ANATOMY OF A TELESERYE: How do ABS-CBN and GMA-7 produce their teleseryes? (Part 1)

IMAGE Wildflower / Ika-6 Na Utos / La Luna Sangre / Encantadia

In this special report, PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) aims to find out how ABS-CBN and GMA-7 produce their teleseryes. The TV shows are featured in this article are (L-R) Wildflower, Ika-6 Na Utos, La Luna Sangre, and Encantadia.



Teleseryes have become a major part of Filipinos' daily lives.

Most televiewers are curious to find out how these shows are conceptualized and executed.

TV aficionados often observe how programs affect and make an impact on pop culture.

In the process, they come up with a lot of questions related to the creation and production of their favorite TV shows.

Why do some television shows get extended for years while others get cut short?

How do TV networks handle a crisis when it comes to producing teleseryes?

This is what PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) aimed to find out by going straight to the source: ABS-CBN and GMA-7, the two biggest TV networks in the country.

PEP.ph sought the expertise of three key people who produce drama content for the two TV stations.

For ABS-CBN, PEP.ph interviewed two business unit heads (BUH): Ruel Santos Bayani, the business unit head of RSB Drama Unit, and Lourdes De Guzman-Tawangco, the business unit head of Star Creatives's TV unit.

For GMA-7, PEP.ph spoke to Redgie A. Magno, Vice President for Drama Productions of the Kapuso network's Entertainment Content Group (ECG).

PEP.ph used four teleseryes as case studies in this special report: ABS-CBN's Wildflower and La Luna Sangre, and GMA-7's Ika-6 Na Utos and Encantadia.

These four shows were chosen for their good performances in terms of TV ratings and audience reception, aside from the fact that they were also awarded several extensions.

This report is divided into eight parts: Conceptualization (development of story before a teleserye airs), Casting (how producers assign actors in TV shows), Getting The Green Light (how TV shows get approved for airing), Timeslot (how management decides the timeslot of a TV show), Feedback from Viewers (how producers make decisions based on audience feedback and TV ratings), Series Extension (what producers do once a TV show is extended), Budget (how producers are able to mount big scenes), and Crisis Management (how producers handle problems in production).

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To sum up the special report, PEP.ph created this infographic to provide an overview of the process used by the two giant networks to produce their teleseryes, based on the accounts of the sources.

Take note that details about ABS-CBN's teleserye development are in BLUE, while those that apply to GMA-7 are in RED.



 

CONCEPTUALIZATION

The two giant networks have different methods in conceptualizing and developing stories that they intend to offer their televiewers.

In the case of GMA-7, the drama group has regular meetings every week where they open pitching to writers so they can develop concepts for the programming of the Kapuso Network.

Magno explained, "Somehow, they already have an idea if it should be a family drama, let's say, we want a high concept, we tell them. We want fantasy, we want a story about sisters, yun yung mga binabato namin.

"But it's not limited to that. If they have a good story, even if we don't ask for it and they want to pitch it, they're free to do it."

How do these concepts get approved?

"[Writers] present their stories, may deliberation, 'tapos sino maso-shortlist.

"Yung creator is the one who presents it, so if we have questions, sila ang creator noon, they will be able to answer.

"So kung medyo may buzz 'tapos medyo interesting yung kwento, kakaiba, it's not the usual story or merong something that is engaging, for example, yung Kambal Karibal [starring Bianca Umali and Miguel Tanfelix], may multo, then we ask the creator to develop it, and then we schedule for another pitch.

"This time, developed na siya. Kasi noong una, there's a logline and then the development of the story but it's not fully developed, yung hindi mo pa makikita yung talagang takbo ng istorya niya. So when it's shortlisted, we ask them to develop it further, then they present it again."

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 Kambal Karibal (starring Kyline Alcantara, Miguel Tanfelix, Bianca Umali, and Pauline Mendoza) is one of GMA-7's top-rating prime time series that started airing in November 2017.


Meanwhile, for ABS-CBN, each drama unit has different strategies when it comes to developing concepts.

Most of the time, the story comes first before the casting.

However, there are some instances when a concept is developed for a certain actor or actress, such as in the case of Liza Soberano, who was discovered and developed by Star Creatives unit.

Tanwangco explained, "Sometimes, may maa-eye na new talent. For example, si Liza.

"Noong nag-audition si Liza, nakita na siya talaga that she has potential. May career development na kaming ginawa for her. So after which, triny namin siya sa Forevermore with Enrique Gil.

"Walang nakakakilala sa kanya, maraming nagda-doubt but we saw something in her. So ayun, after Forevermore, everything was history na, and then Dolce Amore.

"Merong handpicked kasi merong nakikita. So this is the star, this is the actress, this is the girl, gawan niyo ng konsepto."


Forevermore (2014) was Liza Soberano's first major teleserye in ABS-CBN where she played the lead role along with love team partner Enrique Gil.


The same goes for Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla's follow-up project after Princess and I, which was Got To Believe.

It is no secret that the original plan in Princess and I was for Kathryn and Enrique's characters to end up together in the show.

However, Tanwangco said, "Si Daniel Padilla doon sa Princess and I, pumutok siya talaga. Triangle yun, e. Pero mas nakaangat doon si Daniel. Enrique-Kathryn pa yun, e.

