Jerry Donato – The Philippine Star

September 23, 2021 | 12:00am

Xian Lim, hands down, feels at home in essaying characters on TV and in films. However, the actor is comfortable, too, writing scripts and orchestrating the mise-en-scene. His over a decade in showbiz, especially the last two years, can attest to how Xian, the artist, has grown by leaps and bounds. The six-episode series Pasabuy, which will premiere tomorrow night at 7 on streaming platform WeTV, is showcasing his scriptwriting and directing skills.

“I keep on saying this that I just want to create,” said Xian of his being a creative in a recent one-on-one with The STAR. “I’m an artist. I want to write. I want to be able to play as many characters as I can. You never stop learning when it comes to (this) craft. I’m really passionate about what I do.”

Taking on and exploring acting-related creative fields is a way for Xian to veer away from a “trap” where artists have the tendency to get shaped in a particular way and do the same thing.

“Ayaw natin na nalalagay sa isang kahon (We, as artists, don’t want to be ‘put in a box’ and molded in a particular way),” said he. “For me, ayoko nung ganun. If people see me one way, I will find a way para basagin yun (to change that perception) whether singilin man ako negatively nung choice na yun. I think it’s just something that is in my heart that I need to do, parang not to get trapped, I just have to keep moving and keep re-introducing myself to people.”

Wearing the writer and director’s hats is part of Xian’s reinvention of himself, which excites followers as the actor presents something new like his work in Pasabuy.

“Nadaan lang ito sa kwentuhan. During break, we would talk about forming a story together,” recalled Xian on how the series came to be with Gino Roque, the male lead of Pasabuy, as a collaborator. This happened when Xian and Gino were shooting the Vivamax digital series Parang Kayo Pero Hindi. “After the shoot, I pitched a couple of stories to Gino that he might be interested in playing (characters). I think he (had) a project with WeTV and iflix.” Their exchanges led to the development of a quarantine story, in which Xian, as you and I know, would write and direct. The actor put into words the series outline from episodes one to six. The producers liked it.

“Basically, the story is about a boy who meets a girl during the first lockdown, the very first time that we were clueless about what was happening, anong nangyayari sa mundo. There were a lot of question marks,” said Xian. “I think 90 percent of the story takes place in a resort.”

Grounded in the pandemic milieu, Gino’s character John, who is mending his broken heart, goes to a place in hopes of finding himself, said Xian. There, the aspiring musician meets the young executive Anna, played by Heaven Peralejo, who is into vlogging.

“We have two people from two different walks of life na nagbabangayan, away bati, they’re like cat and dog,” added he. “They eventually end up liking each other. This is a love story, but throughout the process, there are riots that will happen.” The charm of Pasabuy lies in its simple yet relevant and relatable story. “It’s something that’s really happening. It’s real. Ito yung problema na meron tayo ngayon,” said Xian.

Asked how he is as a young director, Xian answered that he is strict when it comes to his vision, “I want that we are all on the same page in order to execute the project,” said he. “But at the same time, I want all my guys to have an input. (Doing a film or a series) is a creative space, it’s a collaboration. I want everyone to have their input for me to understand (their perspective). It’s a collaborative effort. I just want to get as much feedback as I can. We just have to work together. We all wanna make this work, we all wanna make this good.”

For the series, Xian gave the producers suggestions, casting-wise, and left the entire task to them. He had to focus on the story and the series flow to keep viewers engaged. The actor’s director also lent a hand to make sure that Gino and Heaven looked naturally good on the screen. “Chemistry or the rapport between actors always needs a bit of work, even the loveteams that click instantly, hindi naman yan nakukuha overnight. May mga kailangang aralin,” reflected Xian. “They really had to get to know each other because Gino and Heaven (were working) for the first time together, that was a challenge but it wasn’t hard. You can tell they are doing it from the heart. Yun ang maganda sa mga artista na makuha mo na gusto nila yung ginagawa nila. It shows in their eyes, in their movements, in the way they work. The two were very professional and they love what they do.”

Xian debuted as a director via Tabon, an entry to the 2019 Cinemalaya Independent International Film Festival and worked with Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) for the puppetry film series MALA (Movie Adapted from Literary Arts)-Ibong Adarna and MALA Florante at Laura. He did music videos and short films.

“It’s really hard work to get your work out there as a filmmaker,” said he. “I didn’t go to a film school but I’m very passionate when it comes to watching movies and stuff. Mahirap gumawa, mag-hanap ng funding. (There were instances when) I would fund (them) for me to be able to showcase the stories I want to tell.”

As for his thoughts on being the writer and director of his own film (like in Tabon, as a co-screenwriter, and Pasabuy) and a director of a film written by another creative (the puppetry series), Xian said, “Like in MALA-Ibong Adarna, I didn’t write it. I think the director and the writer should really form a close bond. Kailangan magkaintindihan kami. I have the duty to be able to tell this story na sinulat ng iba (crafted by another writer). Whereas if I’ll write and direct it, while I’m writing it, at least, I can see how the movie will unfold. Yun lang yung pagkakaiba ng dalawa.”

Recently, Xian became GMA’s newest actor. He will be seen in the upcoming series Love, Die, Repeat with Jennylyn Mercado as his leading lady. Xian said he appreciates the warm welcome the Kapuso network is giving him and also the support from netizens. Following his line of thought, the actor believes that artists need a platform to showcase and share their artistry, whether they work with a contract or per project basis. “Artists just want a canvas to paint on, they just want a place to be able to express their creativity,” said he.

What’s next for Xian, the actor-scriptwriter-director?

“I just keep on writing scripts, I keep on conceptualizing,” said he, who is sold to the idea of starring in a film he will be helming and joining international film festivals. “I always form concepts and put them into writing. Writing and learning never stop. If there’s an opportunity to pitch, to showcase a piece of writing or a film, I would be so passionate about it. I’m in a place where directing is my passion. I will just keep on directing and writing films in the future,” added Xian. “I never wanna stop. In terms of acting, hindi rin naman natatapos kahit kailan ang pagiging isang actor. I just want to take on projects na hindi ako nakakahon (Being an actor also doesn’t end and acting is like a life-long learning.). I just want to do different roles.”

This sense of creative variety is what keeps Xian always active and productive in the new normal and even in the next normal.

(Watch Pasabuy for free on WeTV and the new episode drops every Friday. For details, stay tuned to WeTV Philippines social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram.)

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