Internship Diaries – MMK’s Toothbrush (The Leni Robredo Story)
Dimples Romana and I on the bus to Naga. Haha! (Photo courtesy of ABS CBN)
WHO AM I
Hiya everyone! I’m Russel, Sir Raz’s intern for the second semester of AY 2015-2016. Every now and then, I will be sharing my experience during the internship. Here’s more. My full name’s Reynald Russel O. Santos. I am a graduating BA Broadcast Communication student from the University of the Philippines Diliman. I was Sir Raz’s student in Documentary (2013) and Videography (2014), and yep, you can see some of my productions on this website too! Coolio. Anyway.
WHY AM I HERE
Well, I dream of becoming a director too one day. Be it TV, film, and theatre. To be awarded the Bachelor’s Degree I have been working for in the past 6 years (I shifted from Engg to Home that’s CMC), we are required to spend 150 internship hours in a career we are inclined to pursue after college (which is about 3 months to go. Oh my gosh. My pamily.). I applied for about 30 production houses and agencies for this internship. But the workload they offer is not a very growing environment for me. We in the College of Mass Communication are trained at levels at par with the industry (except for the equipment of course!) so I tried looking for other opportunities which, I believe, will direct me to the path I want to pursue. I have been asking Sir Raz to be my Mentor for the past semesters, but due to some unfortunate events, it was never pushed through…until this sem. So I asked if the apprentice slot is still open. He said yes. That’s why I am here.
This is me wearing the headset of Ate Jen, the second AD on the first day. I cued one of the Artistas.
First up is MMK’s Toothbrush – The Leni Robredo Story
Every MMK episode is shot 2 days. And when I say 2 days, I mean 2 days. As in 5 am of today to 5 am of tomorrow or later. For the Leni Robredo episode, I wasn’t able to attend the first taping day which was held in Cavite due to a conflict with my thesis consultation. So what I will share with you are my experiences on the second day. The call time was at 5 AM. Kuya Ernie (Sir Raz’s Driver) picked me up at Petron Philcoa, and we went straight to Plaridel, Bulacan. We arrived at 6 AM. But Kuya Ernie said, it won’t start until around 8 am. With that, I lurked around observing how productions this big works.
The crew are preparing for the day’s shoot.
Concept and Story
During breakfast, I asked Sir Raz (by this time, I learned that he is called Direk by everyone) how the present concept was conceived. He told me that it was Ma’am Charo Santos who ordered the airing of this story, and since it was also Sir Raz who directed the Jesse Robredo Story, he was tasked to direct the wife’s story too. It wasn’t always the case though because I have learned that sometimes, it really is the candidate who approaches MMK to air their story.
People Behind The Camera
There are about 200 people involved in an MMK episode’s taping (not even counting the researchers, writers, editors, etc., that weren’t with us on the site). There’s the creative team and staff, utilities team, crew composed of video and audio men, gaffers, art department, and the catering. For today, what I actually did is to observe how everyone and everything works. The over-all in-charge of the production is the Executive Producer. Today, that is Ma’am Lindsay. We also have the Associate Producer, that’s Ate Ann, the Assistant Director 1, Ate Maki, Assistant Director 2, Ate Jen, Senior Production Assitant, Ate Emily, and 2 PA Trainees, Yannah and Sheila. Sir Raz is the director, of course. They are your creative/steering team. Some othes involved in the scene are the Production Designer (I wasn’t able to meet her/him), the art department, the location manager, cameramen, audiomen, and the gaffers.
This is BTS of Mayor Robredo’s thanksgiving party. It was shot at arouund 2 in the morning, but the lights made it look like the sun has just set.
