Lauren Dyogi is Walking Tall

Walking Tall 
By Walter Ang
August-September 2006
Metro Him Magazine

Lauren Dyogi towers above everyone in an ABS-CBN studio bustling with production assistants and auditionees. A veritable lighthouse wearing a crisp white long-sleeved polo, you can feel him sending out invisible beams of guiding light to keep everyone on course. It is just another day in a busy week for this prolific director when we encounter him. Today, he is filtering out groups of hopefuls in order to distill a workable cast for his upcoming show ? the Pinoy version of international reality-TV hit "Big Brother."

As the 29th franchise in the world and the 2nd in Asia, the voyage of mounting our very own adaptation of the show is daunting to say the least. Dyogi, however, is blanketed in an aura of serenity. "I pace myself," he announces in a deep, deliberate voice. "As a director, I always believe that the particular ingredients for putting up a show will fall into place at the right time." He then mentions casually that he will be selecting 50 to 100 finalists from an original 30,000 applications. From there, Dyogi will whittle it down to the final 12 for the show which debuts in August.

The viewing public has a somewhat intimate knowledge of Dyogi's powers of selection when they used to watch him daily as one of the jurors on the talent-search show, "Star Circle Quest." His acerbic evaluations of the contestants made him the juror everyone loved to hate. In this behind-the-scenes process, however, fans of SCQ may find him uncharacteristically courteous as he softly thanks groups of auditionees after giving them a once through.

This is the real Lauren Dyogi, insiders assert. Congenial, professional and with an eye for detail, many readily claim that he is, "a reliable guy to get a show on the road." Dyogi joined ABS-CBN during its resurrection in the mid-80s after graduating Cum Laude with a Communications degree from the University of the Philippines.

"I never planned on becoming a director," the 6-foot tall director intimates. "But when I started doing directing work, it all seemed familiar and right." His decision to honor his gut-feel has served him well on a path towards sure success. Starting out as a production assistant, Dyogi has steadily climbed up the ranks while involved in shows that run the gamut of, as former colleague TV host Apa Ongpin shares, "drama, comedy, talk shows, family shows ? you name it, he's done it."

Of late, the limelight has shone on Dyogi's work with young actors. He is currently directing the winners of the SCQ in their show "SCQ Reload: Kilig ako," and recently helmed the romantic movie, "Now That I Have You," with John Llyod Cruz and Bea Alonzo. Yuppies who are just beginning to find their way through the workforce may remember him as the director of the seminal show that dealt with teenage triumphs and travails, "Gmik."

What audiences may not be aware of, though, is that he is also one of the brains behind meatier fare such as the pioneering dramatized police-cases show, "The Calvento Files," as well as arts and culture program, "Tatak Filipino." A wide and diverse body of work behind him, Dyogi is, "a good choice to handle [Pinoy Big Brother]'s complex technical and artistic issues," says Ongpin.

"It's a big project as you can imagine," concurs Dyogi. This time around, he has to deal not with actors, but with "real" people, so to speak. Technical considerations alone will have Dyogi overseeing, "Twelve people living in one house filled with 26 cameras and 52 microphones. The staff had to take a ten-day training workshop to learn the show's `bible'." Newly promoted as Vice- President for TV Production and a Business Unit Head, Dyogi is quite aware of his responsibilities to mentor newbies to the industry, "Part of the appeal for me is the transfer of technology. We will get a chance to learn the more progressive methods and techniques used globally in television production."

Named for the novel "1984" by Orson Wells, "Big Brother" will let audiences view the interactions between the 12 housemates (that Dyogi will finally select) as they are instructed by "Big Brother" to go through planned activities. Weekly evictions are held until the last remaining resident wins the contest. Dyogi is aware of the cultural sensitivities that the show touches on. "It might not be too Filipino since we will deal with issues like voyeurism and saving face, especially during the evictions."

Dyogi will strive for balance by, "Adjusting and adapting the show to local audiences. I want to make the show concentrate more on the contestants' interpersonal relationships." And that's why the casting process is so crucial. "I want to assemble a cross of different personalities. I want the contestants to be representative of the modern Filipino," he says. Having briefly worked as a fashion model, Dyogi would certainly know that interesting faces appeal to Filipino audiences. Be that as it may, this show, "is not just about being beautiful or handsome.," he promptly explains. "I want to have a good mix of pleasant and obnoxious personalities. No monotonous characters."

Since the contestants will be barred from any outside contact once they are inside the house, Dyogi will not be "directing" the contestants. Instead, he will be tasked to tell a story gleaned from the 24-hour surveillance tapes that record the residents' goings- on. "It's exciting because I cannot plan that much on what will happen. No matter what happens, I still need to be able to tell a story for the audiences," says Dyogi.

The prospect of taking on such a task could easily scare off even the most seasoned veteran. Instead, Dyogi is visibly excited and his large, penetrating eyes gleam in the light as he exclaims, "This show might change the history of Filipino television!" Perhaps it helps that he has decided not to let work take up too much of control of his life. "I remind myself that there is life outside of this edifice [the studio building]. I take time to be with my wife and daughter."

Things really are falling into place for "Direk," since he has been, "Getting a little tired of directing. I am a bit of a control freak and it's good that I will be having more control in this show as a producer (overseeing the editing of the storylines). I've missed being a producer." Fans need not worry that their favorite director might give up on guiding actors though. "Things are cyclical for me. Right now I want to be a producer again, but I'm sure there will come a time when I will want to direct again."