Director Paul Soriano chooses track and field as subject of his second film; Maja Salvador stars as a runner, takes lessons with Elma Muros

"As a runner myself, I find the track-and-field sports cinematic, in the sense na it's very big in terms of landscape. Not just on the physical side ng isang tao. It's also about the mental, emotional, spiritual side of the person," says director Paul Soriano about his second feature film, Thelma. Playing the title character is Maja Salvador (left) while champion runner Elma Muros (middle) will have a guest role.


Last year ay ipinalabas ang first directorial film ni Paul Soriano, A Journey Home. Tinampukan ito ng mahusay na character actor na si Soliman Cruz sa pangunahing character, Joem Bascon, John Manalo, at ang real-life girlfriend ng direktor na si Toni Gonzaga.

Dahil sa positive feedback na nakuha ni Direk Paul bilang isang filmmaker, muli siyang na-inspire magdirek ng pelikula. Ayon sa direktor, long-time dream na niya ito, mula pa noong umuwi siya sa Pilipinas noong 2005.

Ito ay pagkatapos niyang mag-aral ng kolehiyo sa Santa Clara University sa Los Angeles, California, at magtrabaho doon ng iba't ibang "odd jobs."

Pero dahil nasa dugo na rin ni Paul ang showbiz—lolo nito ang yumaong aktor na si Nestor de Villa, at ama naman nito si Direk Jeric Soriano (nagdirek ng pelikulang Hotshots noong 1984)—pinangarap din ni Direk Paul na maging full-fledged filmmaker balang araw.

THELMA. Hanggang sa ngayong 2010, dumating na ang panahon ni Direk Paul na magawa ang isang matagal na niyang materyal pampelikula. Ang Thelma ay tungkol sa track and field, kunsaan gumaganap bilang bida si Maja Salvador sa role na isang runner.

Produced, co-written, and directed by Direk Paul, ang Thelma ay handog ng kanyang Abracadabra Productions, co-produced with TimeHorizon Pictures.

Kasama sa cast sina Tetchie Agbayani, John Arcilla, Eliza Pineda, at ang tinaguriang Sprint Queen na si Elma Muros in a special appearance.

Sa panayam ng PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) kay Direk Paul kamakailan, naikuwento nitong isang taon na siyang nagre-research tungkol sa sport na track and field. Para nga gumawa ng movie tungkol dito, bukod pa sa pagiging athletic niya.

"Thelma is inspired by a research of mine about running that I've been doing for one year na," simulang kuwento niya. "As a runner myself, I find the track-and-field sports cinematic, in the sense na it's very big in terms of landscape.

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"Not just on the physical side ng isang tao. It's also about the mental, emotional, spiritual side of the person.

"I really wanted to do a sports film since I'm athletic nga. Kaya ayun, nabuo ang story concept ko na ito, an original story.

"But of course, it became bigger. Lumaki na siya. Lumawak ang kuwento, kaya ang story credits goes to me, Rino Que, and Froilan Medina."

Si Rino Que ay isa sa executive producers ng pelikula, with Samantha Chavez Que, at si Medina naman ay katuwang ni Direk Paul bilang screenwriter.

Feeling ni Direk Paul, perfect timing ang Thelma movie niya sa panahong sikat na sikat ang sports na pagtakbo sa bansa. Nagsulputan nga naman ngayon ang kaliwa't kanang "fun runs," na maging celebrities ay nakikilahok at nagiging form ito ng physical exercise.

"I think the timing is just great doing this film dahil, as you can see, marami tayong running celebrities. It's their exercise, not really their sports, pero just to keep fit.

"This film will be a character film for me. It's about one's journey—starting and finishing a race."

Ayon kay Direk Paul, noon pa niya nai-cover ang buhay at achievements ng track-and-field superstar at Olympian na si Elma Muros, kung kaya't kinuha nito ang serbisyo ng sikat na runner upang maging personal trainer ng bida niyang si Maja as Thelma.

"Aside from having a cameo role in the movie, I got the services of Elma Muros to be the creative and personal trainer ni Maja.

"Kaya ngayon, Elma has been conducting training and workshops for Maja. Bilib ako kay Elma dahil she's the Philippine Team's fastest and one of the best in the field," saad ng direktor.

Late 2009 nang simulan niya ang mas malawak pang research para sa Thelma, at ngayo'y final script na ang 5th draft nito.

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WHY MAJA SALVADOR? Bakit si Maja Salvador ang naisip niyang lead actress? Paano ang kanyang naging negosasyon with Mr Johnny Manahan, Maja's manager na father-figure din sa Star Magic, ang talent arm ng ABS-CBN?

"When I wrote the script, there was no idea kung sino ang gaganap," sabi niya. "I really didn't have any idea. But when I got the green light from my co-producers, it's a go!

"I emailed Mr. M [tawag kay Mr. Mahanan sa industriya] the story, and nagustuhan naman daw nila, and immediately, he said okay. Right after that, I emailed Maja. In just two days, she wanted to meet up na dahil excited raw siya sa role at sa movie."

In no time at all, ayon pa rin sa kuwento ni Direk Paul, nagpirmahan na sila ng contract ni Maja at ng manager nito.

"Maja is really excited dahil she fell in love daw agad with the script. During the trainings niya rin with Elma, she's really cooperative and she loves what she's doing daw.

"I can say that she's one of our young actresses na talagang determined sa craft niya, disciplined, and passionate with her work. She takes directions very well sa training, and she easily gets in, hindi mahirap kumuha ng pointers.

"Lagi kaming nagmi-meeting and naka-fourth session na nga siya ng training last time sa UP and sa Pasig track and field. Once to twice a week siya nagte-training with Elma.

"She also runs, she's a dancer, and has a good posture..."

Naniniwala rin si Direk Paul na since galing sa angkan ng mga Salvador si Maja (uncle nito si Phillip Salvador), napakalayo pa ng tatakbuhin ng movie career ng young actress.

Aniya, "Maja is a curious person. She asks a lot of questions. She suggests. After this movie, I hope she can be seen by people as a good actress, kahit matagal na siyang magaling.

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"I really believe that she's one of the next important leading ladies of this generation. I told her, 'Maja, you have to run with me!'"

Dagdag ni Direk Paul, "We'll have our first shooting day on November 10 in Ilocos Norte and after a few days, dito na sa Manila."

TONI GONZAGA. Lastly, kumusta na sila ng girlfriend na si Toni Gonzaga?

"We're okey naman, going strong naman," sagot ni Direk Paul. "One thing very nice with Toni is her honesty. Talagang busy lang siya with her work and I understand naman.

"Every Sunday nga lang kami nagkikita, e. We have dinner after her show. Kasi, MWF, she's taping for Kokey At Ako. Then, TThS, yung movie naman niya with John Lloyd [Cruz]."

Three and a half years na pala ang relasyon nila ni Toni. Malayo pa ba ang kasalan blues?

"Maybe after my fourth film," nakangiting sabi ni Direk Paul.


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