"So noong pumutok siya, we had to make a concept na agad na Kathryn-Daniel. So depende sa mga nangyayari.

"May mga times naman, mas madalas, konsepto muna, kuwento muna."

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This was also the case for La Luna Sangre, a concept that was developed three years ago and was eventually awarded to KathNiel, who were handpicked to do the project.


 

Daniel Padilla, Kathryn Bernardo, and Enrique Gil figured in a love triangle in Star Creatives's teleserye Princess and I (2012).

RSB Drama Unit's Wildflower's story was also conceptualized first even before Maja Salvador came into the picture.

Bayani said, "Nauna kasing inisip yung kwento bago yung casting. So hindi pa si Maja ang bida."

When it comes to the conceptualization of the show, the head of RSB Drama Unit said that they were just looking for a concept that would fit the current programming of the Kapamilya Network.

"Naghahanap lang kami ng tamang project na sasakto sa programming ng mga shows, hindi namin iniisip na, di ba, ang dami naman dapat i-consider?

"Nagkataon lang kasi, ang tagal nang walang revenge na ganitong scale. Kaya ang dating, naging fresh siya.

"Pero pag tinignan mo, wala namang bago tungkol sa isang avenging heroine, dahil 'yan namang story na 'yan, tale as old as time, 'yan naman ay paulit-ulit namang ginawa."


The story of Wildflower (2017) was conceptualized and developed first before it was pitched to Maja Salvador.

 

CASTING

ABS-CBN and GMA-7's casting processes for their lead characters are almost the same.

However, they have different strategies in getting actors and actresses for their TV projects.

In ABS-CBN's Star Creatives unit, they usually develop newbies who have the potential to become bankable actors and actresses.

The drama unit also has its own system of casting artists who have previously played supporting roles.

"Yung unit kasi namin, talagang values namin o sanay kami mag-unearth ng mga lumang artista, the likes of... di ba, nag-Manilyn Reynes kami, Joey Marquez, Benjie Paras, yung mga matagal nang hindi nakikita.

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"Kasi nga ang dami-daming ginagawang soap opera ngayon, di ba, not only in ABS-CBN pero sa GMA din. So it's a fresh glimpse pag nakahanap ka ng bagong casting, di ba? Challenging din yun sa amin."


Benjie Paras and Manilyn Reynes played a couple in Star Creatives' teleserye Got To Believe (2013).

One surprise move is the inclusion of Richard Gutierrez as the villain Sandrino in Star Creatives' La Luna Sangre.

Tanwangco recalled how they got Richard for his first project with ABS-CBN.

"We were looking for the right actor who will play Sandrino.

"We're looking for an actor. So bato, bato, bato, hindi puwede. Mukhang hindi tatanggapin.

"And then there was someone, isa sa mga writers, sabi niya, 'Bakit hindi po kaya si Richard Gutierrez?' So na-excite kaming lahat."

When she brought up the idea to Star Creatives head Malou Santos, Tanwangco did not have expectations.

Apparently, the former GMA-7 actor was supposed to do a Maalaala Mo Kaya episode, which made it even more likely for him to accept a role in La Luna Sangre.

After several negotiations, Richard became interested and eventually accepted the role.


La Luna Sangre is Richard Gutierrez's first teleserye with ABS-CBN, aside from the fact that it was also his first kontrabida role.

Meanwhile, RSB Drama Unit looks for the right star who fits the requirements of a certain role.

This explains why their shows do not employ the same artists, especially in the lead, over and over again.

Bayani explained, "Hindi naman talaga kami laging pare-pareho yung mga artista. Kasi kina-cast namin sila based on characters, based on the requirements of specific characters.

"For example, Maja did so well in Wildflower, pero wala akong follow-up show for Maja so I really don't mind if she stars in another show in another unit.

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"Kapag may maganda naman akong material later on, down the road, puwede ko rin namang i-pitch sa kanya but not necessarily kailangan maging signature actress ko si Maja.

"Lahat na, every year kailangan may show siya sa akin. Hindi ganun."

It also became a subject of discussion among viewers when Maja's leading men in Wildflower—Joseph Marco, Vin Abrenica, and RK Bagatsing—were not exactly big names in the industry.

Justifying this move, Bayani reasoned out that he doesn't believe in the old adage in show business where only big-marquee names are allowed to take on lead roles.

He said, "Honestly, hindi kasi ako naniniwala sa dapat sikat, dapat ganyan. This is a different time.

"Yung story ang importante, yung characters ang importante. Napaka-old school na noong, 'Dapat, ito ang gaganap doon.' Hindi na ganyan 'yan."

 

Vin Abrenica, Joseph Marco, and RK Bagatsing became known as the "Wild Boys" after they were cast as leading men of Maja Salvador in Wildflower.

On the other hand, the drama executives and teams of GMA-7 shows also do brainstorming when it comes to casting their characters.

"May mga characters na meron na kaming naiisip na ilagay na artist for that character," Magno explained.

This is what happened when Sunshine Dizon was cast as the lead actress in Ika-6 Na Utos.

At that time, Sunshine was still doing the prime time series Encantadia.

Some viewers assumed that the Kapuso network intentionally did the show for Sunshine because it coincided with the time that she had marital problems with her estranged husband who allegedly had an affair with another woman.

