While NextShark has done a lot of interviews in the past, it was our recent interview with world champion boxer Manny Pacquiao that really tested our ability to be efficient.
As expected from a celebrity of Pacquiao’s caliber, his schedule was constantly filling up and changing. Our originally planned date to shoot was changed at the last minute to the day before. Not only that, but on the day of the interview, our time with him was cut from 30 minutes down to 20 minutes and then finally to less than 15 minutes — meaning we literally had less than 15 minutes to do a video and photoshoot with him. But none of us even flinched — we’ve had days where interviewees would cancel on us last minute when we were already literally in front of their door, because “something came up.” Here was a man who was getting interview requests from mainstream outlets left and right, and yet he still made time for small fry like us. That was the moment I got my first peek into Manny Pacquiao’s character.
From the outside, it seemed as if the logistics would be a production nightmare. Apart from the scheduling issues, however, everything fell into place that day. As I was arriving to the shoot location, I got a call from the person handling publicity for Pacquiao while in Los Angeles.
“He’s on the way, but he’ll be 20 minutes late.”
To make sure things were easy for him, we saved one spot for his car when he arrived. Little did we know he was actually rolling up in a giant Escalade — along with an entourage that took up two other Escalades. Suddenly, we had to figure out how to fit three large SUVs into a small garage.
We managed to fit the first car into the garage with no problems. Manny’s car arrived second. Once Manny and his crew got out of the car, I walked up to shake his hand and to introduce myself. He then gave me a monotone, “Nice to meet you.” I could tell he was drained.
Once inside, a near-empty studio with just a few people was suddenly packed with almost two dozen people. His entourage included people taking pictures of him on their iPhones and a cameraman that shot video while following him around.
His schedule was so tight that his publicist was already screaming that they had to leave the moment he set foot in the door. I usually like to meet everyone and try to warm up with the person I’m interviewing, but I knew that was nearly impossible. I simply looked at Manny, pointed to the chair and told him to sit and get ready.
We spent a total of less than 15 minutes doing both the interview and photoshoot. Manny and his crew quickly left afterward for their next meeting. I could hear the tires screech as they left. And suddenly, our studio was empty again just liked it had been 15 minutes before he arrived.
Manny was in Los Angeles to promote his new documentary film, eponymously titled “Manny.” It’s directed by first-time filmmaker Ryan Moore, a USC film student who got the opportunity to make the film after a casual meeting with Manny in 2008 at a charity event. From the first meeting, the two drew parallels in their upbringing, Moore said:
“I connected so much to his spirit because in so many ways during the making of this film I felt like I was in nonstop, intense training camp and fighting for so many years. It was an uphill battle producing and directing this film. I identified so much with Manny’s story because my family’s background was very similar to his own. I was born and raised in California but when I was 14 years old my family moved to the Philippines. When we moved there I learned so much about the struggles my mom and grandma went through to get me where I am today. I was so disconnected and had no idea we were as poor as we were. My grandma was a single mother of six (just like Manny’s mom) and had a small hut called a “Sari Sari store” on the side of the road where she sold what she could to get food on the table. As a child my mom had to help make and individually wrap candy at home so she and her siblings could have money to buy school supplies. They had to be really creative. My grandma knew that getting my mom educated was their way out so my mom could become a nurse and continue to help out the family. My mom did become a nurse and came to the US and that’s how I came to be. I think Manny personifies not only the Filipino’s story of struggle of triumph, but everyone around the world who has to overcome adversity. Telling his story was my way of paying honor to my mom and grandma. He was the perfect canvas to do so.”
The film is special not just because it shows what a badass Manny Pacquiao is in the ring, but because it shows how he’s a badass outside of it too. “Manny” highlights Pacquiao’s life growing up in a family that struggled to put food on the table everyday. At the age of 16, weighing in at only 98 pounds, Manny started his boxing career in order to earn money to take care of his family.
“Back then, we experienced [not] eating food, because we didn’t have money to buy food, so we just drinking water. That’s our experience and we survived. It’s not easy … even though I’m a successful person right now, I don’t want to change my attitude — always humble. Humility is always there because of my experience passing through this difficult life.”
The film features interviews with Manny himself, his wife Jinkee Pacquiao, coach Freddie Roach, Mark Wahlberg, Jeremy Piven, Alex Ariza, Jimmy Kimmel, Larry Merchant and Bert Sugar. It is also narrated by Liam Neeson, who was chosen because he was a boxer himself up until he was 19.
Today, Manny is far from just a world champion boxer. In the Philippines, his home country, he is also a politician, a singer with a hit single and an entrepreneur. He’s so influential that it is said the crime rate drops down to zero percent during his fights. Why? Because literally everyone rushes to their TV screens to cheer for their country’s hero.
On what it’s like being poor and now being rich, Pacquiao’s response was relatively simple.
“The changes in my life is of course, I have plenty of food and I can buy whatever I want. And the Lord provides me all the things that we want to do. The way I treat people I’m still the same.”
In addition to his riches and success as an adult, Pacquiao has had dark times as well. He’s admitted that he was a womanizer, degenerate gambler and drinker in the past. However, he left all of it behind after becoming a devout Christian. To this day, Pacquiao admits his biggest fear has to do with his faith:
“My fear is [losing] my relationship to the Lord, to my God. That’s the biggest fear. That’s why I’m always building up my relationship with the Lord.”
Whatever his venture, Pacquiao reveals what his biggest passion is.
“… I think I already started doing it: Helping people … My goal in life is to help them, where I came from, and the people who are in need also. Because I know what they’re feeling and I know they really need help.”
With everyone wondering whether the epic fight between him and Mayweather is going to happen, Pacquiao unfortunately has no new news.
“My promoter and I have agreed already to whatever terms and conditions he wants. We’re just waiting for the signed contract. If he signed the contract [the] fight will be on and we’ll announce it. I believe the fans deserve that fight.”
He’s also not afraid to express his beliefs on who is the better fighter.
I can easily beat @FloydMayweather, I believe that.
— Manny Pacquiao (@MannyPacquiao) January 20, 2015
When asked what he wants his audience and fans to take from watching his new documentary movie, he said:
“This is a very good movie. It will inspire people, especially the fans of boxing. They will know more about me, about Manny, not only in boxing, but my life, before I become like this. I’m pretty sure they’ll be inspired after they watch this movie.
When we asked Director Ryan Moore what he’s learned about Manny through his experience, he said:
“I’ve learned that Manny at his core is a fighter. I learned that in my 5 year long journey with him that there is a difference between that and a boxer. Although we use them interchangeably, sometimes the two can be very different things. I’ve learned that what makes someone a fighter isn’t how many titles they’ve won or whether or not they’re undefeated. What matters most to a fighter is how they fight everyone in front of them (ESPECIALLY the best) and if they get knocked down, they get back up again and rise to the next challenge. That is the true definition of a fighter. Losing is just a path to learning your craft – it doesn’t mean the end. I think in today’s world of boxing wherein everyone is overly calculated, its rare to find someone who wants to fight everyone, even though those matches can be very risky and downright dangerous, but that’s what separates Manny from most boxers in the sport. A lot of boxers out there right now choose fights that they know they can win, and when met with adversity throw in the towel.”
“Manny” is set to be released in selected theaters and iTunes on Friday, January 23.
Photography by Melly Lee