Indie director impressed by 'Ishmael' young lead star

by Boy Villasanta,

Posted at Oct 24 2010 12:04 PM | Updated as of Oct 24 2010 08:41 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Prizewinning director Richard Somes of “Yanggaw” fame almost gave up his search for his female lead in his new masterpiece, “Ishmael,” a cowboy film.

He had already auditioned more than enough for the coveted role of a resilient and docile young girl, only daughter of cult leader Ama being played by versatile actor Mark Gil.

He couldn’t find the right actress until veteran of two films Ria Garcia came along.

An erstwhile Star Magic mainstay and now Viva Entertainment contract artist, Garcia was recommended by movie scribe Bunch Cortez.

Cortez showed Garcia’s photos to Somes, and the filmmaker was intrigued by her youthful and tidy looks.

She was asked to see the filmmaker immediately, and was given a test shot and script reading right there and then.

“Ito ang gusto ko. Ito ang bagay sa role,” exclaimed Somes, who was impressed by the unchaste image and cinematic presence of the newcomer from Laguna province.

From all aspirants, Garcia is the only one who matches Gil’s features, especially his mestizo looks.

In return, she didn’t fail Somes in the acting game.

“She’s very professional. Mahusay siya for a beginner,” confirmed the director of one of Cinema One Originals Film Festival entries this year.

Somes added: “Sana, hindi siya magbago. Sana, huwag siyang magka-ere hindi tulad ng mga naengkuwentro ko nang mga artista na mga pasaway at prima donna na akala mo naman ang gagaling umarte pero hindi naman. May nasigawan na nga ako sa set.”

Garcia, for her part, said she "enjoyed every minute of our shoots."

“I easily internalized my character although I haven’t been a victim of religious cultism,” said Garcia, who just graduated from Miriam College with a Communication Arts diploma.

As far as Boso-Boso in Baras, Rizal, a perennial location for action films, Garcia didn’t mind traveling hours just to get to the place, less than a 100 kilometers from Manila.

Garcia acted alongside veterans Ronnie Lazaro, Pen Media and Dan Alvaro.

Lazaro portrays an ex-con who demands redress for the death of his wife, while Medina essays the role of an intruder to the cult. Alvaro, meantime, takes on the role of an adulterer.

“I feel honored to act with my fellow mature actors. I learned a lot from them,” said the petite thespian and image model of Cotton Club.

During the entire filming, Garcia was treated like the youngest sister in the family of these macho grownups. “Ini-spoil po nila ako but not to the point of giving me false pride illusion. Lahat po sila tinuturuan ako ng tamang professional attitude to view my show biz career.”

Most of the time, Garcia was in one corner, sitting in her chair, playing with her stuffs like cat-designed throw pillows, conversing with her mom, Puloy Cadayona, and her nanny, or reading notes and pocketbooks in lull period.

Garcia wasn’t conscious of being the only girl in the cast. She also made sure that she was professional during the entire shoot.

As soon as she arrived in the set, all things required of her were met like punctuality, being made up as early, preparing her costumes provided for by the art department or her own, memorizing lines from the script, throwing dialogues with fellow actors, blocking dutifully etc.

Gil, a seasoned performer, held her in high esteem and heaped praises on her. “Madali siyang turuan at mag-react sa mga eksena. In other words, madali ang kanyang motivation.”

Medina, on the other hand, as a keen observer, found Garcia a deep person and an artist. “Tahimik lang siya pero alam kong malalim.”

Alvaro, a very practical and sensible actor, was also impressed. “Matalino si Ria at matiyaga.” -Report by Boy Villasanta,