Direk Joyce Bernal is a small woman with inquisitive eyes and is not likely to catch attention on the set.
Her lean profile is deceiving because she can look fragile. But when work begins, the fragility is gone and replaced by with a no-nonsense attitude that translates into full focus on the story and characters. In one moment, she commands full attention behind the camera.
To be sure, she has her own set of rules that applies to herself and to her co-workers. She has to constantly remind herself that she is not in the movies to promote camaraderie but to tell a good story.
“Filmmaking is a big process,” she said in this presscon she shared with Vilma Santos, Angel Locsin and Xian Lim. “This time I am not assigned to do a rom-com (romantic drama) and so I insist that people be in character when they report on the set. You try to capture many nuances on film and they can easily dessipate with too much familiarity. You try to recreate a lot of things in this family drama and that is what should count. You have to recreate sexual tension, you have to define characters and you have to capture the milieu in which these characters move. So when I work, I forget that Ms. Vilma Santos is a governor of Batangas. On the set, we are all artists with no official titles. We are there to tell a story and not to be goody-goody with each other. I am aware that with this attitude, I can elicit ‘open letters’ when I work but I don’t care.”
The director is referring to an open letter which circulated in social media and denouncing a director for unfair treatment. “You cannot work well if you are intimidated by the stature of our actors. Of course the respect is there but when it’s time to work, everybody is equal on the set. I have work to do and it is not a joke and actors have to do justice to their parts. I told Xian (Lim) I don’t really mind if he forgot to greet Gov. Vilma (Santos) or Angel (Locsin) before a take. What counts is that everyone is able to contribute well to doing justice to this family drama.”
Direk Joyce pointed out every process in filmmaking is hard work. “Recreating reality on film involves some kind of passion which should not waiver until the film is in the can. The thing is people only remember what they saw on the set. Shooting is just part of the whole process. The preparations before a shoot are equally important. This is where you set your goals and this is where you size up all the roles. That is why we do a lot of character analysis. We are constantly dissecting why one character is so driven she forgets she is also a human being. So you have to guide your actors to make sure they don’t stray from the elements that make the role not like any other. Gov. Vilma is a highly driven CEO of a company. She has a corporate side but she also has her mean side. I know that in reality, Gov. Vilma is not like that at all. So I have to help her bring out her impossible side. She has to look powerful and impregnable. Until of course something sad happens in another chapter of her life. Again, you have to make sure the transition of the character is well-laid out. From a powerful figure, she is suddenly confronted with a cruel fate. Your role here is to make sure the characters look their individual parts. As you can see, filmmaking is a never ending process.”
Gov. Vilma admits Direk Joyce is one of the best directors in town who can really motivate. “I have been in this profession for almost fifty years. And yet I cannot say I can do everything myself. I have my own idea about the character but I prefer that someone guides me for better results. In cinema, it is not everyone for himself. You have to work closely with the director, with the scriptwriter, with your co-actors and even with your production designers. But of course you rely more on your director who has the bigger vision of how the story should be told and how the character should evolve. Like I have a complicated character in this film. This CEO is everyone’s idea of an ‘impakta’ (evil personified). She can meet all deadlines, she can hurdle all obstacles and in the end, she even tries to meet life’s own deadlines on her own terms. I can relate to this character in another level. I am gracious and pleasant most of the time but I am a different person when I have had enough. The movies honed me but I have also learned a lot as a public servant. You don’t get fat paychecks as public official but you savor the trust the people has given you. When you leave that role for a while to face the camera, you are on your own trusting your own instinct of what the role should look like.”
Vilma said she appreciated the kind of collaboration she had with Direk Joyce to the point that she declared. “We were good co-workers on the set. I learned a lot from her that after this film is wrapped up, I‘d like to meet her in another setting. I want her to be my friend.”
“Everything About Her” opened in cinemas on January 27.