Funfare with Ricky Lo

Direk Raymond: This is !T

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star
Direk Raymond: This is !T
After the family show It Takes Gutz To Be A Gutierrez finished its successful fourth season, Raymond Gutierrez takes on a new challengeas director of E! Channel’s !T Girls

Having been exposed to the ins and outs, the ABC’s, and the “before” and the “behind” of cameras, isn’t it about time Raymond Gutierrez took the helm?

Set to premiere tonight at 8 o’clock on the E! Channel, the new weekly reality show !T Girls marks Raymond’s debut as director. It’s the same channel where the successful family show It Takes Gutz To Be A Gutierrez (ITGTBAG) has just finished its fourth season airing around Asia. The show takes over the ITGTBAG timeslot.

“Sure!” Raymond said without a second thought when Scott Mackenzie, the series’ executive producer (who is vice president of Channels, Asia, and NBCUniversal International Networks), offered him the project. “My bosses in Singapore were looking for someone in the Philippines to head the production here, making sure that we get the right footage and the storylines are true. And, of course, that the girls will open up and cooperate, which is easy because I am close to them.”

!T Girls is hosted by Georgina Wilson, Solenn Heussaff, Isabelle Daza and Liz Uy who are all Raymond’s friends.

“Initially, the show is good for one season and I have actually finished shooting and editing the six episodes,” said Raymond who will slip in and out of the scene because he just happens to be there and the girls want to talk to him about certain topics and issues. “There are a lot of revelations as the show goes on, never-before-seen stories about the girls.”

In the first episode, for instance, the gender of Georgina’s first child, scheduled to be delivered early next year yet,  with husband Arthur Burnand will be revealed. Although widely-publicized, there are actually more to reveal about Isabelle’s wedding to Adrien Semblat; and Solenn’s grappling with her tight schedule between career (doing four shows and promoting an album, etc.) and brand-new husband Nico Bolzico. Liz will get a big surprise when she learns who her blind date is. The three girls’ husbands, together with Isabelle’s mom Gloria Diaz, are also part of the series. Solenn’s brother Erwan Heussaff (Anne Curtis’ boyfriend) will also be on the show.

“One story to look forward to is Isabelle’s struggle before her wedding which was held in Italy just a few weeks after her dad (Bong Daza) died,” Raymond volunteered a teaser. “It was former Sen. Bongbong Marcos, Isabelle’s dad’s best friend, who gave Isabelle away. With her three friends married, is Liz feeling any pressure to follow in their footsteps? Being single, Liz is not slowing down. She’s making big internationally. She has just represented the Philippines at the Fashion Week in Paris and London.”   

Asked why he didn’t hesitate to take the challenge (he hasn’t taken up any formal lesson in film), Raymond said, “I was just happy that I was offered this job because it’s an  international show. I was really flattered; I didn’t expect it at all. But because of the genre of a reality show, I know exactly what to do. I know what the viewers want to see and what the girls want to share.”

Mackenzie is just as optimistic.

It helps that the four hosts of the show are Raymond’s close friends, ‘So they easily open up because they are comfortable with me.’ Shown with Raymond are the girls (from left), Solenn Heussaff, Isabelle Daza and Liz Uy, with !T Girls producer Scott Mackenzie (rightmost). ‘I’m impressed with Raymond,’ says Scott. ‘He’s very talented, very into it.’

“Between them, the four girls have an outstanding 17 million social media followers,” Mackenzie told Funfare. “With this series, those fans will get to see what they are really outside of their glamorous celebrity personas. This is a unique experience that only a pop culture powerhouse like E! can bring. I’m very happy with Raymond’s work. He is very into it. He’s such a talented new director. With the ratings success of It Takes Gutz To Be A Gutierrez in markets like Singapore and Malaysia, we are confident that !T Girls will also fascinate viewers across the region.”

The episodes have been shot all over the world — in Bali for Isabelle’s bachelorette, in Hong Kong for Liz and Georgina’s event and in Paris for Liz’s appearance in Fashion Week, in Italy for Isabelle and Adrien’s wedding, etc., all in packed-full-of-juicy-items episodes.

Even if the girls are his friends, Raymond doesn’t allow them to “meddle” in his job.

Georgina Wilson, who is heavy with her first child.

“Working with your friends can be very hard,” admitted Raymond. “Sometimes, it’s tricky to draw a line between your friends and being a director. But I’m happy that the girls trusted me. Sometimes, they would ask, ‘Mon, can we edit this and that out?’ And I would put my foot down; kelangan ikaw ang masusunod. I would say, ‘No, because that’s what the viewers want to see.’ So even if they don’t have any make-up on, if they are crying and it’s not flattering, yes, I’m gonna show that. I’m glad that they believe me.”

What if, just if, he wanders into the show and the girls turn the table and “grill” him about his love life?

Blushing a bit, Raymond laughed, “No, there’s nothing to grill about my love life.” Besides, he is the director, remember, and he can always edit that out.

What Raymond learned from the four seasons of ITGTBAG he’s using in his directorial debut.

“There shouldn’t be any holding back,” insisted Raymond. “What you see is what you get. There’s no script at all, kaya at the start, Georgina and Liz were having a hard time because they are not actresses at medyo naiilang sila. But soon, they loosened up, they put their guards down. What I learned from Gutz is that you have to be open-minded, you have to be true, you have to be real. On the show, you will see the girls as they are, guards down …you know, arguing with each other, having intimate conversations with their husbands, you will see much more than what you see on social media.”

Isn’t his sister Ruffa appearing on the show?

“Well, not in the first season. Maybe, hopefully, in the second season?”

Aside from the show, Raymond is preoccupied with a dozen other things. He mounts social events, launches products (more lifestyle and fashion), does creative consultancy work for various companies, and acts as correspondent for the E! News of the channel. He is also a co-owner of the high-end Valkyrie Nightclub at The Palace.

Before going international, Raymond was a co-host of the defunct GMA showbiz-oriented show Showbiz Central (later named H.O.T. TV) and TV5’s Showbiz Police.

“I’m happier with what I’m doing now,” said Raymond. “I have more freedom to do what I enjoy doing. Before, I was doing hosting only in the Philippines. Now I’m doing it all over Asia. I’m excited working behind the camera for a change.”

(Note: E! is seen on SkyCable and Destiny Digital Channel 57, Cignal Channel 25, Cablelink Channel 33 and other cable operators nationwide.)

(E-mail reactions at [email protected]. You may also send your questions to [email protected]. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)



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