In celebration of its 20th anniversary, Star Magic's workshop and training department is producing its first digital film, Anino. The horror-drama, directed by Rahyan Carlos, is a special project that gives a chance to the ABS-CBN talent center's new generation of stars to work with professional actors Jake Cuenca, Jodi Sta. Maria, Dimples Romana, and Joem Bascon.
According to Direk Rahyan, about 2,000 kids, teenagers, and adults fell in line last October 2011 when they opened a public workshop. 300 hopefuls made the cut—half of which stars in Anino. The screenplay, written by Direk Rahyan and Gina Marissa Tagasa six years back, was tailor-made to fit in 160 cast members.
Apart from these talents who were selected based on how well they performed during the class sessions, actors such as Jake will be featured in the said film.
Anino tells the story of a group of adolescents and adults who go on a retreat aiming to confront their personal conflicts but end up being haunted by their past, present, and future issues.
"In the end it's all about learning to forgive, learning to let go, and learning to move on," tells Direk Rahyan.
"So mas drama siya compared to horror."
Main actor Jake Cuenca is more than glad to be a part of the said project. It was Star Magic's main man Johnny Manahan who asked Jake to lend his improved acting in Anino.
"Sobrang na-flatter ako na ako napili ni Mr. M for this. Parang kumbaga yung mga ganitong oportunidad ito lang siguro yung mga pasasalamat na gusto ko rin iparating kay Mr. M [referring to Mr. Manahan] kasi sobrang bait niya sa sa amin sa lahat ng artista."
Jake recalls being an amateur actor himself who was immersed in workshops.
"Ganun ako nagsimula, e, as a workshopper..." Now he leads a pool of new talents under the direction of Rahyan.
"Parang first time ko natikman maging bida dahil kay Direk Rahyan Carlos. Nung inalok sa akin ni Mr. M ito and, siyempre, sobrang naa-appreciate ko yung passion ng workshoppers kasi nga I myself am a workshopper, pumayag ako to do it.
"E, ano lang naman siya, three days lang and with Direk Rahyan Carlos pa, I mean, how could I say no, 'di ba?"
Direk Rahyan got to work with Jake in romance-thriller Kilig... Pintig...Yanig, a 2008 movie wherein Jake was teamed up with Chynna Ortaleza.
While Jake's character is a significant element in Anino, he says that the main role belongs to the new talents.
"No. Yung bida dito yung workshoppers. Pero marami kaming mga artistang nag-cameo. Maraming prime artists na nag-cameo in this movie.
"Pero I think my role is a little bit bigger than the others kasi yung kahit three days lang ako nag-shoot, medyo yung character ko yung nagtatahi ng kuwento.
"Pero yung bida dito yung workshoppers and yung dapat niyong abangan dito yung mga bagong artista, yung bagong henerasyon ng mga artista. "
Does this mean that Jake is doing the project for free?
"A, ganun ba?" Jake laughs off the question.
"[It's] for the love, for the love! Meron ding honorarium, of course, meron din naman.
"Pero siyempre this is for the love of Star Magic talaga. Yun naman yun."
Jake shares that he was surprised by the talent that he witnessed during the shooting days.
"Nung ginawa ko yung unang eksena, nagulat talaga ako kasi I was expecting very new actors and actresses pero ang galing nila! As in nagulat ako yung unang eksena pa lang, nagulat ako [kasi] umiiyak na agad...
"Sobrang nagugulat ako sa enthusiasm nila na umarte, na gumawa ng pelikula so I'm very proud of them."
BEING A CHARACTER ACTOR
Direk Rahyan, having witnessed Jake start out as an actor, describes how Jake is now faring as an actor.
"The good thing kasi with Jake is nandun yung hunger niya to learn. Meron siyang konsepto ng acting is a lifestyle of learning. Napaka-open niya."
The 25-year-old hunk was recently nominated by the Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC) in the Best Movie Supporting Actor category for his performance in In The Name of Love. Jake was also nominated at the 37th Metro Manila Film Festival as Best New Wave Actor for his role in HIV.
"He keeps on improving. To be honest, andun yung puso niya para matuto.
"More than anything, yun yung dapat na attitude ng isang artista."
Indeed, Jake has been evolving as an artist. In 2011, apart from the aforementioned projects, the actor was seen in primetime soap Green Rose where he starred alongside the pair of Jericho Rosales and Anne Curtis. Last year, Jake played a lead role in sexy-drama film My Neighbor's Wife in which he co-starred with actors Lovi Poe, Dennis Trillo, and Carla Abellana.
What has kept Jake driven to become the actor he is now?
"I think Direk Rahyan put it, I mean... it just goes to show that he really knows me. He met me when I was starting out, nung nagsisimula pa lang ako... And then siyempre, he works with me now.
"I just have this willingness to learn and I just want to keep learning and I want to study people."
Jake finally shares the secret to honing his craft: "I normally got out and I just observe people. I observe my friends.
"Parang ganun lang talaga. Bukas lang talaga ang utak ko to being different.
"And siyempre in every role that I do, as much as possible gusto ko iba- iba yung itsura. Like now I lost weight for my role, I got darker.
"So parang gusto ko iba siya lagi. Gusto ko [tuwing] pinapanood niyo yung character ko, hindi [ako] si Jake Cuenca.
"I'm more into being a character actor and I enjoy that. I enjoy being different people."