MANILA — Amid the rumored breakup of Julia Barretto and Joshua Garcia, the film set of their latest joint project “Block Z” has remained “professional,” according to its director, Mikhail Red.
“Block Z,” which is billed as the first large-scale zombie movie locally, had been filming for four months when the rumored split of the tandem popularly known as “JoshLia” made headlines in June.
ABS-CBN News spoke with Red on the sidelines of a recent thanksgiving party celebrating the box-office success of “Eerie,” his recent horror film also under Star Cinema. At the time, “Block Z” was scheduled for five more shooting dates.
Red let out a knowing chuckle when told that some fans on social media have expressed concern about his cast members, specifically the working relationship of Barretto and Garcia.
“Everyone’s professional on set,” Red said. “‘Yung mga sets ko, I’m also proud na it’s always a fun and happy set, a very hip set, and I like working with a young crew.”
“Kami ‘yung type na we have fun, we play, we dance, we sing, we play hiphop music on set, and we also want to keep everything light,” he added.
The project marks the fifth big-screen team-up of Barretto and Garcia in a span of just three years. They are joined by Ina Raymundo, Ian Veneracion, Dimples Romana, Mccoy de Leon, Maris Racal, and Yves Flores.
“Even ‘yung stars involved, if you ask them, if you look at their IG stories, it’s always a fun environment. Everyone’s working so well to make this film as good as it can be,” Red added.
A MILLENNIAL’S EDGE
“Block Z” follows a group of students trapped inside a quarantined university where the mysterious inspection has spread. Early descriptions of characters include a smart medical student, portrayed by Barretto, and a varsity basketball player, played by Garcia.
Since its February unveiling, which saw the first look at a bloodied Barretto holding an axe, “Block Z” has been followed closely by fans online. That’s thanks in part to 27-year-old Red, whose social media savvy has helped drum up excitement for the film. On Twitter and Instagram, for instance, there have been no shortage of behind-the-scenes photos to scrutinize.
“I’m very, I would say, self-aware din about ‘yung mga trends online,” he told ABS-CBN News, when asked how he feels about meeting the expectations of a vocal demographic.
“I would say ‘yung advantage of being a relatively young filmmaker is I make the type of films that I would like to see as an audience,” he explained. “I think the younger filmmakers, they think like the median age ng mga audiences ngayon, so we make the films that we would want to see. We think like the audience, and that’s an edge, I guess.”
Aside from “Block Z,” Red has been directing another youth-oriented film project, the thriller “Dead Kids,” about students who attempt to kidnap a classmate whom they despise.
“I like to work with young stars. I like to put them in roles that they’ve never played before. It’s always going to be interesting, and it’s always going to be unpredictable,” Red said.
That “Block Z” is a pioneering zombie film in the Philippines already brings a layer of unpredictability, and how Red is injecting a Filipino flavor into the popular genre is another element to look forward to.
“I can’t really compare it to anything else locally. Nothing has been made like this,” he said. “I also don’t want to compare it to Hollywood movies, kasi iba ‘to, kasi may Filipino elements.”
This experiment of “bringing a foreign genre and putting it in a Filipino environment” has admittedly been the most challenging project for Red since his 2016 breakthrough with the acclaimed “Birdshot.” For one, it’s the most shooting days he has had as a director, given its “heavy requirements.”
“What’s interesting is even though we like to share things [on social media], that’s only the surface. There’s so much more to ‘Block Z,’ and we can’t wait to show it to you,” Red said.
What he could assure his audience, however, is this: “It’s going to be a fun adventure. It’s going to be a thrill ride.”