'More Than Blue' director all praises for Yassi Pressman's performance

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at Nov 26 2021 04:35 PM

Yassi Pressman and JC Santos at the premiere of 'More Than Blue.' Handout
Yassi Pressman and JC Santos at the premiere of 'More Than Blue.' Handout

Doing a follow up to his highly-successful blockbuster Metro Manila Film Festival entry in 2019, “Miracle in Cell No. 7,” with Aga Muhlach in the lead, was a tough, if not a difficult one for director Nuel Naval.

“It crossed my mind, I have to be honest,” Naval told ABS-CBN News. “The pressure and expectations are factors to consider. But the fact na walang sinehan ngayon, mas less ang pressure to make another super box-office hit like ‘Miracle in Cell No. 7.’

“Maybe the audience and even the producer will be less forgiving. Hindi na namin inisip kung pang-award ito or not. They are not expecting your movie to be number 2 or number 3. Their only concern is kung nagandahan sila sa movie or hindi.”

Since two years ago, Naval already had a follow-up film project, “More Than Blue,” that was unfortunately stalled when the pandemic started. At that time, Viva already secured the rights for the adaptation of the South Korean drama shown in 2013.

When Naval recently got the green light to finally push through with “More Than Blue,” he didn’t have second thoughts.

“To be honest, naawa din ako sa mga tao, ‘yung production crew na walang trabaho,” Naval explained. “I did this for them para tulong na din. They have been waiting to work again to earn a living. Kung ako lang at mga artists, pwede pa kaming maghintay.”

Although the film can now be shown in local theaters, “More Than Blue” is being streamed on Vivamax. “That schedule has been in the grid of Vivamax already,” Naval explained. “They cannot change that anymore.”

“More Than Blue,” however, had a movie premiere, graced by Naval and the lead stars of the film – Yassi Pressman, JC Santos and Diego Loyzaga (who was accompanied by his girlfriend, Barbie Imperial).

It has been nearly two years since a movie premiere happened in local theaters. Naval is really thankful local cinemas are now opening.

Admittedly, his lead actress was a “revelation” in “More Than Blue,” which marks Naval’s first time to work with Pressman. “I used to watch her in ‘Probinsyano’ and her other movies, like ‘Camp Sawi,’” he said.

“She’s a revelation in this movie. While I was editing, I kept on saying, ‘Ang galing ni Yassi’.”

Prior to “More Than Blue,” Naval had no expectations about Pressman. “Ang laki ng maturity niya as an actress,” Naval said about his female lead. “Proud ako na ang galing niya talaga dito.

“Not for anything else and not just because this is my film. Pero ang husay talaga ni Yassi dito sa ‘More Than Blue.’ Whether or not it’s a light scene or even a heavy scene, she always gives her best. Ang husay niya. This is an acting piece for her.”

Meanwhile, Naval also praised Santos after working with the actor anew. “Si JC, given na ‘yan na magaling at alam ko na how he works and acts. Alam ko na ang kapasidad niya as an actor.

“We worked in ‘Miracle in Cell No. 7’ and I directed him in three ‘MMK [Maalaala Mo Kaya]’ episodes in the past. Pero alam mo naman si JC, laging may bagong binibigay.”

The chemistry of his lead stars surprised their director. It probably helped that they previously worked together in ABS-CBN’s top-rating primetime series, “Ang Probinsyano,” where their characters even had a romantic angle.

Santos had no qualms doing a butt exposure twice in the movie and his director was pleased with the outcome. “Napaka-professional naman ni JC,” Naval commented. “Hindi ko ginawa ang butt exposure just for the sake of showing how sexy JC is.

“I want to establish how comfortable K [JC’s character] and Cream [Yassi] really are. They are best friends in the story na kaya mong mong maghubad sa harap ng kaibigan mo at wala kang malisya na mararamdaman.”

“More Than Blue” is undoubtedly a three-hankie weepie, with heartbreaking twists and turns. Interestingly, the film has no anti-hero character to make a villainous part in the story.

“Maganda ang character ni Diego at maaawa kayo sa kanya,” Naval informed. “Wala talagang contravida, so the audience can empathize with the three lead characters.”

The schedule of the shoot this pandemic was the hardest challenge the cast and production crew needed to hurdle, when they started working last October. This is Naval’s first film project this pandemic, although he has directed five “Maalaala Mo Kaya” episodes this COVID season.

“Of course, nasanay kami na 20 days, 28 days, the normal shooting schedule,” Naval said. “When we shot ‘More Than Blue’ for two weeks, hindi pwedeng matagal because we were in a bubble.”

The cast and crew had to do 10 to 20 sequences a day, a far cry from the usual four to six sequences a day in a regular movie.

“Kailangan talaga mabilisan,” Naval explained. “The key is in the preparation. Kailangan talaga ready lahat ng locations, ready lahat ng requirements, tapos dapat buo na ang script at wala ng pabago-bago.”

Since “More Than Blue” is an adaptation, a number of scenes were altered to suit the Filipino sensibilities. Naval had to discuss the scenes with screenwriter Mel Mendoza del Rosario for the scenes that need to be

“Maraming scenes ang binago namin,” Naval said. “When Mel and I were talking, we decided to focus on the Filipino family values. Sa original version, hindi naman masyadong binigyan ng attention ‘yung nanay [played by Irma Adlawan in the adaptation].

“Sabi namin, parang wala namang Pinoy na nanay na pababayaan ang anak unless may sacrifice involved. Next was the suicide. Hindi kakayanin ng konsensiya namin na kapag may nanood, parang ma-encourage pa na mag-suicide. So inalis namin.”

Surprisingly, Naval never watched the earlier versions of “More Than Blue,” first the South Korean drama and the Taiwanese series in 2018.

“Even ‘yung ‘Miracle in Cell No. 7,’ hindi ko rin pinanood,” Naval revealed. “Sa akin, as a director, that helps para fresh ang take ko sa material.

“Sa ‘Miracle,’ I only watched the trailer, para I could feel the mood of the material. Ang hirap kasi ‘pag pinanood mo, nare-retain sa utak mo. So baka mangopya ka ng shots and the audience will notice na kopyang-kopya naman.”