Director Paul Soriano All Praises for Maja Salvador

“When I watch the film, it’s not Maja I see but the character she plays.”

This is how director Paul Soriano assesses the performance of “Thelma” lead star Maja Salvador, who was first choice for the part. He added that the 22-year old ABS-CBN talent was a pro through and through; the kind who insisted on working despite suffering setback.

“Since indie production kami, we only have limited time to shoot. Twice, namanhid yung legs ni Maja while we were shooting sa Ilocos last year. We made her run wearing slippers, minsan naka-paa, kasi hindi afford nung character n’ya mag-running shoes.

“Despite this, hindi tumigil si Maja. An hour after i-masahe ni Elma [Muros, track and field champion who served as the film’s consultants] ang legs niya, sabi ni Maja, ‘Ok na ulit, Direk. Let’s go!’” Soriano told Bulletin Entertainment and select members of media in an interview held July 28.

Maja’s leg cramps and muscle spasms got so severe at one point that Soriano had to rush her to the emergency room of a provincial hospital for treatment. The young actress was also reported to have collapsed from exhaustion after doing one of the scenes. In a previous interview, Soriano said that they shot 14 to 16 hours a day “with very little sleep.”

The director believes the role is meant for Maja. He said that upon meeting with the actress in order to discuss the project, he was surprised to learn that her mother’s name is Thelma and that they hail from Aparri that’s just a couple of hours away from Ilocos.

It also seemed to fit in the puzzle that Maja knows how to speak Ilocano. Even the 10-day shooting schedule that Soriano needed from Maja was miraculously granted with a rare lull in her calendar!

Soriano likes it that Maja is an intelligent actress. Though respectful towards Soriano, he said that she sometimes shared her thoughts to him on how to best portray her character. There were discussions and a lot of rebuttals but in the end, the movie remained paramount over differing opinions.

“People have always said of Maja, ‘She’s the next star.’ But, no, she is a star,” Soriano quipped.

Note that prior to “Thelma,” Maja has received offers to star in other indie films but all got turned down.

Some roles that Maja has played in the past include a girl with a third eye, a woman with cerebral palsy, and a doctor who gets haunted by demonic visions.

“Thelma” is Soriano’s second film after 2009’s “A Journey Home.” Both inspirational stories, this one is about a woman who discovers her gift of running and uses it to better her life and that of her family. In researching the movie, the director interviewed a lot of runners in order to come up with the best story.

Soriano also took his time in doing post-production chores. Shooting for “Thelma” was done by December yet he was still working on the film five months hence.

“I want it to be perfect as much as possible. Ang total time ng mga shots was two hours and now it’s down to an hour and 35 minutes. Talagang piling-pili and whenever I felt na hindi kailangan, tanggal. I don’t want to offer a slow-paced movie,” Soriano said.

While filming, the director said he made his actors follow certain rules such as no using of celphones on the set and no reviewing of performances.

“I also treated them according to the characters they play. Si Maja ang tingin ko, hindi artista, kundi runner talaga while we were shooting,” he said.

The movie, set to hit the big screen nationwide on Sept. 7, is in the vein of “Children of Heaven,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “Remember The Titans.” Soriano wrote “Thelma” with Froi Medina and Rino Que and it took them a year to finish the script.

The “Thelma” tagline goes, “Some people run away from their problems. She ran to fix them.”

Soriano said: “The message here is that it’s never too late to finish what you’ve started. Just because you’ve been through a lot is not an excuse for you to give up on your dreams of having a better life.

“And run towards your dreams. Don’t walk---run!”

“Thelma” is the maiden offering of Time Horizon Pictures, in cooperation with Abracadabra Productions and Underground Logic. The cast includes Tetchie Agbayani, John Arcilla, Eliza Pineda and Jason Abalos. The film will be distributed by Star Cinema.

Source: Manila Bulletin