However, Magno clarified, "It was not really intended for Sunshine, it was just a story that was pitched and that was approved.

"And then when we did the casting, dun na namin naisip na si Sunshine ang the best na ilagay dito kasi su-swak, makaka-relate siya dahil nangyayari sa kanya.

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"That time, she was still doing Encantadia kaya we had to pull her out and assign her to do this."

How did Sunshine react to the offer?

Magno recalled, "Na-excite siya na parang sabi niya, 'Are you serious?' Akala niya, joke.

"Kasi that time, parang inaayos pa yata yung kaso niya. So sabi namin, kakayanin mo ba? Kasi, of course, may mga scenes doon that would be similar to what is happening to her.

"E, alam mo naman si Sunshine, artista naman yun. Sabi niya, 'Ay hindi, mahihiwalay ko naman yung trabaho.' But sobra siyang parang na-excite doon sa project, 'tapos yun nga, it turned out, okay naman."

 

Sunshine Dizon gamely accepted the role of Emma in Ika-6 Na Utos, even though she had marital problems when the show was offered to her.


There are times when GMA-7 plans to use a show as a launching platform for new talents.

Magno said, "There are also characters na gusto namin, bago, fresh faces. We are the ones who recommend to open it for auditions."

One example is the requel (remake + sequel) of the telefantasya Encantadia, where the lead characters had to pass auditions and screen tests.

She pointed out, "Nag-open kami talaga for new faces, actually.

"Nag-call out kami sa mga nagsa-scout sa mga commercials, agencies, so meron kaming ganoong audition.

"Meron din kaming from our artists sa GMA kasi kami we believe na it's the project that makes the artist, e."


This photo of (L-R) Rocco Nacino, Kylie Padilla, Glaiza de Castro, Sanya Lopez, Gabbi Garcia, and Ruru Madrid, which came out in March 2016, intensified rumors that these GMA actors are the main cast of Encantadia's requel. This was confirmed when the final cast was announced a month later. The casting received mixed reactions on social media before its airing in July 2016.

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Executives of GMA-7 believe that the success of a project is what makes an actor or actress bankable in showbiz.

"Parang example, MariMar made Marian Rivera, in the same manner na Mulawin made Angel Locsin and Richard Gutierrez. That's why more on doon muna kami sa material at saka kami maglalagay ng artista, especially sa build-up projects namin."

"That's what we believe in, it's the project that makes the artist, not vice versa na kahit na siguro malaking project, if it's not the right material for the artist or even if you have a very popular actor or actress, if the material is not good, hindi rin siya magwo-work for them.

"Dapat merong compatibility, ito yung perfect material for this artist. 'Tapos, yung build-up, dapat the right material din for them. 'Tapos, sunud-sunod na 'yan, e.

"In the case of Angel noon, Alwina [in Mulawin] then Darna. 'Tapos kay Marian naman, MariMar and then Dyesebel, hanggang sa it made her."


GMA-7's Darna (2005) and MariMar (2007) were big-budgeted projects that became the launching pads for two of Philippines's bankable actresses: Angel Locsin and Marian Rivera, respectively.

 

GETTING THE GREEN LIGHT

When the story is fully developed, the cast is complete, and a show is ready to air, all teleseryes for both networks have to get the green light for airing from upper management.

In ABS-CBN, the pilot week for a teleserye is previewed by management before a show makes it to television.

Tanwangco explained, "Pe-preview-hin yung pilot week ng upper management.

"Minsan, halimbawa, nanuod sila, hindi okay sa casting, puwedeng palitan yun. Hangga't hindi umeere, walang final."

When a show goes on air, ABS-CBN management continues to check on the development of the story. For this reason, the outline (or "latag") of story arcs must be approved up to the Chief Operating Officer (COO), who is Cory Vidanes.

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Bayani said, "All latag, all main story arcs are approved all the way to COO—Cory Vidanes.

"So 'yan ay tina-traffic, inaayos, so we never make decisions out of a whim.

"Hindi level ng executive producer, hindi level lang ng director, hindi level ng BUH."

Same goes with GMA-7, where the final cast of a teleserye is presented first to the top management before they officially do the role.

Top management is headed by Felipe L. Gozon, Chairman and CEO of GMA Network.

Magno explained, "What we do is we recommend the artist to top management, and top management gives the final approval.

"So lahat kami, recommendation lang. Pero siyempre, when we recommend, we justify, why do you think she is the best artist to portray that role, idya-justify namin yun.

"Pero hindi lang kami ang may approval. It has a process, we go through that process, merong approval ng top management."

 

TIMESLOT

Along with management approval comes the decision to put a TV show in its appropriate timeslot.

Tanwangco said that usually, their shows, even before being previewed by management, already have pegged timeslots.

However, this is no longer the case.

"Dati, laging nasusunod kung ano yung target slot mo. But nowadays, iba kasi, iba na yung landscape, di ba?"

One show that experienced a drastic timeslot change is the currently-running daytime series Sana Dalawa Ang Puso, starring Jodi Sta. Maria, Richard Yap, and Robin Padilla. It wasn't originally slated to have the daytime slot before It's Showtime.