The flow of the taping starts with everyone going to the location. There are permits and payments involved prior to that. The EP, AP, and AD’s assemble everyone. When the location is prepped for direction, the director will direct the shots. The position of the cameras is the main reference of everyone in the scene. Upon directing the shots, the Lights Director will position his lights, mixing the colors and matching it with the scene. It is impeccably beautiful when the noon scene was shot at 1 in the morning and it was well done. And then, the Production Designer will make the location look like how it was described in the script. Then the Art Director provides props and additional production designs. One of the main jobs of the PA is to accommodate the Artistas, while the Talent Manager manages his or her talents or extras. This is one of the most intriguing point for me which I will discuss later. The talents are then picked and prepped by their talent managers to wear the appropriate costumes according to the scene. The Wardrobe Head, Ate Janella, preps the artistas. The Make-up Artist also preps the artistas. When everything in the scene is ready (production design, lights, talents, lapels, boom mic, etc.), the artistas and the director are called to the scene. We’re up for the shoot itself. That prep time takes about 2-3 hours. The PA calls the artista/s and I call Sir Raz. He tells the actors what to do, then proceeds to the OB van (Outside Broadcasting Van, thanks Yannah!). The Assitant Director, Ate Maki is left on the floor to relay the messages from Sir Raz. Inside the OB van, the Technical Director mans the console, while the director calls the cutting of the shots. The EP sits with the Director and the TD while the AP and the Sound Engineer sits on the other side of the van. The AP makes sure that all the scenes are shot, and the SE monitors the audio. There’s usually a rehearsal take, while the cameras are rolling, and it is also being recorded in the OB van. Another 2 or three takes, some cures, and the sequence is closed. Then we move to the next location, and the whole process is repeated.
The first photo is taken at the police station near the church. Sir Raz is waiting for the Make-up Artist to be done with the actress before he directs the sequence. The second photo is also a BTS of Leni’s office. This was taken at around midnight also, but the lights made it look like the sun is still shining.
The first location was in St. James the Apostle Parish Church in Plaridel. Then a nearby police station. Then we transferred to the Plaridel Airport for private jets. We went then to a cemetery to stage the funeral of the late former DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo. Next is a school in Baliuag with a swimming pool, then to Baliwag City Hall. We then transferred to a Baliwag Transit bus. Then to St. Mary’s Baliuag Auditorium. The last sequence was shot at the main road, under the overpass in Baliuag.
The first photo is taken at the Plaridel Airport. We have just arrived here and are on our way to the plane. The second photo is Jesse Robredo’s tomb, taken at a cemetery in Plaridel.
Two Kinds of Shoot
The full-time shoot, and the backpack shoot. The full-time shoot is the full-blown use of equipment to tape a scene. It means that the generator is working, the OB van is on, etc. It is the usual way of shooting. Happens when the scenes are long, or there are many sequences in the same location, or if there is no electricity in a location. The backpack shoot, on the other hand, is when sequences in a location are short or few, or maybe when it is impossible for the generator to reach the location. The electricity comes from the location itself, aka, we plug the lights to the outlets in the location. The generators are not used, and a makeshift monitor and console is set up for the director to cue his shots.
The first photo is what an inside of an OB van looks like (Hi Sir!). The woman on the left is the AP, checking the shots. The second photo is the makeshift monitor set up for the director when in backpack.
There weren’t really major conflicts during the shoot, and they were solved too in no time. Conflict no. 1 is it was the foundation day of the school near the church, and the jeering and drums are picked up in the audio. So before scenes were taped, we waited for the silences in between performances. Ma’am Lindsay was so mad at the Location Manager for not being able to consider this possibility. Conflict no. 2 was during the Plaridel airport scene. Marvin Agustin, who plays Jesse Robredo, arrived an hour late to his call time. Growing up during the Marvin and Jolina era, I can’t help but be awestruck when I saw him. I kept my professional, though. Haha! So anyway, obviously, the whole prod was delayed because he arrived late. Conflict no. 3 is still on the Plaridel Airport. It was supposed to be a hangar scene but certain rules of aviation prohibit the scene we are about to shoot. Apparently, the passenger cannot enter plane in the hangar – which exactly is the scene. Or that the plane cannot be loaded if it is not in the flying area. Since the permit is secured only for the hangar, negotiations were made by the location manager and the aviation authority. It was resolved but it took another hour or two just to do so. Conflict no. 4, well for me, is at the Auditorium of St. Mary’s Baliuag. It took, I think 3-4 hours just to set up the place – that almost all the crew were already fast asleep. It was the recognition of Leni Robredo so the stage were made to look presentable. Conflict no. 5 is when the nuns wouldn’t allow the gaffers to plug the lights – the generators are far away, and we are on the 5th floor. It was resolved later on.
