John Prats: A New Lens

Starting out at a young age, on the iconic youth-oriented comedy variety show, Ang TV, John Prats, now a man of 38 and a few days shy of celebrating his birthday, recalls that as a young boy, taping or playing a role in a television or a movie set was just a mere playground for him. And why not?

During his time in the ’90s, even before hitting puberty, his celebrity has already been attached to cult, superhero status, playing what he calls as one of the best roles that he continues to treasure and love in the Filipino comics turned film, Batang X.

“I think it’s every kid’s dream naman to be a superhero, so during my season nung bata ako, sobrang saya ko na naging superhero ako. Parang nag-match na eleven ako at yun pa yung role ko. Feeling ko talaga super hero ako, and I enjoyed shooting every day,” he shares. 

Suit, Edwin Tan. Deconstructed apron tank top, Proudrace.

This continued on smoothly until his teenage years to being a young adult navigating the film and television scene. When he looks back, he sees his most memorable projects, of which he is still proud of, in roles such as Nathaniel in the star-studded film Trip alongside co-actors Jericho Rosales, Kristine Hermosa, Marvin Agustin, among others; along with playing the conflicted Ruben in Jologs, both expertly woven films by the humble and genius director, Gilbert Perez.

In all of these, though, right at the pinnacle of his steady career, Prats admits yearning for an achievement to prove something in his acting career other than simply being a good actor.

“I was searching for a different recognition. When I do movies, I always give my all, at ang parang ang laging goal ko is to have an acting award, basta gusto ko lang magkaroon ng trophy, ng sarili kong achievement kasi nag-start ako sa ‘Ang TV’ parang feeling ko naglalaro lang ako. So, nung nag-teenager ako, early twenties, parang gusto ko may ma-achive,” he expresses. 

Not long after, he received a “Most Popular Love Team” nod with then-onscreen partner Heart Evangelista in the Guillermo Mendoza Memorial Scholarship Foundation Awards in 2002. But then, to his recollection, it is a personal achievement that is found wanting that only fueled thoughts of where he really belongs. 

It is then with age and the wisdom that came with that amid all of the uncertainties, he slowly realized that staying put in the fickle and ever-changing entertainment business for thirty years is, in itself, an achievement that calls to be celebrated.

In a celebrity-engrossed society where popularity is currency, being in the industry for a consistent three decades is an untouchable milestone. “Meron naman pala akong mas matinding recognition, which is yung maka-stay sa industry for thirty years. Sa generation ngayon napakadali nang mag artista, napakadaling maging sikat, pero ang hirap tumagal sa industriya, because the competition is really tough, may mali ka lang ginawa or magpahinga ka lang may papalit na sa iyo.”

Custom Rank Magazine wide-collar embroidered top, Kelvin Morales. Trousers, Edwin Tan. Top (worn inside), Uniqlo.

On to his thirty-year journey, where he has trodden different acting genres from comedy shows, teleseryes, iconic drama anthologies, to a regular performing gigs in ASAP where he cemented his dancing career and even quick-lived moment with his then band called “JCS” with fellow actors, and heartthrobs Carlo Aquino, and Stefano Mori, Prats now finds joy in looking at an entertainment portfolio that has been beefed up by grit and passion.

To a then young, impressionable mind always looking for something new to tread and excel in, all of these experiences admittedly made no sense to him before. But then came a chance opportunity in directing where everything seemed to fall into its rightful place—every experience and every learning applied.

“Lahat nung [experiences] ko sa lahat ng genre na yun nagagamit ko. When I started (directing) music video, yung timing ko sa music andon dahil sumasayaw ako. Because I did teleserye and I’ve worked with so many great directors, I never realized that I was learning from them pala, more than what I thought I was getting from their acting notes. Yun pala yung blessing n’on. Nung una naiinis ako kasi parang kayod ako nang kayod, lahat ginagawa ko, ‘Oh sasayaw ka ngayon ah tas bukas may teleserye ka, tapos comedy show ka sa ganito’. Ang dami kong ginagawa. Pero, feeling ko si God in-equip talaga ko sa mga bagay na ‘yon for a greater purpose,” he furthers. 

