John Prats expands directing career with FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
John Prats expands directing career with FPJ�s Ang Probinsyano

John Prats is part of the entertainment industry’s list of “double threats” — actors who also direct.

After doing concerts and music videos, noontime show It’s Showtime and ABS-CBN Christmas specials, he now wears the director’s hat for ABS-CBN’s longest-running series FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano.

The former child actor said it was an immediate yes when Ang Probinsyano lead star and creative director Coco Martin asked him late last year to help direct the action-drama, which is entering its seventh year.

“Everyone knows that me and Coco, we’re more than friends, not lovers (laughs), but we’re like brothers. First time ko naka-experience ng kaibigan na grabeng magmahal and grabe sumuporta. And I admit, when I was about to leave Probinsyano to do Showtime, alam niyang malulungkot siya. Nung nagkaroon ng pagkakataon na di niya mapigilan — basta nagkaroon ng management decision — he offered me to direct him in Ang Probinsyano,” John told The STAR in a recent virtual interview.

John is seen with Coco Martin  on the set of FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano where he’s not only an actor but also a director.

“Sobra na rin yung load niya. He’s the lead actor, he’s the creative (head), tapos kung magdi-direct pa siya, isip pa siya ng lines. Actually, napapabayaan na niya sarili niya. As an actor, nakita ko yung hirap and I didn’t think twice of saying yes.

“And of course, I’ve been with Probinsyano for five and a half years. Sobrang mahal ko yung buong pamilyang yun. That’s why I’m grateful for the support of Sir Deo and Tita Cory as they let me direct and experience Probinsyano,” he added, referring to Dreamscape Entertainment boss Deo Endrinal and ABS-CBN COO Cory Vidanes.

John admitted that the experience of helming the show has been “overwhelming” because “it’s not just an ordinary show, it’s Probinsyano. And as an actor, I know the standards of the show and I know how we value our work.”

He further shared one of the hardest challenges for them in terms of storytelling.

John directed the ABS-CBN Christmas Special featuring Kapamilya stars and bosses for the second time in 2021.

“Every day, you have to capture the audience. Dapat ‘di magsawa sayo, especially with a show like Ang Probinsyano, which is six years already. Halos lahat napakita na namin and now we’re digging deep to show new content, new conflicts, new kinds of actions. That’s the challenge for us.”

One of his biggest assignments was directing veteran actress Sharon Cuneta in her ABS-CBN teleserye debut. She plays a mysterious new character in the series.

“Before we went with our bubble with Ms. Sharon, sobra ng overwhelming. Kami nga ni Coco, when we were talking about it after the storycon, looking at our cast members, sobrang laki. You have Rossana Roces, Lorna Tolentino, Tirso Cruz III, John Arcilla, John Estrada, Tommy Abuel and so many other big actors, and you’re gonna add Ms. Sharon Cuneta pa,” he said.

John recalled the first instance he filmed the Megastar.

“Di ko makalimutan yung experience because I was shooting one scene pa before hers. When I saw her van in our location, I told our staff na parang I’m just gonna finish this scene, and i-guide mo muna si Ms. Sharon sa tent niya kasi siempre ayoko maghintay siya. Malayo yung tent niya, bumaba siya sa tent niya and then pumunta siya sa set.

John is seen with Sharon Cuneta.

“Tapos sabi ko, teka lang hindi pa siya. Sabi ko, Tita Shawie after nito ikaw na po. But she said, no, no, no, I really came here because I want to say hi to my director.

“Of course, mga dating artista, yung discipline naabutan ko yun eh. Kahit sino pa man, kahit anong oras ka umalis, yung pagdating na pagdating mo sa set, you have to say hi to your director. Yun ang discipline nung bata pa ako, yun ang discipline namin na nakakalungkot kasi marami ng artista na baguhan ngayon, di na nila alam yun. That’s why I appreciate Tita Shawie because even if she’s the Megastar and I’m just a new director, she really listens: ‘Direk, I will follow whatever you want.’”

John tapped into his wellspring of acting experience for directing motivation. He also offered a glimpse of what would usually happen on set.

“Dahil siguro malaking advantage na kami ni Coco artista kasi kaming dalawa, we both know how it feels to be an actor and to be in their shoes. So, with Coco as our creative head and headwriter also, he’s the one who makes the scenes and the lines, then he gives them to me and then I present them to the actors,” he said.

“I will explain to them, this is the scene, you’re coming from this scene and you’re proceeding next to these sequences. I always tell them, saan galing itong eksena and saan pupunta. And I let them be because I believe that nobody knows the character best but them. I’m just there to guide them and their blockings and their movements. But other than that, I just let them be, I let them work and I let them project yung gusto i-project nila,” he added.

John stressed that he’s been very collaborative and always discussing things with his actors.

He explained: “I want that because you’re involving them. I’ve experienced and worked with directors na parang this, this, this, or sa ganito, ganito. So, parang na-feel ko sa mga times na yun na — I appreciate that it’s their style — parang di na ako nag-work, I just became a puppet? So eto, I let them explore kung ano yung gusto nilang gawin sa character nila.”

John counted as his mentors direk Arnel Natividad for non-narrative shows like Gandang Gabi Vice and Tonight With Boy Abunda where he started, and Coco for teleseryes.

He’s open to taking formal lessons or venturing into film because he’s all about learning more and honing his skills as a director.

“I thought before that I would be a concert, musical or non-narrative director, but dahil nga ganun ako, I’m really open to opportunities na parang ‘pag may dumating, just grab. I’ll never say no kahit alam kong di ko kaya, but I’ll try first,” John shared.

“So, now I feel mas lumawak yung experience ko when it comes to directing because I’m not just directing concerts, music videos, Christmas specials or a noontime show. It’s a different league — it’s a teleserye. I feel like — well, I haven’t done a film yet — that this is tougher. I’m enjoying it and I’m happy.”

John never dreamt of becoming a director. However, he felt that his leap from in front of the camera to behind it was meant to be.

“Ang buong pakiramdam ko talaga, ‘pag may plinano talaga or meron kang destiny na pupuntahan, dun ka talaga dadalhin,” he reflected on the transition.

“I never planned nor dreamt to be a director before. It just happened. One day, I woke up and wanted to direct a concert.”

It first happened with Cornerstone via Moira dela Torre’s 2018 Tagpuan concert. He also directed the singer’s music video, even though he had zero experience. “Wala akong pinag-aralan sa journey na ‘to. Siguro yung baon-baon ko lang, my experience for 29 years here in this industry. Perhaps, I’ve learned from the directors I’ve worked with. That’s how it happened and it was really smooth. Parang sinerve ni God sa akin, ito yung purpose mo, you have a bigger purpose, and I just followed his lead,” he said.

“Sabi ko nga, whenever I write a caption, God is directing me to direct. Yung lang yun kasi yung purpose ko — to fulfill the dreams ng mga actors ko, and when it comes to concerts, I want them to shine. That’s my main objective. And of course, I always want the audience to be inspired and be able to touch their lives.”

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