The noted filmmaker offers up some juicy behind-the-scenes stories.
KDLex fans know Dwein Ruedas-Baltazar as the director behind Run to Me. To date, it has aired three episodes that earned rave reviews from critics and fans alike. But there’s more to her than her work on that show. For instance, she began her career as a stylist for film and television. She worked under noted filmmakers Chris Martinez and Raya Martin.
“Siguro mga dalawa o tatlong taon ako naging stylist,” she recalls. “I worked under my friend Digo Ricio. Production designer siya and bato siya ng bato ng mga raket sa akin. Kung meron siyang movies or shows, kasama ako.”
She liked what she was doing, but she soon decided to go back to her first love, which is directing. She threw herself into independent filmmaking and found success on the festival circuit. In 2019, her film Oda sa Wala made it to the 54th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. It also won Best Picture and Best Screenplay at the 67th FAMAS Awards. (She won Best Director.)
But despite that, she still had her eye on mainstream success.
“I wanted to make audience-friendly fare because malinaw sa akin na I wanted this to be my bread and butter,” she says. “Gusto kong tumagal sa industriyang ito.”
She got her chance when her longtime friend Dan Villegas tapped her to write for him. She penned the screenplay for Exes Baggage starring Carlo Aquino and Angelica Panganiban. It hit theaters on September 26, 2018. Less than a month later, it had earned a total of P355.50 million in domestic and international showings.
Three years later, the name Dwein Ruedas-Baltazar appeared in the credits of the mainstream film Hello Stranger the Movie. It was her first such project.
Indie vs. mainstream
Direk Dwein waxed philosophical when asked about the difference between indie and mainstream.
“Siyempre when I’m doing mainstream work, mas madami akong kailangang i-please. When I did my first three films, sarili ko lang ang kailangan kong i-please. Indie kasi sila. Wala akong ibang inisip. Gusto ko lang maging faithful sa sinulat ko. Nung tumawid ako sa mainstream, biglang dumami ang iniisip ko. Dumami yung dapat kong pakinggan.”
Others in her position would’ve chafed under such restrictions, but she didn’t. Not only did she love her new environment, but she also thrived in it.
“Sa mga workshop ko, tinatawag ko siyang kahon,” Direk Dwein says of the mainstream scene’s rules. “Kumbaga, para akong bumabangga sa mga kahon. Pero hindi ko sila tinuring na kalaban. Mas gusto ko nga yung mga restrictions na yun kasi nababalanse ako. Alam ko kung ano ang dapat gawin at sundin. Kapag nasa akin yung laya, minsan medyo kalat pa. Nagiging kalaban ko pa sarili ko. Magkaiba ang indie at mainstream pero parehas ko silang gusto. Malinaw kasi sa akin ang purpose ng magkaibang mundo na yun.”
She learned that choosing your battles is the key to a successful transition. She found it hard in the beginning, but she made it work by looking at things as a learning experience.
“Siyempre sa una nanibago ako kasi hindi na pala ako yung may last call. Pero kapag nandun ka na, maiintindihan mo, eh. Kailangan mo pakinggan yung nasa itaas at paligid mo kasi matagal na sila sa industriya. Alam nila ang ginagawa nila. Madami akong natutunan sa kanila dahil pinapanood ko sila at work. Inaral ko yung points of view nila on certain things.”
Dwein Ruedas-Baltazar on the ABS-CBN shutdown
Direk Dwein’s career almost ground to a halt when the ABS-CBN shutdown happened in 2020. She lost some projects, and even the animation studio she and her husband owned suffered. She admits to getting angry at those who cheered when the network went dark.
But things got better. ABS-CBN’s digital pivot as a content company opened a lot of doors for the network and its people. It partnered with local giant Kroma Entertainment and foreign entities like Netflix. As such, Direk Dwein now sees the shutdown as a blessing in disguise.
“Sa tingin ko, dahil sa nangyari naaral ng ABS-CBN ng mas maaga yung digital landscape. Hindi natinag ang ABS-CBN. Nag-change lang siya into something bigger than a traditional broadcasting company. Hopeful kaming mga Kapamilya kasi we trust our bosses. Alam nila ang ginagawa nila.”
