John Prats eyes more live concerts after directing K-pop star Jessi’s Philippines show

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
John Prats eyes more live concerts after directing K-pop star Jessi�s Philippines show
John Prats is eyeing to do more live shows after successfully directing K-pop star Jessi’s recent sold-out concert at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena.
STAR / File

John Prats can’t wait to do more live shows after successfully directing South Korean-American artist Jessi’s recent concert at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena.

The actor-director recently revealed to The STAR how he scored the gig in the first place. “Sobrang nakakatuwa how I got the project because I was in the bubble for (FPJ’s Ang) Probinsyano that time. A good friend of mine just messaged me on (Instagram) that there’s this production house who wanted to get me as a director,” he said in an exclusive chat.

The project turned out to be the first Philippine concert of the K-pop hitmaker, who’s behind the viral tracks Zoom and Nunu Nana.

The actor-turned-director in action during his first jab at directing a K-pop concert.

At first, John was hesitant to say yes because he was scheduled to travel to Singapore to visit his actress-wife Isabel Oli’s family and fulfill his long-time dream of watching the Formula 1 Grand Prix.

“Na to-torn ako, sabi ko ate Cynthia (Roque, his Cornerstone handler), I had Formula 1… And sino si Jessi, sorry pero ‘di po talaga ako familiar. Ang alam ko talaga na K-pop groups are BTS, BlackPink and EXO,” he recalled saying at that time.

When he found out who Jessi is and how popular she is, especially on TikTok because of her dance-friendly songs like Zoom (a favorite of John’s daughter), he was all-in to helm his first K-pop concert.

As preparation, John studied Jessi’s music and researched about her life to the point he became a fan of hers. He made sure her life story was reflected via the visuals on stage (such as three giant LED screens that projected Jessi the whole time) and VTRs during the concert.

With No. 1 fan and supporter, wife Isabel Oli.

“When I did my research, I learned how big she is, including her struggles, grabe, you’ll admire her because girl power talaga. Somehow, I’m able to relate to what she said that it took her 18 years to have this moment, to have this solo concert, and that never niya nakuha ng madali lahat,” John pointed out.

“On that aspect, I think, we’re similar. Sabi ko nga, I’ll be (celebrating) 30 years in this industry this year. I know na hindi ko nakuha ng madali lahat. At first, I was questioning it, bakit ganun, why this person or actor got it easier or bakit ito, ang bilis sumikat? But now, I realize that’s why siguro ganito ako ngayon… how I value my work, it’s because of the struggles in those 30 years na hindi ko nakuha ng madali, everything (entailed) hard work,” he added.

The Sept. 30 Manila show of the South Korean-American performer was her first solo concert ever.

In terms of challenges, John said that while he came prepared, he wasn’t just used to not talking extensively with the artist beforehand to solicit inputs and ideas. Nevertheless, she earned his admiration even more during the rehearsals.

“We had long rehearsals. She’s not the kind of artist who does soundcheck with only two songs. No. We really had a run-through of the whole thing, starting with the opening VTR,” John said.

Jessi very much appreciated how John directed her first show in Manila because she felt it was truly personalized for her.

“And I didn’t know how much of a big deal it was until I was told that it was her first solo concert — ever! I’m just so happy that she was happy with her first-ever solo concert,” John said.

He would direct Jessi again in a heartbeat, if given the chance, because she was so easy to work with, including her management team.

John gets a hug from a grateful Jessi.

“Sobrang walang adjustments when I did my thing… she only had a minor request to shorten a VTR by 10 seconds,” he recalled. “After that, everything was entrusted to me, visually.”

“Maybe we showed them that we knew what we were doing and when we were there, moving and working, wala na silang nasabi. Siguro yun ang nangyari.

“(So) if Jessi says, ‘Can I work with you again for five or 10 more shows na sunod-sunod?’ I wouldn’t mind!”

Meanwhile, the person who was the happiest over John accepting the directing job was his wife, who is a huge K-pop music fan.

“She just said, for sure that’s gonna be successful, kelangan lang maging different yung concert this time because she’s used to watching me direct concerts of Moira, which are mellow, Erik Santos na ballad. Usually, yung pinakamabilis ko ay rock concert, but iba naman ang K-pop concert. After the show, na-realize niya, ‘Kaya mo pala mag-K-pop.’

“And for me, sa lahat ng concerts na nagawa ko, dito nabuhay yung dugo ko maybe because dancer ako. Lahat ng tugtog was upbeat. Enjoy na enjoy ako with every song.”

The Jessi show officially marked John’s comeback in directing concerts. His last live musical event was pre-pandemic, Jennylyn Mercado and Dennis Trillo’s Co-Love show at New Frontier Theater in 2020.

He was previously more focused on narratives, being a director on FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano, which ended in August after a seven-year run on ABS-CBN.

Narrative and live directing offer him a different yet similar set of challenges and level of fulfillment. Nevertheless, when it comes to live shows, he observes certain “rituals.”

Besides having one-on-ones with artists, he said he’s always present in rehearsals. “Dun palang dinadama ko na ang gagawin ko. ‘Di kasi pwede yung artist lang may feelings, lalo na dapat yung director since we are gonna project visually yung mga songs na gagawin ng mga artists. Every ingress, I also go early… but more to feel the venue and to relish each moment.

“I don’t know but for some weird reason when I’m off (work), I’m really off, but ‘pag sumampa na ako dun at alam ko na work na, I get that feeling… of ideas overflowing. Na pagka-concert, hindi na ako yung, ‘Ano kaya gagawin ko?’ Parang pumapasok lang talaga sa akin, ‘Ah ganito ang gagawin ko.’ Sobrang bilis lang lahat.

“Definitely, that’s not me. Feeling ko, it’s really a gift from God. And the happiest moment for me is during the company call, the prayer before (the concert). That’s the time I know that God takes over the whole show.

“And when it comes to a live show, once it starts, dire-diretso na yan. You really have to pray that you don’t encounter technical problems — from the audio, LED, to the lights. Dun na pumapasok si God and yung miracle niya to work on that two hours. So, definitely, before a concert, I pray hard and hope nothing bad happens on the technical side.”

Meanwhile, John is looking to direct more live events in the months to come as the concert scene continues to open up.

Though he’s not ruling out directing dramas in the future, he said that “at this very moment, what I want to do is live shows, either a TV show or a concert.”

He added, “Perhaps, the narrative, I’ll do one in the future, I don’t know. But for now, I’m enjoying this — super! Also, I just came from a narrative that’s why I miss this (live show directing) so much.”

Nevertheless, John will always be grateful for his last teleserye FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano.

“I tried directing,” he said of the biggest highlight for him from his time with the series. “They gave me the opportunity to direct. Because (it was the) first top-rating show (I directed), the pressure was bigger, the expectations were higher. And for me, to overcome those things as a first-time director, it was such an achievement for me.

“And that’s one thing I will never forget na nagawa ko for Probinsyano. That I’m capable of action and being an action director, as in na-enjoy ko siya. If you make me do action, I can do it, as there are so many techniques and styles that I have learned from the show.”

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