But then the business unit head of Star Creatives explained, "Noong napanuod na nila, yung mix ng programming kasi, upper management ang nakakaalam noon, e, kung anong mix, from morning hanggang matapos ang prime time.

"So feeling nila, there's a need for a lighter show sa umaga kasi, di ba, yung Ikaw Lang Ang Iibigin (starring Kim Chiu and Gerald Anderson), medyo heavy din.

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"So baka it's about time na ibalik natin sa light yung umaga. 'Tapos di ba, Daytime King and Queen nga si Jodi at saka si Richard? So noong napanuod nila, decision has to be made na doon sila ilagay."


Sana Dalawa Ang Puso, starring Robin Padilla, Jodi Sta. Maria, and Richard Yap, wasn't originally intended to air in the daytime slot, according to Star Creatives Business Unit Head Lourdes Tanwangco.


This was also the case for Wildflower, which was originally intended to air after It's Showtime in February 2017.

Bayani revealed, "It was supposed to replace Doble Kara. Then they previewed it and they just told me that they were moving it sa timeslot na ito, which is the gateway to prime-time and a very important timeslot.

"Dahil doon, siyempre, nagulat kami. Na-flatter at kinilig din siyempre, kasi obviously, yung original na intention mo, nalagpasan pa. Yung expectation mo, nalagpasan pa ng reality."

Bayani considers getting moved to the pre-prime time slot as a blessing for Wildflower.

"I think it was meant to be, talagang doon siya dapat kasi hindi ako sure kung masarap panuorin yung politics after Showtime kung natuloy kami doon. Hindi mo masasabi, e.

"But then, of course, hindi na natin malalaman because hindi na nga kami umere doon."

GMA-7, on the other hand, has a different strategy when it comes to timeslots.

In fact, the conceptualization of a show depends on which timeslot it will air, either on afternoon or prime-time.

The creative and production teams of the Kapuso network make sure that the show will cater to the specific audience profile of that timeslot.

Magno elaborated, "Actually, doon sa afternoon, pag nagpapa-pitch kami ng kuwento, walang particular timeslot, parang kumbaga wala yung specific na timeslot siya.

"It should be developed in such a way na it can be placed sa 1, 2, or 3."

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1, 2, and 3 refers to the three consecutive timeslots of afternoon shows after Eat Bulaga!

She continued, "Pero more or less, sa 1, ang ano namin doon is yung family drama na mas current, mas relevant, mas traditional.

"Pero yung third, medyo may konting fantasy.

"So meron kaming combination na straight drama, medyo edgy, 'tapos merong isa, sinusundutan namin ng fantasy. Pero it's not always like that."

This became the consideration why Ika-6 Na Utos was placed in the first afternoon slot.

She divulged, "Actually, there was a time when that slot was being beaten by It's Showtime. Kasi naglagay sila ng singing contest [referring to Tawag ng Tanghalan] so kahit anong ilagay namin doon, hindi talaga nagwo-work.

"That's why we thought of something na strong title, strong cast, a good director, lahat ng combination na iniisip namin na sobrang strong para ma-regain niya yung viewers niya na nakuha ng Showtime. So ayun, nag-work naman."

When it comes to prime time, Magno said that they are already familiar with the shows that can cater to the audiences of the first two slots.

"Actually, yung sa prime time naman, first and second, halos magkaparehas lang 'yan ng timpla kasi yung audience profile ng first and second, halos the same.

"Yung third is different, yung third is medyo experimental, e. Puwede kang maglagay diyan ng suspense, puwede kang maglagay ng rom-com, puwede ka ring maglagay ng heavy drama.

"Kung mapapansin mo, kunyari sa amin, meron kaming Meant To Be [starring Barbie Forteza] na family drama rin pero rom-com. Meron kaming nilagay na Someone To Watch Over Me [starring Lovi Poe and Tom Rodriguez] na sobrang heavy drama din.

"Yung dalawang shows na yun, nag-rate pareho, and The One That Got Away [starring Dennis Trillo] is doing very well."


Romantic-comedy series Meant To Be (2017), starring Barbie Forteza, Ken Chan, Jak Roberto, Ivan Dorschner, and Addy Raj, was placed in the third prime-time slot where it enjoyed high ratings.

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Magno also noticed that ABS-CBN also experiments with the content placed in the third prime-time slot.

"Even sa kabila, kung mapapansin mo, iba nang iba yung genre ng nilalagay nila sa third.

"Meron silang The Good Son now na drama, and then meron din sila doon na love story, pakilig. Iba nang iba, e.

"Unpredictable ang audience ng third slot, sa totoo lang, na yung iba, gusto nilang mag-relax, gusto lang nilang tumawa.

"Pero puwede mo rin silang ma-hook if it's a really really good story like Someone To Watch Over Me na parang gusto rin naman nilang umiyak, cathartic. So unpredictable siya."


GMA-7's heavy drama Someone To Watch Over Me (2016), starring Tom Rodriguez, Lovi Poe, and Max Collins, also registered high ratings despite being aired late at night.

 

FEEDBACK FROM VIEWERS

In a world dominated by social media, people have become more vocal about their reactions to the TV shows that they watch.

Such is the case with ABS-CBN's La Luna Sangre, where viewers would voice out on social media their reactions and even rants about a certain episode.

How did they deal with these comments from the fans?

