Directed by Bela: Bela Padilla Leads Her Own Movie Off and On Screen

Directed by Bela: Bela Padilla Leads Her Own Movie Off and On Screen


After moving to London for good, Bela Padilla returns home to show her directorial debut. In the excerpt below, she talks about writing, directing and starring in the movie “366” and how her personal life calms the madness of her profession.

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When you are an actress in the Philippines, it usually takes up all of your time because being an actress here not only involves the work and the craft, it also means the celebrity, the fandoms, the endorsements and the social media spectacle – it’s quite a lot. Many of them also go into business as they know it’s really a very fickle industry. And that is why very few of our actresses venture into writing and even directing.

But Bela Padilla is different. 

Apart from being a successful blockbuster actress (and all of its trappings), she is now, also, a bonafide director, making her debut with the movie “366” which she also wrote and starred in as the lead character, “June”.

“I wanted Liza (Soberano) to play June because I wanted my first directorial job to be relaxed, like I really wanted to see all the scenes. So, I originally wanted Liza to be in this because “June” feels that way, like she’s very beautiful. She looks very, I wouldn’t say fragile, but she looks like a woman that that feels a lot and then you want to take care of her. She has that aura. And so I wanted Liza to be in this film,” Bela talks about casting the role.

But because of everything that happened during the pandemic, Liza was unable to take on the role and so Bela had to step in.

White gown by MICHAEL CINCO, Shoes by DUNE LONDON and Accessories (STYLIST’S OWN)

“I’m happy I did it. Again, because of the difference in perspectives, I think Liza and I would have given very different performances. And I really always believe whoever steps on set and whoever ends up doing the role, it’s meant for them. So yeah..,” Bela embraces the triple duty she had to do for this movie.

“I created “366” when I witnessed someone go through like, a horrible tragedy in 2018. And I just couldn’t release the images, or the information from my head. This happened in the Maldives when I was on holiday, so when it came back to the Philippines, I couldn’t just let go of the story. I would constantly text my travel agent who booked everything to ask, like, is everything okay? Like “Was everything resolved?” And when I came back to the Philippines, I was about to start the TV show “Sinong May Sala”, and Direk Dan Villegas was the director.

“I told (him) about the story. And he goes, “Okay, I actually already see this as a film based on how you’re telling me the story. So why don’t you just write that, like, do it since it seems like you know, you can’t let go of it.” And I was like, “Yeah, that’s true. I feel like this would be a very interesting film.” 

2 Piece set cream blouse and shorts by LOBSTERCLAW FASHION, Navy blue silk dress by ANGELIKA JOSEFCZYK, Shoes all by DUNE LONDON Navy and Accessories (STYLIST’S OWN)

“I love that the first person I told was a male filmmaker because we both obviously have very different perspectives on what happened to this person. And he goes, “More than anything and more than just showing the tragedy, why don’t you show what happens after?” Because personally, based also on experience, and maybe you’ve gone through this too somehow, in the Philippines, women are just so required by society to be okay. Like we are the people who suffer in silence, we really don’t speak up, you know, we go through such ups and downs, mostly downs, and yet, no one helps you back up. You really have to take care of yourself. And I was thinking, “Yeah, that’s true.” Like, people, I don’t know if this is because we’re kind of suppressed still, especially the women in the Philippines – yung parang, kunwari you go through something…then the next day, your family will really just be like, “Okay, so, okay ka na?” And then what’s next? What’s your next step? Everything has to be rushed. And so I wanted to show that, and I wanted to give women in the Philippines, if they watch this, I want to give them a chance to realize that it is okay if you take time. Since my movie is about loss, I thought it was the perfect time to shoot that during the pandemic because we all collectively lost something,” Bela explains the genesis and the rationale for the movie “366”.

“We know the feeling of loss, and I think now, more than ever, we appreciate every day we get. Like if you wake up everyday, you really maximize your days. Better than how we did before the pandemic. So “366” is exactly about that. It’s living your life really as best as you can the way you like it. If you’ve gone through a tragedy, you go from just surviving the day by day. I wanted to show that process. The film is set on a leap year. And so that’s why it’s 366 days.”

Mocha brown kimono set by KIHON, Platform wedges by DUNE LONDON and Accessories (STYLIST’S OWN)

A female director is not unheard of in the Philippines. We have the greats like Kashiwahara, Diaz-Abaya, Lamasan and many more. But very few, if any, start out as actresses. Bela started in Entertainment when she was only a teenager.