Moreover, the network’s top brass took care of her. When Janine Gutierrez left GMA-7 to become a Kapamilya, Direk Dwein got to helm Marry Me, Marry You. It was Janine’s first teleserye with the network. When asked why management kept giving her projects, she offered the following answer.
“I built good relationships with the people I worked with,” she says. “Yun ang magiging stepping stone mo papunta sa kung saan man. Ang pangit nung kaya mo gawin lahat, pero ang sama mo katrabaho. Dapat magaling kang makisama.”
She’s proud of her strong ties to people like Deo Endrinal and Kris Gazmen. The former is the head of the ABS-CBN TV Production unit Dreamscape Entertainment. The latter is the new head of ABS-CBN Films, a position once held by Olivia Lamasan. (Direk Dwein is on very good terms with her too.)
“Proud ako na kahit papano naalagaan namin ang isa’t-isa. Hindi ako nakakalimot na magpasalamat sa kanila. Whatever I have now, utang ko sa kanila.”
Dwein Ruedas-Baltazar meets KDLex
Direk Dwein says the offer to do Run to Me came right after Marry Me, Marry You wrapped. She thanked her bosses for the opportunity. They responded by asking her for her schedule for the rest of the year. She was pregnant then, so she demurred. But after giving birth in November 2021, she felt ready to work again.
“Tamang-tama na nangatok ulit si Sir Deo. He asked kung kaya ko na, and I said yes. Saka niya nilatag yung project. Sabi niya, ‘Ila-launch na natin itong bagong love team from Pinoy Big Brother. Lagi naman akong excited, pero iba excitement ko dito. Bagong tambalan kasi sila.”
She describes herself as a “tita” who’s addicted to Korean dramas, so she had no idea how big an impact Alexa and KD had made. When she learned that she would be working with them, she took a KDLex crash course via social media and YouTube.
“Patak-patak lang ang nasubaybayan ko sa PBB. Hindi ko alam na sila pala yung naging love team. Tapos nung nakita ko na ang laki ng fan base nila, lalo akong na-excite. Si Alexa, beterana na pero she has this ‘It’s my time’ thing going on. Tapos KD is out to prove himself. So yun ang similarities nila. Both are out to claim their space.”
Direk Dwein describes Alexa as sharp and welcoming. “Marunong siya makitungo kahit kanino. When she’s on the set, inaaral niya talaga yung script. Pero may vibe siya na kabado. Pakiramdam ko galing yun sa fact na madami ang nakaabang sa kanila. Ramdam ko yun with both of them.”
As for KD, Direk Dwein loves the energy he brings to set. “Saka sobrang ganda ng mata niya. Kapag nag-zoom in ka, nangungusap sila. Soon he’ll become one of this generation’s finest actors.”
Dwein Ruedas-Baltazar on KDLex’s chemistry
Direk Dwein enjoyed working with Alexa and KD because of their chemistry, which she says is “totoo na siya.” She has nothing but good memories from their time together. If she had to pick something to complain about, it would be their sweetness.
“Kung minsan, pag nasa set sila, sobrang sweet nila. Mapapasabi tuloy ako ng, ‘Uy, nakikinig ba kayo? Excuse me, work muna tayo ha?’ Pero ang beautiful din panoorin, kasi alam mong bago. Alam mong innocent kind of love ang meron sila. Hindi nila ako binigyan ng sakit ng ulo sa set, pero yun nga lang, sobrang sweet nila, jusko.”
Direk Dwein says Alexa’s and KD’s performances in Run to Me are not to be missed.
“Ito yung first time na nasa spotlight si KD. Ganun din kay Alexa. Kasi kahit ang tagal na niya sa showbiz, ngayon lang siya nabigyan ng ganito. Makikita niyo kung ano madadala nila sa susunod nilang gagawin when you watch this.”
Run to Me is brought to you by Dreamscape Entertainment and directed by Dwein Ruedas-Baltazar. New episodes drop weekly on Kumu and iWantTFC.
Featured Image Daniella Sison