Maria Lourdes N. Santos, chief operating officer of Star Creatives, a division of ABSCBN Corporation, treats all the artists, directors and writers she has helped build up as veritable children whose “every accomplishment brings happiness” to her.
A graduate of hotel and restaurant management, Santos started a career in sales, selling what she considered as “perhaps the hardest product to sell in the world”: the encyclopedia. She moved on to banking but eventually gave in to her “first love”: the movies.
She started as a production assistant in “Pasukuin si Waway,” which was followed by a succession of movies, like “Hindi Nahahati ang Langit,” for various outfits like Vision, Gryk Ortaleza, Bonanza and Regal Films. She worked her way up to production manager and was with Regal Films when then ABS-CBN Corporation general manager, now chairman, Eugenio Lopez III (EL3) gave her a call.
New film division
“He (EL3) was inviting me to transfer to ABS-CBN to head its new film division. That was in 1991. Since then, I have been with Star Cinema, and with ABS-CBN Channel 2. At that time, Star Cinema had not yet been set up, so in the meantime, I produced for TV, with ‘Star Drama Presents’ then ‘Maalaala Mo Kaya,’ reporting to Charo Santos-Concio, my sister,” recalls Santos.
Star Cinema coproduced its first movie, “Adan Ronquillo” with Regal Films. From there, the fledgling outfit deliberately endeavored to produce films of good quality on a regular basis. Over time, it built a solid reputation among moviegoers who now expect nothing but the best from the brand Star Cinema.
From a staff of a little more than 50, consisting of the typical TV crew, Santos now heads at least 585 personnel distributed across 21 departments, five film units, the music division, concert teams, online staff members and support groups that comprise the multiple product lines of Star Creatives.
“Today, my work in Star Creatives is managing units that generate narrative audiovisual content and music to be experienced in local and international cinemas; on TV screens and on radio; through concerts and on-ground events; online and in other platforms where we can extend these content,” Santos says.
Santos is credited for reconfiguring the entire Philippine distribution infrastructure, “from its insular days, to a more democratic and rational system that it is now.” She also delivered EL3’s dream of international distribution for ABS-CBN film products. And with music being Santos’s second love, she was able to strengthen ABSCBN’s music efforts, building “a complete music ecosystem that encompasses recording, online releases, live concerts, live streaming, artist development and music licensing, which is now no.1 in the country.”
Going forward, Santos has prepared her team for the onslaught of online entertainment. “Online platforms bring new opportunities for breakthrough products, new distribution venues and new promotional arenas. Not only that, we can avail of new online stories, online stars, digital music and other expressions out there that are discoverable online,” she says.
Outside of work, Santos has been giving back to her hometown of Calapan, Mindoro.
“It is time to show gratitude and to preserve the old childhood town, so that future generations can appreciate its legacy. Also, the citizens of Calapan can make use of the livelihood projects we have dreamed up for them.”
Still, she goes to work very day “with the same excitement and energy as when I started in the movies many decades ago. I am still excited by the same things— love teams, great stories, beautifully crafted movies, uplifting and unforgettable music. There are still many colorful Filipino lives that can be mirrored onscreen and in music, and so many lives that can be touched and brought together by film, TV and music experiences.”
Her message to LopezLink readers: “Belonging to a Lopez company is the best decision you can make in your career. This is a place where you can hone your talents, with a nurturing leadership that encourages a pioneering spirit and business risk-taking. This is also a place where the best and brightest of the industry share their best practices, to help you grow. Most importantly, for every task you do, you realize that it is more than just a job. It is a mission. You make a difference to the lives of the Filipinos worldwide, no matter how humble your task may be. This is your second home, and from here, you can reach the world.” (Story/Photo by: Carla Paras-Sison)