I had the opportunity to ask TV5’s Ms. Margie Natividad, Production Unit Head of The Amazing Race Philippines some questions via e-mail about various topics related to TARPh.
Read her insightful answers describing the fun and the challenges of bringing The Amazing Race to the small screen, why the daily format and what ever happened to “Biyaheng Asya?”
What is your favorite part about being involved with The Amazing Race?
There are many things that I really love in being part of producing this amazing show.
1. PLANNING STAGE – is an incredible and major part of the whole production. It has been a great journey for us to have been partnered with Active TV Asia, headed by Michael Mckay, the Executive Producer and Director. He is such an amazing guy. Having done so many seasons of TAR in the US, Australia, Israel and other regions, he did not falter in giving his generous support to TV5. The planning stage makes it so exciting for us as we plot down locations and challenges that we will have during the actual shoot.
2. OCULAR – going around the Philippines is such a major achievement. Why? Because it makes you love your country more, you appreciate the beautiful places and the sweetest people that we have in our country.
3. CASTING – there are so many interesting people that you meet along the way, so many contestants who want to prove themselves, so many individuals who love to travel and explore the world. There’s just way too many characters that when you meet them, you begin to write stories in your mind and visualize them as they race, then you think you have a STORY to tell.
4. The RACE – this is the most fun part. You get to travel and work with production crew who came from all over the world, Asians, Singaporeans, Israelis, Australians, Brazilians and Americans who are so passionate at what they do. We are more than 100 people traveling around the Philippines… it’s a party!!! Honestly, this is the best part because when you talk to the foreign crew, who are first timers in the Philippines, they have only good things to say about our country. They love it here! They are fascinated with the beauty of the Philippines, they love our people and they love our mangoes!
For some of the foreign crews who have been here in season 1, they keep coming back because they said that working here is fun. They also like working with the local production crew as they feel that we are one of the best teams that they have ever worked with. MOST OF ALL, you get to see how all the 11 teams conquer their fears, test their patience and show how determined they are to win. You get to witness how they cry, how they laugh, how they get scared, how they get mad, how their relationships grow stronger or how vulnerable they become as they race to the last pit stop. You get to appreciate their journey as well.
Our host, Derek Ramsay is also one of the factors why TARP2 is successful. He is such a professional. Even if he is undergoing through personal challenges, he made sure to give it his all during our shoot. You wouldn’t believe this, but he is also one major contributor in the ideas that we have for this season. Such an amazing guy.
Many fans have loved getting to see different parts of the Philippines on the Race. What are the objectives when deciding on challenges and which destinations the Race will be visiting?
In the planning stage, we discuss what TV5 wants with our Director and EP, Michael Mckay. We gave him list of several locations that we want to go to and explore and it’s a good thing that he listens to us very well and understands our objectives. The key is not to repeat the same locations and challenges that we have gone through in season 1. TV5’s goal is to showcase all the amazing places that we have here in the Philippines as we want to tell the world that we are the next destination for travelers!
When season 2 was first announced in December, it carried the “Biyaheng Asya” title. Was it originally planned for teams to Race out of the country?
It was due to time constraint that we were not able to go out of the country. We wanted to meet the production timeline and apparently, it would entail so much time to do the ocular and getting permits and all. Logistically, it would be impossible to push for it because we wanted to really air 3rd quarter of this year. It was a major decision also to stay in the Philippines because as I kept repeating, we wanted to showcase most of our wonderful places first and maximize all the locations that we have here. This is one show that has that equity of bragging the most gorgeous locations in the country.
What are the biggest challenges in producing The Amazing Race Philippines?
It’s getting the right mix of racers. In reality shows, you must have someone in the show whom you will root for. Someone whom you can identify with, someone you can connect with. We wanted our viewers to stick to the racers’ stories and journey.
How did the decision for the daily format first come about when planning season 1?
It’s the stickiness that we want to achieve. We want the viewers to get hooked and glued to their TVs the moment they meet the racers. We believe in the formula of a soap opera. You get involved in the character’s journey. You anticipate the plot and you assume that something right or wrong will happen along and you want to witness the journey of the characters every step of the way. You want to be involved… you just want to be there. That is how we wanted the Filipinos to appreciate Amazing Race.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of a daily format compared to other Amazing Race franchises that only air once or twice a week?