Tanwangco said, "Kapag nagra-rant sila, siyempre mag-uusap-usap kami and we will ask ourselves. Chine-check mo yung validity of their comments.

"'Tapos, pag nakita namin na baka nga, tignan natin, balikan natin. Pag hindi naman, wala kaming gagawin. Pero pag valid, talaga namang ia-address."

However, she clarified that they also consider other audience segments in terms of story adjustment.

"Meron kaming research team, mas nagre-rely kami doon kasi mix yun ng lahat ng class na nanunuod ng shows.

"Kasi sila, isang segment lang sila and they are fans. I know, lahat ng request, yung mga comments, kasi mahal nila yung idols nila and wala naman kaming problema doon.

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"So kami, nakikinig kami, pinakikinggan namin pero hindi lahat ng pagkakataon, kailangan namin i-address kasi alam namin yung pupuntahan."

 

Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla's fans were vocal about their opinions during the run of La Luna Sangre.


This also happened to Wildflower because more fans clamored for Maja Salvador to be paired with RK Bagatsing and Vin Abrenica rather than Maja's main leading man, Joseph Marco.

However, until the end, Bayani and his creative team remained faithful to their first plan: to have Maja and Joseph's characters end up together.

He said about this, "That's one thing that people should learn: a show-runner cannot run a show waking up every morning, waiting for feedback, waiting for research, waiting for social media reaction.

"That is no way to tell a story kasi you should have a creative disposition to know na may kabuuan yung kuwento na yun, kailangang panindigan yun, hindi puwedeng binabagu-bago every whim.

"Hindi siya isang bagay na ginagawa to please a certain group, to please pag may clamor na ganito.

"Kaya nga kami, nasa amin ang responsibilidad ng paggawa ng kuwento para patibayin yun, ipaglaban yun, panindigan yun hanggang dulo.

"And then, kung saka-sakali namang binago ko, ibig sabihin, naniwala rin naman ako sa sarili ko, hindi dahil sa ibang tao na may dapat ibahin."

 

Despite viewers' clamor for Maja Salvador's other leading men in Wildflower, her character Lily Cruz still ended up with her original leading man, Joseph Marco. This scene showed their characters getting married.


In GMA-7, the best example for social media feedback would be Ika-6 Na Utos, which had its fair share of viral moments.

However, according to Magno, their primary basis when it comes to feedback is the ratings.

Talking about bashers, she said, "Lahat naman merong ganun, di ba, pero at the end of the day, ang lagi na lang namin sinasabi, pinapanood pa rin nila. Kasi we cannot naman please everybody. So meron at merong magbabash.

"Nanunuod sila dahil alam nila kung ano yung ibabash nila.

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"Pero kahit papaano, titignan mo rin kung may point, kung meron silang sinasabi na parang valid naman yung observation nila.

"Pero yun nga, ang proof na okay ang show is the ratings. So even if there are viewers whom you do not really please, at the end of the day, sino ba yung mas marami? Mas marami ang natutuwa rather than yung nagbabash.

"But then again, hindi naman namin completely dini-disregard yung nambabash. Tinitignan din namin kung may valid point naman 'yon and then we do something about it."

 

Ryza Cenon's nerf gun became one of the viral scenes in Ika-6 Na Utos.


Magno also shared the strategy that they do when a show gets lower TV ratings than expected.

She explained, "Kapag ganon, kasi may story map na 'yan, di ba? So kapag medyo struggling siya, or medyo yung hindi nagwo-work itong kuwento na ito, bibilisan namin.

"Magbabagsak kami ng plots which are not working and we will move the story forward sa plot na nagwo-work.

"Kasi somehow alam mo naman na kung ano yung pinag-uusapan, even sa social media, ano yung medyo parang hindi kagat, ida-drop namin yun.

"Bibilisan namin yung storytelling, yung progression para somehow, the objective is to improve the ratings."

Unfortunately, there are instances when shows had to be cut short.

She continued, "Let's say, if we've done that already and I'm sure kabila, ginagawa ito, we've done the best we could sa pag-ayos ng kuwento and hindi pa rin kinakagat, we shorten the run and, of course, lahat naman 'yan, pine-prepare naman agad yung kapalit.

"Pero yun na nga, we shorten the run kasi siyempre, kapag bumaba ng bumaba, ang hirap na baka pag pumasok yung bago, mas wala ka nang audience, di ba?

"And then we announce na matatapos na yung show, so siyempre kahit papaano, yung viewers would want to watch the end part of the show.

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"Yun yung pinaka-last resort. Ang pinaka solution is still work on it until you improve the ratings and ultimately, ma-outperform mo yung kabila, yun naman ang goal."

Since the landscape of television has already changed, there are a lot of metrics being considered to rate the success of a show, according to Bayani.

He explained, "Television, in this rapidly changing environment, in this rapidly changing landscape, sobra na siyang bago na hindi mo na masusukat ang success na ang metrics lang ba ay ratings, advertising load lang ba, social media engagement lang ba?

"Nowadays, it's six reasons all at the same time. Six factors all at the same time.

"Hindi na siya nade-determine na sikat yung show mo dahil ganito, sikat ba yung show mo sa Pilipinas at sa labas ng Pilipinas, sa TFC?