Traversing into his directing career was one that was built on luck and chance, starting with what would be a history-making collaboration with Cornerstone Entertainment musician Moira Dela Torre. From a casual conversation with business and creative partner Sam Milby and the singer, he would, by chance, put his hand on what would become an iconic song for Dela Torre,“Malaya“.

He shares, “Biglang nagkaroon lang ng conversation na, (Dela Torre said) ‘Kuya Pratty tulungan nyo naman ako kasi one-year old na yung song na ‘Malaya’ pero wala pang music video. Someone directed the music video pero parang di naman ako happy.’ So, sabi ko, ‘Alam mo if I’m gonna direct the music video, its gonna be like this, like that– kung ako lang naman yung director.’”

The discussion would, of course, snowball into a co-production of the singer’s first-ever concert, “Tagpuan,” which he also directed, together with a released music video for promotion. Since then, the MV received positive feedback on social media and even trended nationwide, the concert was sold out including added days. That’s when the clouds of doubt parted and he realized directing was a road worth taking.  

From Dela Torre’s concert, he would direct K Brosas’ 20th Anniversary concert, Jesse’s first ever solo concert in Manila, the recent Dunkin’s Kim Soo Hyun Fan meeting, and the recently-wrapped up concert of Dela Torre at the Araneta Coliseum early this month. In between directing for the stage, he then took his television direction to the test with a hand on several episodes for Ang Probinsiyano.

Suit, Edwin Tan. Trench coat, Uniqlo.

As a self-taught filmmaker, Prats shares beginning on a blank slate in his directing profession and thereafter learning to do it aided by his growing portfolio as a stage and concert director. “I didn’t know then, na may stage or set designer pala, kasi ako until now, I design my own stage in every concert. Because I always believe na, it’s not my concert, I’m just an instrument para matupad yung dream concert nung artist na katrabaho ko.

In concerts, his directorial technique always prioritizes the performers’ vision calling himself proudly as a dream-weaver. He begins by conceptualizing the concept, then has a one-on-one talk with them to personalize the performance in line with the artists’ personalities and vision, and always creates a story to make the show something more. He also pushed himself to create set designs that had never been seen before.

Disappearing in this craft of world-building, Prats discloses that the thrill of being a director has now grown to be more enticing to him than the joy of being an actor in a film or a television show. Being behind the camera and in charge of everything on site gives him a greater sense of purpose. “I just love the ‘stress’ and the responsibility behind the camera, parang makukulangan na ko dun sa aarte. Kasi kapag artista ka, you just go to the set, learn your character, learn your line, that’s it,” he opens up. 

For him, directing is about creating something for the audience and deciding whether or not the audience will appreciate a particular scene. If you ask him what he wants right now in his artistry, he would say it is eighty percent passion for directing. And while entrenched in a number of projects, he set his goals on directing a Netflix-level action film one day.

Suit, Edwin Tan. Top, Uniqlo.

“It’s really hard to do action but I really fell in love with it so, yun ang gusto ko makagawa ng hard action na gusto ko standard for Netflix, na kapag pinanood mo mapa-proud ka na Pilipino ka parang ganon.”

With all of this, including his craft as an actor and director, Prats learned how to navigate the world of a filmmaker different from others who may have come before him. He puts himself in the shoes of the performer if it’s a concert, and he gives his best in every moment as a director, by being present.

And with this, he is committing himself to the craft, saying, “I really have to be present and really feel it, para yung viewers, feeling ko mafi-feel rin nila yung ginawa namin, kasi naramdaman namin. In every concert, I just don’t want them na matatapos sa, ‘Ay grabe yon ang galing ni Erik Santos.’ Gusto ko, ‘Grabe yon, naka-relate ako don.’”

Charting his path to evolution from an actor to a now-celebrated young director, Prats is more than excited and at the same time pressured for his upcoming projects. He keeps himself artistically engaged through the people he works with and is always thinking about what to do next, and that he needs to surpass what he accomplished.

“All I know is dapat yung page-evolve hindi nag e-end. Every project is a learning project for me, kaya dapat hindi makampante. That’s what keeps me going,” he concludes.

Produced, creative and fashion direction by Leo Balante

Photography by Alexis Dave Co

Styling by Leo Balante

Shot on location at the Cornerstone Studios

With acknowledgments to Cornerstone Entertainment