EXCLUSIVE: "He's Into Her" Director Chad Vidanes On His Experiences Of Helming The Hit Coming-Of-Age Series
He talks about working with the show's cast, the inspiration behind the trending series, and his beginnings as a director
He's Into Her is proving to be the pandemic hit that everyone has been waiting for! The series has drawn a strong following, proving that an extended production time and the challenges faced while filming under quarantine have all been worth it.
The teenage love-focused show is directed by Chad Vidanes, and it's his first major project. He works with the industry's next gen of stars to bring the story to life—Belle Mariano, Donny Pangilinan, Kaori Oinuma, Rhys Miguel, Jeremiah Lisbo, Vivoree Esclito, Joao Constancia, Criza Taa, Melizza Jimenez, Sophie Reyes, Ashley del Mundo, Gello Marquez, Dalia Varde, and Limer Veloso.
He's Into Her premiered last May 28 on iWantTFC, and has two episodes so far as of this writing. It's also available on the Kapamilya Channel and A2Z. The show's pilot episode was so well received it created a "record-breaking high number of views" on iWantTFC despite technical issues.
In an exclusive Metro Chats interview with Chad Vidanes on KUMU's FYE Channel, he talked about his vision for the show, experiences on set, and his personal inspirations as a budding director.
Check out highlights of the interview below!
What about He's Into Her appealed to him?
It was the story, first and foremost, and the fact that it's been a while since Filipino audiences were treated to a coming-of-age series. Plus, working with the next generation of stars (like Belle Mariano and Donny Pangilinan of the trending DonBelle loveteam) held so much appeal for Chad who, with this project, was given leg room to flex his directing muscle for the first time.
The project took at least two years to complete. Filming actually began in 2019 before COVID hurtled into our lives, and more than half of it was completed under quarantine conditions. Chad and the production team took their time, so as not to compromise quality. Health protocols made it extremely difficult to work (with just 50 people or so at a time allowed on set, when the show required a whole campus filled with students most of the time), but this director wouldn't let that dampen his vision.
Overall, it was an impressive debut for the first-time primetime series director and we're sure we're going to see more of him soon.
What was it like working with Belle Mariano and Donny Pangilinan?
"Sobrang saya. Sobrang inspiring... Both of them inspired me to do even better kasi noong nakita ko 'yung dedication and passion nila, it made me want to exceed more," Chad says.
It was like working with close family or friends he's known for a while, he adds, and it was always fun on set. From time to time, this director shifted gears and stepped into his big brother shoes when things got ever so slightly rowdy. Being kids in the industry, the cast needed occasional reminding but it was still impressive to see how they shifted from their real selves to their onscreen personas.
What Chad remembers the most about the young cast's acting was how they acted with their eyes; their non-verbal communication exceeded what was on the script most of the time. When it came to them as individuals, Chad was in awe of how Belle, Donny, and everyone in the group was so willing to extend a helping hand to each other any and all times they needed it. If someone needed help with a line or visualizing a scene, they all worked together as a team.
"They will help each other no matter what," he says.
How do the He's Into Her characters compare to the real actors and actresses that portray them?
They come pretty close!
"Parang character talaga nila. There are certain attitudes or behaviors towards each other na innate na sa kanila. Pagdating sa set, nandoon pa rin, like Donny being a gentleman, very genuine and natural para sa kanila," Chad reveals.
But there are lot of differences too, especially when it comes to their characters' undesirable traits. Donny isn't a bully, Belle isn't tomboyish. That was the challenge, Chad reveals, for the young cast; when you don't share any characteristics with your fictional characters, you essentially have to be a totally new person without real-life experiences guiding the way.
What was the experience like working with actors with varying levels of experience?
He's Into Her's cast members have diverse backgrounds. It was a varied collection of artists, and it made the show's performances richer and more textured.
"It was fun and educational at the same time. I believe that you learn from different kinds of acting backgrounds... May kanya-kanya silang experiences and atake," Chad says.
To bring all the different flavors that the cast members had, he asked for their opinions often. It was always a two-way conversation where actors were allowed to contribute their own ideas for how to make a scene work best.
How is He's Into Her different from other coming-of-age stories?
The story itself isn't new; tales of teen love have been told and retold time and time again at different points in history in different languages all over the world, but what gives these stories their soul are the experiences and the journeys of the characters themselves.
This time, the focus is on how the digital age has changed the landscape for young love.
"Gusto kong ma-remind 'yung mga young generations na it's not just about social relevance and popularity... 'Yun 'yung issue ngayon in this digital age," Chad tells us.
The show also presents a lesson on finding friendships despite differences. High school cliques are a common theme in shows like He's Into Her, but the show makes it a point to illustrate that cliques' boundaries are only imagined; you can be friends with who you want to, despite coming from different social circles. The high school hierarchy means little, or should mean little.
What other coming-of-age stories inspired Chad?
He's of the Gimik and Got to Believe generation, so he's definitely fueled by classics like that.
But as a director, his tastes are much more varied than that. He cites titles like Children of Men, Parasite, and City of God as the films he loves, and he's not averse to animation, either. Family dramas like Seven Sundays are also big influences. (K-Dramas Start-Up and It's Okay to Not Be Okay are favorites of his, too!).
Why should you watch He's Into Her?
Even adult audiences can enjoy the show despite it being teen-centric. There's the nostalgia from their own teenage years that they can relive, and it's a great respite from the stresses of real-life that they can't escape.
"[People should watch the show ] to remind them of how life was, especially in high school. To sit back, relax, be entertained, be filled with emotions... Kiligin," he smiles.
Different perspectives of love will also draw audiences in. There are characters that experience love full of hope, and others that come from a place of brokenness and hurt, just like people in real life.
How did Chad get into directing in the first place?
"I was one of those people [that was] confused or lost. I knew because of my parents that I would eventually be in the showbiz or entertainment industry. There was a point in my life na hindi ako sure, gusto kong lumayo sa entertainment industry... I wanted to try new things," he says.
Come college, he changed majors thrice because of how undecided he was at life. But, he did have friends in filmmaking who needed help with projects, and that was his first taste of working behind the camera. He found that he enjoyed the work, immensely, and found so much fulfillment in seeing the finished projects.
Then that was that; he finally zoned in on a career path.
He interned with director Cathy Garcia-Molina (his first major set production), and then he trained as a director with Star Cinema. Working as an assistant director in several productions soon followed, and finally, he was given He's Into Her as his very own project.
Who are Chad's dream collaborators?
Olive Lamasan a.k.a. Inang, of course, because he feels like he'll learn a hundred and one things from her. As for artists, he'd love to work with John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo (again), plus Aga Muhlach and Lea Salonga, but he admits to wanting to find his confidence as a director first before partnering with the country's biggest stars.
On a more personal note, what has working during the pandemic been like for him?
"It gave me more time to contemplate and reflect, research, read more, watch more. That helped with me coping with the anxiety [from the pandemic] and the prep work for the series itself... This pandemic also taught me to appreciate life more. It made me focus more on my physical and mental health," Chad reveals.
It was also a newfound appreciation for his work and the positive impact it makes on so many. Meaningful entertainment became an essential coping resource for so many Filipinos during this time, and Chad took that to heart as he worked on his show.
"Whether it be 30 minutes, 40 minutes, one hour, two hours, it's still time in a person's life that you take. You have to give something na mababaon nila," he says.
His words of wisdom for others in the entertainment industry?
Know how to take a break. Stop when you're finished, not when you're tired. It's not a race. And also, burnout is real! Take it one day at a time, but never give up.
Photos from @cvovidanes