“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion says so famously that it is writ on the cover of a book. Indeed, story has the power to teach, inspire, spark dreams, make meaning out of nothing and even preserve civilizations.
Perhaps that is why humankind has always been gifted with those who know how to tell a good yarn, be it through the written word or through images and song.
A few decades ago, Raz de la Torre was one such boy dreaming of telling his own stories. At the time, he thought it would be through a news anchor’s baritone, American-accented twang. This dream sparked a journey that led him through a degree in Broadcast Communication at the University of the Philippines and later on, after a few diversions like a stab at law school, through a Master of Arts Degree with Distinction in Filmmaking at the London Film School.
“There was a call for applications to a writing workshop for ABS-CBN to be facilitated by THE Ricky Lee,” Raz recalls now about he was ultimately led to his now thriving career. He impishly adds, “I used that as my justification for my LOA from Law School to my mom and decided to apply. I was fortunate to be chosen as part of the first batch of 30 people from a field of almost 10,000 applicants.”
Destiny nodded in approval as Raz, straight out of the gate, was immediately hired for Star Cinema’s Concept Development Group. Thus began the early years of Raz’s writing and directing career. He still considers writing “A Very Special Love,” a rom-com from this period that birthed the John Lloyd Cruz-Sarah Geronimo tandem and two eventual sequels, as his biggest contribution to mainstream pop culture.
Those years became the breeding ground for his current landmark post as resident director for Maalaala Mo Kaya, itself an institution as Asia’s longest-running drama anthology at 27 years strong.
“I am deeply passionate about MMK because I see it as the teleserye of the Filipino people, an on-air chronicle of how Filipinos live,” says Raz. MMK has honed and showcased Raz’s craft, giving him a platform to tell a kaleidoscope of stories, from his love stories to family dramas, social dramas and more advocacy-forward episodes. It has also become his touchstone to the Pinoy thespian, ranging from respected veterans like Nora Aunor, Joel Torre, Gina Pareño, Coney Reyes, to top-billers like Jericho Rosales, Erich Gonzalez, Paulo Avelino and Claudine Barretto, and more to young stars like Julia Barretto, Enchong Dee, Zaijian Jaranilla, and Janella Salvador.
To this day, his life of storytelling, which also includes being Executive Producer for ANC and NCCA’s docu-series Dayaw and creating personally-produced documentaries, gives him that elusive high. “The feeling of creating something that resonates with people is unlike any other,” Raz says. “When I direct, write, or produce something that creates an emotional response from audiences, that changes their mind about an issue, or influences them to take action… I am overwhelmed by the sense of fulfilment.”
In his own way, Raz keeps chasing that high. Also a passionate educator, he has been a Senior Lecturer at UP Diliman since 2012 teaching Videography, Documentary, Producing, Screenwriting.
Perhaps what makes Raz a compelling storyteller is that he understands that a good story is about more than just a good bare-bones plot or rich characters, essential though these may be. All directors are craftsmen, masters of moving images. But the masterful way he moves audiences is what distinguishes Raz as a storyteller.
“Directing is not just about framing beautiful shots, orchestrating impressive scenes, or directing actors,” Raz shares. “The most admirable directors are those who tell stories because they are motivated by things larger than themselves. I want to be that kind of a director.”
Article written by Mel Torre / 2018 June 05
Page blurbs & introductions written by Chrissie Barredo