"Sa mga nanunuod sa iWanTV, sa nanunuod sa social media, usapan sa kanto, usapan sa lalim ng pagkakakilala nila sa characters?"

 

SERIES EXTENSION

The four shows used as case studies in this PEP.ph special report all got extended.

La Luna Sangre, for instance, was originally intended to run for only 26 weeks but it ended up airing for 40 weeks (10 months).

Tanwangco revealed, "Twenty-six weeks lang, so extension na 'yan, kasi nag-end kami ng 40, e. Twenty-six weeks lang talaga kami originally."

Before deciding on the extension, management consulted them first about extending the storytelling.

"Tatanungin ka naman ng management, e, kung hanggang saan. Especially kami kasi nga fantasy siya.

"'Yan lang, hanggang 40 lang talaga kaya wala na ring umapela kasi hindi na namin kaya."

Same goes with GMA-7's Ika-6 Na Utos, which was reported to have an initial six-week run before it was extended to one year and three months.

Magno said that they inform the creative teams early on if they decide to extend a show's run.

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Ika-6 Na Utos also became the first teleserye after many years to have a six-day run since GMA-7 decided to keep airing it until Saturday.

"When it was being considered, na sound off na namin yung creatives so more or less, ang lagi mong tatanungin, kakayanin niyo ba?

"E, sa kanila naman, parang ganito lang 'yan, yung i-e-air mo ng Lunes, i-e-air mo ng Saturday kaya lang siyempre yung cliffhanger of the week, so dapat matindi yun para yung viewers panuorin ka ulit ng Lunes.

"Kumbaga, it's not just parang hinabaan lang nila o inangat lang nila yung Monday, ginawang Saturday. No.

"Talagang yung Saturday nila, ang scripting-wise, writers made sure na ang iiwanan mo for that week, aabangan ng Monday."

Just like the Kapamilya network, the creative teams of GMA-7 are also asked by management if they can still stretch the story if the executives decide to extend a show's run.

"Kami naman ang tinatanong, e, kung meron pa ba kayong kuwento, kasi mahirap naman magtuluy-tuloy pero wala na palang kuwento.

"Pero kung meron pa, sabihin ng mga writers na meron pa po kami, may mga plots pa na puwedeng i-develop, puwede pang tumakbo, then okay.

"If not naman, let's say feeling namin, na-saturate na natin, mahirap naman kasi na pipilitin mong i-stretch, nandito ka na, bumaba ka pa.

"We don't want naman to end na mas mababa.

"Kumbaga, end high para sakali mang magkaroon ng part two, another season, di ba?

"Mahirap din naman i-deceive mo yung viewers na kumbaga ridiculous na yung mga gagawin mong eksena at masyado mo nang inii-stretch ang kuwento.

"Basta gusto namin lang, yung tinakbo ng show, merong maiiwan doon sa viewers, yung something positive for the show.

"Hindi yung pipilitin mo siyang i-stretch 'tapos ang maiiwan, ano ba 'yan, ini-strech naman ng ini-stretch yung show, ayaw namin.

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"Even if the show is rating high, kung wala na kaming ma-o-offer na magandang story sa viewers, we will end it kasi parang hanggang doon na lang yung itatakbo ng istorya niya.

"So stretching it further will already affect the storytelling of the show and even the story of the show."

 

BUDGET

The two networks both have their own strategies when it comes to managing the expenses of their shows.

For instance, in Wildflower, Bayani admitted that they had a lot of costs when it came to their scenes.

He said, "Laging magasta. Remember, hindi lang naman yung big scenes ang magasta sa 'min, yung artista pa lang, magasta na, e.

"But we were committed to come up with a quality show na without naman forsaking the budget or disregarding the budget.

"Marami, maraming control, pagtitipid sa maraming area para ma-afford ito, because if you look at the show, it's really big, it has a lot of actors, it's always crowded.

"So hindi mo puwedeng sabihing tinipid kasi hindi mo makikitang tinipid from location to crowd scenes to yung mga party scenes, wedding scenes."


Maja Salvador gets assistance from production staff in putting her veil while wearing the controversial black wedding gown in Wildflower.


In the same vein, Tanwangco admitted that La Luna Sangre is an expensive show mainly because of its fantasy genre.

"Medyo mahal siya na show kasi fantasy siya, di ba? 'Tapos, may effects. 'Tapos may sets kami.

"Hindi kasi normal na drama. Mas mahal siya than the usual straight drama series."

However, she said that they were able to manage their expenses, mainly because the people behind the show have already mastered the genre, even though they were taping hand to mouth.

"Happy kami kasi meron kaming production team na sobrang professional. Nakapag-work na sila sa Southeast Asia, e. So sila, mabilis sila kasi specialization nila yun, e.

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"Kasi, di ba, ang success naman ng isang series, laging dapat fit doon sa genre yung directors. Kasi pag hindi siya fit dun sa genre, kadalasan magiging failure yun ng project.

"So ito nakakakuha kami ng action team na marunong. Yung mabilis na magtrabaho, hindi yung inaaral na yung ganyan-ganyan. Nakatulong din sila sa pag-manage namin noong budget. Mas mabilis."


One of the crucial scenes in La Luna Sangre was the fight scene between Tristan (Daniel Padilla) and Malia (Kathryn Bernardo).


