He may be one of local showbiz’s most respected and accomplished creative minds but multi-awarded comedian, visual artist and content creator Michael V. (real name: Beethoven del Valle Bunagan) is proof that reaching one’s peak does not mean one must already slow down.
In fact, an artist should always aim to innovate and offer something new to his or her audience.
Thus, at a time when the local film industry is experiencing a slump of sorts, Michael V. who has ruled comedy TV for more than two decades now decided to take on a challenge that may seem unthinkable to some. The creative director of GMA Network’s well-loved gag show, “Bubble Gang” (now on its 23th year) and situational comedy, “Pepito Manaloto” is donning the film producer’s hat for the first time via the family drama, “Family History.”
Co-produced by GMA Pictures and Michael V.’s Mic Test Entertainment, “Family History” tackles themes involving relationships within the family, including that of a husband and wife who are faced with a situation that will change their lives and make them rethink what matters most.
Aside from co-producing the movie (his wife, Carol Bunagan is at the helm as far as finances is concerned), Michael V. is also the film’s lead actor, writer and director.
Playing the role of his wife is seasoned actress Dawn Zulueta who was the first choice.
“Meron pa kaming ibang choices pero lahat kami, parang … “sana umo-o (si Dawn),” Michael V. told members of Cebu’s entertainment media during a press conference held last July 19.
He said that there were two things they had to consider: Dawn’s ability and competence as an actress as well as the marketing aspect.
“Kung natuloy ‘yung ibang artistang kinonsider namin, baka hindi ganun kalakas ‘yung impact pag ipinartner sa akin. Kasi ‘yun palang idea na Michael V., ang leading lady Dawn Zulueta … ano ito?! Nakakaloka! Na totoo naman. Nag work naman,” he added.
It’s a fresh and new tandem and a relatively unfamiliar genre Michael V. is treading on but while the movie’s performance at the box office is not his main concern, he is also is very much aware of the huge risk that he and his team are taking.
“I actually have more to lose than GMA kasi galing talaga sa bulsa namin. Pero nakisugal ang GMA which means they believe in the project,” he stressed.
Needless to say, it is a project he is very much confident about. Referring to an Instagram post about the film by his co-actor Mikoy Morales, Michael V. addressed two things: Why now and why take such a huge risk.
“The reason for that is that it is a worthy project, not just for myself, but for GMA, for our company and for the whole movie industry,” he said.
On the creative side, he made sure no stone was left unturned.
“As far as the creative aspect is concerned, na achieve ko lahat ng gusto ko. ‘Yung vision, ‘yung iniisip ko pa lang dati … na naging script, na naging acting piece, na ngayon na edit and naging isang buong pelikula, na fulfill ko lahat ‘yun. So akin, kung hindi kumita, okey lang,” he said.
Michael V. as directorIf there are two words to describe Michael V. as a director, they would be efficient and considerate.
This was evident during the entire filmmaking process, as narrated by Mikoy, who plays the “ka-barkada, ka-banda, kaklase” of Miguel Tanfelix, Michael V.’s son in the film.
“Very efficient kasi since sobrang tagal na narin namang umaarte ni Kuya Bitoy, kitang-kita dun sa pag incorporate nya kung paano nya i-direct ‘yung material nya ‘yung pagiging considerate nya sa actors. Usually, lalo na kung pelikula, maraming takes. Tapos, most scenes ilang beses mong uulitin but with the efficiency, yung pagiging ma-ano sa details ni Kuya Bitoy, we didn’t have to go through unnecessary processes na pwede naming ma skip para maging mas efficient ‘yung trabaho naming,” the young actor said.
Mikoy said Michael V. had a precise process in place.
“Pag tinignan mo ‘yung script, hating-hati na sya ‘eh. Ito munang kunan natin, tapos talon tayo dito para di mo na uulitin tapos ‘yung in-betweens,” he added.
Michael V. echoed this by saying that he wanted the actors to be in their element—uninterrupted, as much as possible—while the scenes are being shot.
“Ayoko kasing sayangin ‘yung emotions ng artista kasi when you’re delivering your line na punong-puno ka ng emotion tapos biglang pina take two ka dahil kukunan ka ng wide shot o ng close-up, parang sayang.
“So ang breakdown ko palagi sa kanya, meron akong wide (shot), merong medium, merong close-up and I will reserve ‘yung mas intense na lines at ‘yung shot dun sa close-up para makita mo talaga, mata pa lang, kilay pa lang, uma-akting na. Nararamdaman mo na ‘yung intensity,” he added.
Michael V. also applied the same process with his camera crew.
“Even ‘yung camera crew ko, ayoko kasing nag-aaksaya ng oras na fini-figure out pa kung papano kukunan ‘to so gumamit ako ng action figures. Tapos may mga props, may set, may mini studio. Tapos kinukunan ko ng cellphone, tapos naka indicate na dun anong lens ang gagamitin mo, kung anong angle tsaka ‘yung camera movement,” he said.
Having worked with Michael V. in both “Bubble Gang” and “Pepito Manaloto,” Mikoy saw how “Family History” brought out another side of the award-winning comedian.
“Naramdaman ko ‘yung giddiness nya kasi dito ko nakita si Kuya Bitoy na in complete control and on ground, na parang baby nya ‘yung ginagawa nya. Para kang may batang binigyan ng laruan na matagal na nyang gusto. Ramdam ‘yung electricity sa set, lahat excited! Sarap!,” he said.
Michael V. revealed that “Family History” is also his way of getting to know the movie-going public more.
“Kilala ko na ang audience ko, sa ‘Pepito’ and sa ‘Bubble Gang’ but the movie-going public hindi ko pa sya kilala as an audience. So hopefully with this project, makilala ko sila. No expectation but I have this intense gut feel na ma e-excite din sila dito sa project,” he added.
Opening on July 24 (Wednesday) in cinemas nationwide, “Family History” has been graded B by the Cinema Evaluation Board. It also stars Bianca Umali, Paolo Contis, Nonie Buencamino, Kakai Bautista, Ina Feleo, Nikki Co, Jemwell Ventenilla, Vince Gamad, and John Estrada, with cameo appearances by Eugene Domingo and Dingdong Dantes. (Photos: Gerard Pareja)