husband, but her character as Ina is very sympathetic. Edu is a rich man but he’s a chauvinist, a gambler. Edu is a doctor who also has a business and he assigns Ai-Ai to run his business for him. Jestoni is the driver of a funeral hearse and the only one who really loves her. It’s only after her husbands died that she became a real mom who ventures into all sorts of odd jobs just to earn a living for her kids."

Ai-Ai’s children in the film are Marvin Agustin, Nikki Valdez, Heart Evangelista and Carlo Aquino with Edu; Marc Acueza, Alwin Uytingco (who’s her gay son), Shaina Magdayao and Serena Dalrymple with Tonton; and Jiro Manio, Yuki Kadooka and twin infants with Jestoni. One of the film’s attractions shows Ai-Ai spoofing the best dramatic scenes of Vilma Santos in Anak and Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa, Sharon Cuneta in Madrasta, Gloria Romero in Tanging Yaman, and Claudine Barretto in Kailangan Kita.

"All these actresses have different acting styles so I made sure Ai-Ai will be able to duplicate them by making her watch all their films repeatedly," says Wenn. "And in fairness, Ai-Ai succeeds in aping them exactly at hindi siya mapapahiya sa mga aktres na ito. Now, Ai-Ai and I are the best of friends. We got even closer when I directed her biography in Maalaala Mo Kaya with Maricel Soriano portraying her. One thing you can say about Ai-Ai is that she’s really a good mother, on and off camera."

He’s been directing mostly commercial films, does he have a dream project?

"Star Cinema is lending me to Seiko Films and I’ll direct a family drama with them, but my dream project is entitled Pitik Bulag and it’s meant for Roderick Paulate. He’ll play a gay teacher who, in college, had an affair with a handsome classmate who left him and got married. Years later, the guy will realize that he’s really gay and leaves his family to go back to Roderick. I’m hoping Aga Muhlach will agree to play the role of the lover. Ma’am Charo and I have an agreement that after I’ve done four hit commercial films with them, they’d allow me to do whatever project I like. I’m now praying that Ang Tanging Ina, which is my fourth film with them, will be a hit, so I can finally be given the chance to make this pet project of mine a reality."

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