Social media helps us connect more with others, but the irony here is that it also causes a disconnect’
It is not hard for Shugo Praico to find himself as a director and screenwriter today. At an early age, he knew he was bound to be a storyteller. Film, stories, and television contributed wonders to his childhood with frequent VHS viewing at home and growing up with a novelist mother. Soon enough, he put his imagination on paper by writing comic scripts in high school. With the featurettes of Filipino filmmakers Raymond Red and Fruto Corre, he was inspired to depict his stories on the screen.
“I’ve always wanted to tell stories, in any form, whether through writing short stories or screenplays or directing,” Shugo says. “I don’t know. I feel fulfilled when I tell stories, knowing that they will resonate with the audience… There is a shared experience… They feel the emotion and energy you want to convey.”
Being in the industry for a some time now, Shugo knows that there are now more challenges that come with being a director and a writer, and he is not just talking about the pandemic. As the online world becomes more robust, the demand for creatives also rises and it is becoming harder to capture the attention of the audience. That’s why in his latest creation, he is channeling the element of social media and its effect in terms of shared experience, not about viewing pleasure but also about building a human connection.
His latest WeTV original series dubbed “BetCin,” produced by Rein Entertainment Productions, chronicles an online celebrity couple, Beth and Cindy, hence the portmanteau. The lesbian lovers portrayed themselves as the perfect couple as they enter an online contest. But setting all the hearts and likes aside, what remains in their relationship is a gap that continues to widen as the number of Umamis, their followers, grow.
Co-writing and directing it, “BetCin” has been part of Shugo’s arsenal in the past years. Back then, the script was just a 45-minute anthology created by Fatrick Tabada (“Patay Na Si Hesus”). But when WeTV’s Georgette Tengco wanted to do it as a series, Shugo and John Carlo Pacala (“Kung Paano Hinihintay Ang Dapithapon”) came in to add more to the already amazing piece.
“There are two things that pulled me into the material,” the director muses. “First, it is a relationship story delivered in a different tone. Second, the layer of social commentary, how social media affects a relationship.”
While the girls love drama presents queer characters, effectively portrayed by actresses Kylie Padilla (Beth) and Andrea Torres (Cindy), Shugo stressed that you do not need to be part of the LGBTQIA+ Community to understand what they are going through, especially with social media seen as a vital means in erasing physical distances. That much like the couple’s name, a Filipino slang for food seasoning, the online world can be pretty addictive. The internet offers every flavor, taste, feeling that you want to experience leading to a point that you don’t know where to stop. And in many cases in a romantic relationship today, that compulsive sense becomes poison.
“There are times that we don’t notice that we are being put in an aquarium,” Shugo explains. “People look us through that, and without us knowing, we are looking for validation from people seeing us.”
This element of social commentary binds Shugo’s every work. While “BetCin” is different from his previous releases like “Bagman” in terms of genre, their common denominator is the director’s mission of presenting stories that “say something about where we are” or tales that “show, question, or initiate conversations about issues.”
“Everything has to have limits and balance,” Shugo says. “You need to look at it. Sometimes relationships are one-sided. Social media helps us connect more with others, but the irony here is that it also causes a disconnect.”
So will Beth and Cindy find their happily ever after in this social media-crazy world? Find the answer on the show as it streams exclusively on WeTV. New episodes drop every Friday.