For Ika-6 Na Utos, Magno said the producers have already planned out their budget since they are receiving scripts in advance.

This is very important since the budget for an afternoon show is lower than those aired in the primetime block.

She explained, "Doon naman papasok ang husay ng mga producers kasi yun na nga, they require the writers to submit the scripts early.

"Kasi they do naman their creative meetings, di ba, so during the creative meetings, malalaman mo nang kailangan ng yate, pupunta ng island, may wedding scene, so napag-uusapan doon, napagpaplanuhan ng producers.

"Minsan, by Week 5, meron tayong malalaking eksena diyan. So yung Week 4, renda renda tayo nang konti ng gastos natin. So napaplano nila.

"And then meron ding mga weeks na meron kaming kunyari nase-save on the previous weeks, ilalaan namin sa expenses on that week kasi nga alam namin na this week, medyo malaki ang set-up natin diyan, malalaki.

"But of course, this has to get approval. We seek pa rin approval from top management.

"But ang top management naman gives us all the support pag kailangan namin ng ganyan, basta magde-deliver lang kayo ng ratings."

For GMA's fantasy program Encantadia, things became easier when they decided to construct a forest inside a studio.

Magno revealed, "Sa totoo lang, may savings pa kasi noong nag-studio, mas naging efficient dahil nandoon na lang kayo sa isang lugar, e.

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"Wala na kayong cost ng transfer location, wala nang mga delays, lahat nandoon na.

"Nandoon na lahat kaya lang meron kaming kunyari naging tao si ganyan, naging mortal, yun lang, lalabas kami doon. Pero yung most of the scenes were done inside the studio."

 

Encantadia has constructed its own set for the Encantadia kingdom and forest locations.

CRISIS MANAGEMENT

Of course, producing a teleserye comes with its own set of problems.

One such problem happened in Encantadia, when lead actress Kylie Padilla became pregnant with her child with boyfriend Aljur Abrenica.

When the news broke in January 2017, Encantadia was already running for seven months.

Magno described what happened in her own words: "Medyo talagang nagimbal kami doon."

This was because Kylie's character Amihan played an important part in the story and the show's performance also got affected.

The Kapuso executive continued, "We had to do talagang major adjustment in terms of story.

"I think that was the only major problem na na-encounter nila kasi the rest, mga production ano talaga na hindi tao ang cause ng problema.

"Kumbaga, may involved lang na member of the cast na very major na giba yung kuwento, magigiba. Yung planong kuwento hanggang sa dulo, gigibain mo yun."

Encantadia continued airing and it was even awarded an extension until it aired its final episode in May 2017.


Encantadia fans were surprised by the death of Sang'gre Amihan, played by Kylie Padilla. Kylie had to leave the show in January 2017 because of her pregnancy.

Aside from pregnancy, a TV show can also encounter other problems such as getting stars with attitude problems, personal problems, and those afflicted with illnesses.

How do GMA-7's ECG executives address these situations?

"Kapag may currently airing na show at ang mangyayari sa artista ay hindi na siya puwedeng lumabas, kunyari lumalaki na yung tiyan niya, o kunyari nag-istokwa siya, basta ang presence niya ay makaka-affect doon sa show that's currently airing, then we will take out the character.

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"Gagawa kami ng kuwento para biglang mawawala yung character.

"Pero kunyari, pinaplano pa lang yung character, we will change her or him. Yung kunyari nasa planning stage pa lang pero confirmed na, nakapag-storycon na and all 'tapos nagkaroon ng problema, itse-change.

"Even din nakapag-taping na ng ilang episodes pero kung itutuloy mo, mas malaki ang risk o baka sa gitna, doon pa magkaroon ng mas malaking problema, hangga't maaga pa, solbin na yung problema.

"One way to solve it is to reshoot or change the artist kung talagang ganoon na ka-delicate, ha.

"Pero kung hindi naman, kunyari nagkaroon lang ng problema na biglang naging pasaway, pagpapahingahin lang namin ng konti pero ibabalik din namin.

"May mga gano'n, kasi siyempre hindi naman namin puwedeng i-tolerate kapag may ginagawang mali. Merong mga ganong characters na pag merong maling ginawa, siyempre imi-meeting namin 'tapos pagpapahingahin muna yung character kasi pag nagtuluy-tuloy, baka mas lalong mag-create ng malaking problem sa production.

"So kapag may problema siya, kunyari personal or whatever, solbin muna natin yung problem mo, yung character mo will take the backseat first and then pag maaayos naman, then ibabalik natin.

"So parang gagawa ka lang muna ng kuwento na nagpunta ng kung saan, nag abroad or whatever, we will not kill the character right away.

"Pero pag yung medyo hindi mo na maso-solve na we go on with it, mas malaking problema for the production, yun yung medyo talagang tatanggalin mo na siya sa show.

"Kumbaga, hahanapan mo na ng ibang anggulo para lang unti-unti mo nang ie-ease out sa show."

Meanwhile, in La Luna Sangre, their number one problem was the hand-to-mouth schedule in their tapings.

The cause of this was, according to Tanwangco, "Pag in-air siya ng wala pa siyang enough na bangko."

Apparently, the show aired its pilot in June 2017 with only one and a half weeks of canned episodes.