It involves a lot of hard work!!! From conceptualization to determining the level of difficulty of the challenges and how you would make every episode interesting is intense. This is where I give my thumbs up to Michael and the rest of Active TV team. They have been fantastic and very creative! In terms of post production work, I must say, with the guidance of Paulo Vivan, post production consultant from Active TV, the team is doing really, really great. It’s an all-Filipino group who is putting all the materials together. In season 1, we had 3 months to do the editing for legs 1-2 but in season2, we only had 2 weeks to preview everything. With this, I must say that all the production staff is really in love with the show to be able to survive sleepless nights just to come up with daily episodes, 7 days a week! If it’s not love, I don’t even know how to spell the word PASSION anymore.
Other than the daily format, what do you think makes The Amazing Race Philippines unique from other Races around the world?
It’s the story of each team. It’s their journey towards the last pit stop. You would be able to relate to them. For leg 1, you would realize that the Nerds had a lot of nerves in joining this race. They know that they are not physically fit but who are we to say that they won’t last even a challenge? Lo and behold, they came in first in the pit stop… and that made the geeks squeak! The Pinay world champs joined the race because they wanted to win the houses, the cars and the money. Luz has been working so hard for her family and yet she claims that up until now, they don’t have their own house. Chen has been boxing and has been winning belts and medals for the country but no one notices. They feel that joining the Amazing Race would not only make their families happy but it would make the Filipinos notice their noble acts. Team Mag-ama has had a lot of fights during their race, Jody is determined to win and push his dad to his limits. He has been provoking his dad in all the challenges and at the age of 54, AJ can only do so much. A lot of intense moments for them. So far, the viewers wanted to see how their journey will end and see if there will be a redeeming value to all of these. There are a lot of stories… a lot to see. A lot to understand. A lot to learn from.
The Amazing Race Philippines is a different kind of reality show compared to the artista-driven talent competitions that have been very popular over the years. What are some of the things TV5 is doing to help introduce The Amazing Race to an audience that may not be familiar with the concept?
When TV5 decided to buy the format of Amazing Race, it was the bigness of the show that got us to it. The extreme high production value was given so much weight and of course the adventure that will go with it as we showcase the magnificent beauty of the Philippines. The priority was not so much on discovering new artists who will be on the roster of TV5 talents, but it’s more of giving Filipinos different stories to tell. Being a reality show, we wanted the race to mirror the Filipinos way of coping up with different challenges in life. The one thing that I love about the format is giving the contestants that HOPE of being able to finish the race, that no matter what, there is that slight chance, that you will be able to make it through. After all, that is what life is all about…you just have to never give up and not lose hope.
Amazing Race creator and executive producer Bertram Van Munster visited in April. Did he give any advice or relate anything from his own experience in charge of The Amazing Race to help with season 2?
I was so lucky that I was able to meet Bertram… at the age of more than 70, he is just so passionate about producing shows. He is simply amazing. He said, from Day 1 of creating AR, he never got tired of the concept and always believed that the journey of the racers is what matters the most. In the course of our conversation, together with Miss Wilma V. Galvante, Chief Entertainment and Content Officer, he said that he loves the Philippines so much and AR US has been doing a lot of stops here because they find our country very interesting.
Season 2 is just beginning, but are there already plans for a season 3 and beyond?
We hope that Season 2 will encourage more viewers to have a clamor for another season. It would be great to do the race out of the country this time and have racers get excited to visit other territories that are unfamiliar to them.
And one final question, is there any chance for full episodes to be uploaded to TV5’s or The Amazing Race Philippines’ official YouTube channels?
We are currently working on this, and hopefully, within the week, fans around the world would be able to see TARP2. We worked so hard for this project, we gave it our all and TV5 is very proud to have produced the 2nd season. There are a lot of twists and dramas that you wouldn’t want to miss in the coming days, it would surely be up for an Emmy nomination.
A huge thank you again to Ms. Margie Natividad for taking the time to provide some excellent insight into the Race!