Carlo Aquino and Maine Mendoza topbill Black Sheep’s Isa Pa With Feelings, now showing in 265 cinemas nationwide.
The real story behind the Maine-Carlo tandem
Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - October 18, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – When news first came out in June that Maine Mendoza and Carlo Aquino were going to be partnered in Black Sheep’s Isa Pa With Feelings, it raised not a few eyebrows and questions not only about the pairing but also the timing.

Some of the burning questions that lit the online world included, was the film a response to the Star Cinema-produced Alden Richards-Kathryn Bernardo starrer, Hello Love Goodbye (HLG), announced earlier and went on to become the highest-grossing Filipino film ever? Why is ABS-CBN’s year-old film division Black Sheep producing it and not the “flagship brand” Star Cinema? How did the Carlo-Maine tandem come to be in the first place? The stars belong to rival networks and are still very much identified with previous love teams — especially Maine with her popular AlDub team-up with Alden.

But the seemingly wild idea of pairing the two in Isa Pa With Feelings — Graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board — started with less drama than imagined.

Black Sheep, a division under Star Cinema that primarily targets the millennial market, is producer because the material originated from them. And it all began with the story concept of its director Prime Cruz, said Black Sheep head Kriz Gazmen.

“Since Black Sheep started, it’s very director-driven. It’s really our vision for Black Sheep because we want to give parang voices to new directors. When we started Black Sheep, we started talking to our director-friends na finally this is your chance to make your dream projects. We talked to Prime and asked him, what is your dream project and we will co-produce it. Ito yung nilapit niya sa amin.”

In Isa Pa With Feelings, Maine is the disheartened intern Mara who wanted to become architect but failed the licensure board exams. She meets Gali (Carlo), a deaf sign language teacher who is out to prove that he can dance the same way hearing people can.

Producers revealed that it was the female character who was deaf and the male character hearing in the original story.

“Originally nga, baliktad siya. Yung girl talaga yung deaf, yung lalaki yung hearing. That was the original concept. It took a year na sinusulat siya, ni-re-revise siya. Then, we realized, it’s not going to work pag babae yung deaf. Babae kasi generally ang market natin, especially with love stories, so (the female audience) would want to hear what a woman is going through, what her feelings are for the guy. If you take out the faculty of language, it’s going to be difficult,” Gazmen said.

“Generally, men are quiet and mysterious so mas okey pagbaliktarin (better to swap the characters). But we always knew that if we made the female character the hearing one, we had to have somebody who is so charming, so cute,” he added.

The name of Maine was brought up by Kookai Labayen, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jenilee Chuaunsu. 

Gazmen recalled, “We really got so excited with the idea of Maine but it was a long process, a lot of back and forth with APT,” referring to Maine’s talent management team. ?

That’s why Gazmen deems it very unfair for the film to be compared to Hello, Love, Goodbye.

“Even before the tandem of Alden and Kathryn was finalized, we were already talking to (Maine). Maayos na talaga communication namin. So, when the Alden movie came out, it was so unfair that they were being compared na ‘pansagot niyo ba ‘to or something?’ because even before that, inaayos na talaga namin yung movie with Maine.”

Maine was cast first before Carlo came on board the project.

“We really thought of Maine first before casting Carlo in his role,” confirmed Labayen.

But Carlo was the first and only choice. The actor starred in Black Sheep’s hit inaugural film, Exes Baggage, which earned more than P300M at the box-office.

“We couldn’t think of any actor who can deliver the requirements of the role aside from Carlo. Si Carlo kasi, kaya niya yung mata-mata acting talaga. Also personal bias, he’s our favorite at Black Sheep,” said Gazmen.

Labayen also shared, “I remember when we pitched the story to him, it was the first time I saw his ears turning red, as in he was very nervous with the role. He felt it was going to be really difficult because it was, indeed, difficult. We were going to ask a lot from him because he had no dialogues.”

Gazmen acknowledged that Carlo and Maine’s pairing did come as a surprise. “Of course, it felt like it came out of nowhere. Pusta-pusta nalang talaga (we’re placing our bets on it),” he said.

By opening to a total of 265 cinemas last Wednesday, Isa Pa With Feelings already feels like a hit in the making.

When asked about the box-office expectations for the movie, ABS-CBN Films (Star Cinema) executive Mico del Rosario said, “That’s putting too much pressure on Carlo and Maine. We have high hopes for the movie because based on the feedback, malakas siya. Let’s see.”

“I mean, who would have thought that Hello, Love, Goodbye would do really, really well?” he added.

According to him, Star Cinema was surprised that HLG would become the highest-earning Filipino film of all time with its global gross of over P880M.

Del Rosario further said, “It was the same with Hows of Us (referring to the top-grosser before HLG). You know it will make money, but not that kind of money. But, of course, we’re thankful for all the support. Hindi naman nagiging mindset na kailangan ito matalo ito kasi it would be unfair to all the movies. You just create movies. And hopefully, it does well and is attuned to the audience.”

Gazmen agreed that Isa Pa With Feelings is not burdened with box-office pressure. “Honestly, we are not pressured at all. The reason we’re not pressured, I think, is because we know that this is just a story that we want to tell. It’s different. We didn’t design the project to compete, to have a huge box-office draw.

“We just wanted to design the perfect casting for the story we want to tell. It’s not a response to a previous success. It’s not designed that way. So, we’re not pressured because we all know that wherever this takes us, we’re proud of the film.”

 

MAINE MENDOZA
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