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"Imagine from week one, hand-to-mouth siya. Kasi hindi lang naman natatapos sa set ang stress, e.

"Pagdating ng post, dahil nga may effects, e. Hanggang doon, hanggang umeere.

"Kapag natapos yung airing dun mo lang masasabi na natapos namin yung araw.

"Minsan umeere na, may hinihintay pa kaming effects."

There was one episode, in fact, where netizens noticed the lack of special effects during a fight scene.

It was the last episode of Angel Locsin in La Luna Sangre.

"Oo, sumabit kami. Yun, hindi na kinaya. Kasi minsan, mag-e-ere kami ng hundred shots, yung may CG [computer graphics], hinahabol talaga namin yun.

"Ganoon kadugo yung pangyayari kapag nagbi-big scene. Ito kasi hindi lang siya big scene na may drama, nagtatalakan.

"Ito hindi, e. Ang big scene nito, laging may kasamang CG, laging may kasamang visual, special effects."

It was a good thing that their visual effects supplier, Mothership, was prepared for the hand-to-mouth situation of the series.

"Meron silang shoot supervisor who goes to the set and guides the directors.

"The directors will consult them na kaya ba ito, given na eere na ito bukas, or given na eere na ito mamaya.

"Yun yung biggest challenge sa amin, dahil hand-to-mouth kami, and it is a fantaserye, packed with CG, yun yung challenge.

"Minsan nalilimit mo na yung creative freedom mo kasi nga wala kayong time, e. So minsan kahit ito yung gusto mo, pero dahil wala nga kayong time, 'O, Mothership, ito ba kaya pa nating gawin?' Yun 'yong malaking challenge sa amin.

"Naka-gear sila doon, e. Kasi from the very start, alam nila na magha-hand-to-mouth din talaga 'yan, e. Noong isasalang pa lang kami, alam nila 'yan."

 

La Luna Sangre relies heavily on computer graphics (CG). In this scene, the Lady in Red (Angel Locsin) used her powers to defeat Sandrino (Richard Gutierrez).

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In the end, all the problems the producers encountered in these programs helped sharpen their learning curve for future shows.

For fantasy shows, Magno said, "It's really important na contained pag mga fantasy. Importante na controlled mo yung environment kasi ang hirap pag hindi, which means more siguro sa studio."

Also, they became more strict in terms of scripting.

"We are really strict on advanced scripts. Kasi noon, sa Encantadia, kaya rin kami medyo okay kasi nag-require kami ng advanced scripts para mas maplano mo nang maigi."

Tanwangco, on the other hand, took note of their learnings from their hand-to-mouth tapings.

"Number one, yun nga, hand-to-mouth, hindi talaga dapat. Enough bangko.

"Ako, doon nagsisimula lahat, e. Doon sa hand-to-mouth, nagsa-sprout doon lahat ng challenges."

As for Bayani, he can say that his decision-making skills were exercised immensely while doing Wildflower.

"I think, sa five years ko as BUH, pinakamarami akong trusting-the-instinct situations dito sa Wildflower.

"Because ang laki ng scope, ang laki ng show, na-flex talaga, na-practice talaga yung parang tapang mo rin sa pagdedesisyon, sa pag-e-execute at pagli-lead ng buong team sa direction ng show.

"I have had a lot of successful shows and lahat sila, fulfilling.

"Nagkataon lang na hindi ko makalimutan na ang daming mga ganoong situations that I needed to decide, I needed to find the courage to stick to an original plan or make some adjustments or mount it as grand as possible."

 

More interesting inside information and trivia about Wildflower, La Luna Sangre, Encantadia, and Ika-6 Na Utos will be discussed further in the next two parts of this PEP.ph special report.

ABOUT THE SOURCES:

Ruel Santos Bayani is the business unit head of ABS-CBN's RSB Drama Unit. Some of the shows he produced were: Annaliza (2013) Moon of Desire (2014), Hawak Kamay (2014), Two Wives (2014), Pasion de Amor (2015), and Wildflower (2017). He also helms the currently-running drama anthology Ipaglaban Mo and the upcoming drama series Precious Hearts Romances: Araw Gabi. Bayani is also a film and TV director. His previous TV projects include Iisa Pa Lamang (2008) and Tayong Dalawa (2009). He is currently working on the movie titled Kasal.

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Lourdes "Des" De Guzman-Tanwangco is the business unit head of ABS-CBN's Star Creatives drama unit, along with Malou N. Santos. Some of the shows she helmed as unit head were The Legal Wife (2014), Forevermore (2014), Bridges of Love (2015), The Story of Us (2016), Pusong Ligaw (2017), La Luna Sangre (2017), and the currently-running shows Sana Dalawa Ang Puso and Bagani.

Maria Regina "Redgie" Magno is GMA-7's Vice President for Drama Productions. She was known as the executive producer of the drama anthology program Lovingly Yours, Helen. In 1997, Magno became executive producer of GMA-produced shows such as Di Ba't Ikaw (1999), Idol Ko Si Kap (2000-2005), and GMA Mini Series: Tuwing Kapiling Ka (2000). She then became program manager to shows such as Darna (2005) and Joaquin Bordado (2008). Magno was promoted to Vice President for Drama in 2013.



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