I must have expected it, but I am still surprised how these people are consumed by the work they have. I did not mean that in a negative sense. I mean, they are very professional, and projects a “I work in MMK” vibes. It sounds funny but as an observer, I guess that is one of the many things I have seen. As cliche as it sounds, the whole production really is a clockwork made of gears and cogs perfectly fitting each other. When one fails, time stops. I am surprised how productions could be this big, and according to a friend, this is actually not that large in itself. Compared to our production classes where you are the everyone between Producer and the PA (and sometimes even the talent), you can see how many people you should be to produce a production this big. It is also fun to identify yourself in each of these people. Since you understand in your own way how most of them work, you can feel that you belong; that the small productions we produce in our small home called CMC actually translates to productions in the industry that is this big and with the people sharing the same passion.
The first photo are members of the Art Department, covering the mirrors in the Police Station so that the cameras, the crew, and the lights won’t be caught on cam. The second photo is aBTS of the flashback scene of Jesse and Leni at a park, eating their favorite merienda: mais.
Basically, on this day, the big chunk of what I did was to observe how everything works. I did some of the things the PA did. Like assisting the Artistas. I also observed how Ate Maki, the AD, does the floor directing. Also, I observed how Sir Raz does the cut-to-cut of the sequences inside the OB van or when it’s just a backpack. I also did some Ekstra works! And was seen on TV (sad though that I wasn’t able to take a picture, will update this as soon as the episode goes back online, after the election) with my parents. I sat beside dimples inside the bus. It was surreal and funny at the same time while we were watching at home. One of my close friends even asked if it’s really I that she saw on TV. While waiting for the auditorium scene, I had a few exchanges with Ms. Dimples and her husband, together with Sir Raz. Guess what? To pass the time, we talked about horror stories, while we are at the 5th floor of a school managed by the Religious of the Virgin Mary. It was nice talking with her because, it made me feel more comfortable. On a more personal note, I have learned that I must have a water bottle, sunblock, extra shirts, toiletries, and eyeglasses with me during the shoot. I learned that the hard way today. In other words, I have more prominent tan lines and sunburn.
Here is a photo of me and one of the actresses who stood as children of Leni.
The first thought that came to mind when I realized I will be working in MMK is the interesting thought that it is election season and I can actually be part of how MMK serves as a vehicle to influence the voters. It spilled right there in my eyes, how networks are hands-on to these social issues. ABS CBN is a yellow army, so at the last day before the official campaign season, they produced the Leni Robredo story. I have also observed how inefficiency is present in the shoot. Maybe because of miscommunication, but really, the conflicts I mentioned above are unnecessary stresses, and can be avoided if the people in charge were one step ahead. It also takes so much time and effort transferring from one location to another, and one scene to another. I don’t know if it is inevitable, but I think it can be improved. There are so much lag time in between scenes that the atmosphere becomes very unproductive. Working in this setting will really drain you to the bones, if you’re not made for long hours of work. The energy goes up and down in no time, and if you can’t follow, your body will really expire. So it is not surprising too when people do their best to entertain themselves during these kinds of hours, however, it may also be one of the main reasons why there is lag time in the first place. Yannah and Shiela explained their way to being a tenured PA and man, was I so surprised. One of the ways to become a director is to become a PA. Yannah and Shiela underwent through the same process of classroom and field training, but I find it redundant if I still had to undergo the same training after college. Maybe I am just an eager beaver wanting to do the best I can, or it is really redundant. But anyway, what they do there is to memorize the things that PA’s must do in a production, and it actually make sense. Now I have one clear option to go directly after college: the PA training in ABS CBN. There are really big and small people in the industry. The artistas stay inside airconditioned tent, while the extras lay on the ground with their old tarps. Artistas and the creative staff can eat as much as they want because there is a special table for them with unlimited food, while the extras and the crew enjoy equal servings. In my production classes, I learned that everyone is important in a production. I remember how I learned to respect every role because I understand how they complement one another, and the production will be injured if one of its members are missing. It does not make sense for me because both worked to produce the scenes. I don’t know how it must be answered but how can you really measure a person’s worth, and who really has the right to do so? Maybe this one of the things which needs attention, and I hope someday, it can change. Like the working hours in a production. That is all for now. I’ll be back next time for a true-to-life story from a letter-sender. There I’ll be sharing more about how productions work, and more selfies with artistas and staff too! Buh-bye!