“I used to always joke, I entered showbiz at 16 And so now I finally feel what it’s like to be 17!” Because I feel like I’ve lived so many other people’s lives (as an actress). I remember at the height of taping for “Probinsyano”, we were doing tapings from Mondays to Sundays. If they give you like a little time off, like a few hours, I would get in my car like, I would tell my driver to go home and I would get in my car and just drive back and forth on Edsa and just cry like, just release so much pent up emotions. Like I would get such weird looks from people in other cars, like I would blast music and just cry, like let it all out. I feel like I lived such a larger-than-life life because of showbiz. It allowed me to see so many things and I’ve met some of the nicest people. Obviously, we’re always glammed up and you know, you get to do extraordinary things that you wouldn’t be able to do if you were just like a normal person, but I also think the price that I had to pay was yun nga…I felt like I wasn’t really “living” living. That’s why “366” is very important to me. I was going through a lot of things also personally, before the film happened.”

“I found out that I had an autoimmune disorder in December of 2020. And I was going blind in December. And that was while we were doing the pre-prod, and only my producer Boss Vic (del Rosario) knew about what I was going through. And Boss Vic said “You don’t have to do this film.” And I was like “No, I do.” Because this is my comfort zone and me now being far, and me having gone through the pandemic really has taken me out of my comfort zone because my whole adult life, the only thing I knew was being on set. Like that was my world. I loved every minute on set, I feel like kahit ako yung earliest call time and you know, last to go home, I was super okay with that. Doing this film is very, very, very personal to me. Also, I guess the trust of just people, you know, believing that you can do three things at the same time, that helped me a lot during the pandemic.

2 Piece tie-dye set by ANGELIKA JOSEFCZYK, Shoes by DUNE LONDON and Accessories( STYLIST’S OWN)

Another integral part of directing the film was casting the male lead. And although Bela initially wanted another actor to play the role of the male lead of “Marco”, it eventually went to Zanjoe Marudo, whom she previously dated.

“How do I say it? It’s very awkward, obviously, because I hadn’t seen Zanjoe since 2017. I feel like we maybe maybe, we kind of avoided each other..” Bela admits.

“Piolo (Pascual) was able to read the script. He was excited about it. And then we went different courses. It was Tita June (Rufino, PR for Viva who the female lead is named after) who gave me options of who could be in the film, and there were so many names that came up. And I think when Tita June said “Zanjoe Marudo has a contract with us. Are you comfortable working with him?” I was like, “Yeah, I am.” 

Navy blue silk dress by ANGELIKA JOSEFCZYK, Shoes by DUNE LONDON Navy and Accessories (STYLIST’S OWN)

Because what I thought was, it would be good for the film because you know, Zanjoe can bring more to the table. But yeah, I had so many questions in my head because I hadn’t seen him in four years. Obviously, we’ve both completely moved on. And like, we both dated other people but like, I didn’t know what that was gonna be like on the first day on set. And on the first day on set, he was the actor on scene on sequence one, day one like siya lang ung naka-salang, like I was behind the director’s chair. And I gave him my instructions. He understood it completely. I asked him if he had questions and he said “Wala naman”, but I was so nervous. And I think this is also partly because when you’re an actor, and set the bar, you only hear “Action”, because you’re already zoning out in between, you don’t hear the noise anymore around. I completely forgot that you call for sound and camera though, before you scream “Action!” 

So I sat in the chair. And I think because I was nervous, not just because it was Zanjoe, but also because it was the first day in the first scene I really wanted to impress, pagkaupo ko I just shouted “Action!” Bela talks about her first blooper as director.

Halter gown by MICHAEL CINCO, Shoes by DUNE LONDON and Accessories (STYLIST’S OWN)

“But that broke the ice, like everyone started laughing! I said “Sorry sorry.” But working with Z (Zanjoe) was very easy, because he allowed us to work. Like it was a great collaboration. Like we have one very pivotal scene in the movie. And when I made my friends watch it. They said that if I had been with another actor, hindi ibibigay sakin yung moment, and hindi ko rin ibibigay back. So and that’s what I love about working with Zanjoe. After that, I think we felt comfortable again, because I guess we realized, “Yes, we can trust each other.” “I don’t hate you, and I’m not gonna steal your scenes from you.” Like, I’m not gonna randomly slap you in the middle of the film. Like “We’re okay, we’re cool”. So, if the rest of the filming process was easy.

“He’s a solid 10 in this film.” Bela rates his actor and co-star.

From career to love life, discover how Bela Padilla is taking control in MEGA Entertainment’s April 2022 issue available in ReadlyMagzterPress Reader and Zinio

Photography LLOYD J. assisted by VENZ WHITTMER
Photography Assistant VENZ WHITTMER
Creative Direction NICOLE ALMERO
Fashion Direction RYUJI SHIOMITSU

Shot on location ABRA and OLD SOUK in DUBAI

Shoot Coordination KZ FRANCISCO and GAIL ONG

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