He is quick to dispel that image of the flashy film/music producer often parodied in films. The music and movie mogul can be best described as taciturn and very low-key, preferring the quiet comfort of his office to the hubbub of showbiz life.
At the press conferences held for his yearly Metro Manila Film Festival entries, he prefers to hang back and let his stars shine. He wears no bling or flashy clothes to catch attention.
Orly Ilacad, the man behind OctoArts, is a rarity in showbiz, one who likes to work without bluster and yet reaches his target audience each and every time. His office is an indication of his personality. He has received numerous awards as recognition for his contribution to the music and film industry, but it is his extensive collection of movie and comic book characters which are the ones prominently displayed inside glass cases.
He chuckles when asked to recall his past life as a musician. Those who listened to vinyl records in the 60s would know him as the lead singer of Orly Ilacad and the Ramrods – the Eraserheads of their time. The group was a big hit in the days of Bang-Shang-a-Lang, with vinyl singles of songs such as Mary, Mary and Never Be Blue. “It’s so funny, nakikita yung edad (they show their age) by how people who approach me, remember me. The older generation would come up to me in places like the airport and say that they were fans of our music back in the day, while the younger ones would know me from either OctoArts Music or OctoArts Films.” he muses.
It was Ilacad’s background as a performer that led him to start a music label with his friends. “I first took a pre-Medicine course, but when my father died, I decided to shift to Commerce. Masyadong matagal ang Medicine eh (the course takes long), and I had to help my mom out. Naisip ko din na medyo malaki ang binabayad sa amin kapag nag-gig kami (I realized they were paying us well for gigs), but I did not want to perform for the rest of my life. So I started to think about music as a business. That is how Vicor Music was born in 1966.” Among the artists they were able to sign up: Jeanne Young, Guy and Pip, Victor Wood, Pilita Corrales, and yes, Vilma Santos.
“We came up with a company that produces local music, yung talagang OPM. Dati, kapag sinabing local music, ang ibig sabihin ay Kundiman (In the past, when you said local music, you meant the kundiman). We were able to offer music that appealed to the younger generation at the time.” He recalled putting out local counterparts to big international artists. “Nuong nauso ang sound ng Bee Gees because of Saturday NightFever (When the Bee Gees became popular because of Saturday Night Fever), we looked for a Filipino version. That’s how we came up with the Boyfriends. Tapos sunod-sunod na yan (It was one hit after another)– we had Cinderella, the Hotdogs, and VST & Company. Even Mike Hanopol was with us for a time.”
While Vicor was growing, they also put up Black Gold. “It was to get more international labels. May mga lockout sila, like you cannot put Sony and RCA together under one company. Because of the two, we were able to get the major labels at the time – RCA, Sony, Motown, and CBS. Of course, we did not forget to put in local talents in the Black Gold.”
Having partnerships with the big brands enabled them to bring in big foreign acts. One of the most memorable for him was The Jackson 5 in 1974. “Michael was 14 at the time, and I remember that they had 6 shows, three in the Folk Arts Theater and three at the Araneta Coliseum. Sold out lahat.”
In 1977, Ilacad decided to start his own label, OctoArts. “Yung logo namin number 8 na nakahiga (our logo was an 8 lying down) or the infinity symbol. We got Motown to sign up with us, and I was able to bring in one of my favorite artists – Stevie Wonder,” he reminisces. To the 80s kids, he gifted the musical genius of the Menudo -- remember that frenzy akin to today’s preteen obsession to One Direction? Yes, those concerts were possible because of him. Their biggest hitmaker, though, was The Gloved One. OctoArts unleashed Michael Jackson’s Thriller to the Filipino listeners and it was the biggest selling album ever.
While busy with the foreign acts, Ilacad did not neglect to develop local music. To find all these talent – without the help of reality TV shows we would like to add, he went on exhaustive searches.
“Friends would recommend someone, or minsan talagang magta-talent scout kami. We would go to small gatherings at schools. Hanap talaga (We would really look for talents).”
Among their discoveries: Joey Albert, Jamie Rivera, Ogie Alcasid, Francis Magalona, Jessa Zaragoza, and an Eat Bulaga contestant named Beethoven Bunagan.
“We were looking for somebody to be a counterpart for female rapper Lady Dianne, and we saw this guy rapping on TV,” recalls Ilacad.
They signed him on and introduced the public to the creativity of the man now known as Michael V. Ogie was another special story, as he performed at their company Christmas party and drew his attention with his own rendition of a classic carol.
On the foreign front, among the unknown performers he had to cajole DJs into giving airplay were Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Ilacad also won a Producer of the Year award for Tadao Hayashi’s harp renditions of Filipino songs.
Having all these artists in his stable prodded Ilacad to take the next step. He took on the challenge of launching a film company and it was good. His biggest and still most bankable star to date is none other than Vic Sotto. In fact, their first two movies by the company were separate comedic projects by Bossing (Iputok mo, Dadapa Ako) and Joey de Leon (Ali in Wonderland). Years later, Vic would make Lastikman, an entry to the Metro Manila Film Festival, and it became a tradition to do a holiday movie with him ever since.
The film outfit is never at a lack of star power. “At the time, uso ang Gwapings, so we came up with our own version. We put together Ogie, Francis M, Michael V, and Anjo Yllana and called them the Pogings,” he chuckles. Octoarts Films also started the massacre movies trend with The Elsa Castillo Story starring Kris Aquino; and it came up with the first Filipino film on AIDS, with Vilma Santos portraying Dolzura Cortez. ”I pushed for that project because I wanted to have a movie that put Vilma and Christopher de Leon together,” he smiles.
These days, the company concentrates on the Metro Manila Film Festival with Vic Sotto as their star (My Big Bossing was one of the top earners in the 2014 MMFF), and they are now starting to distribute foreign independent films starring Hollywood stars.
They recently released You’re Not You, starring Hillary Swank, with more films to come in this year starring Russell Crowe, Jake Gyllenhall, and Tom Hanks. “I even already have three movies lined up for 2016,” he reveals.
It is all about hard work, he says, while reminiscing December 31 nights spent in the office while management and staff were busy filling orders from record stores.
“Nagpuputukan na sa kalye, pauwi pa lang kami (There were already fireworks on the streets but we would just be on our way home),” he shares. Metro Manila Film Festival float parades which were previously held on December 24 also used to mean having to hurry home for Noche Buena. “Judy Ann Santos once asked if she could go down from our float kasi magluluto pa siya ng Noche Buena (because she said she had to cook the family’s Christmas meal),” he grins.
Family support is also important and Ilacad has found that in his wife Caroll Kastner- Ilacad, and their children Orlando, Paul, Catherine, and Caroline. All their kids are starting on businesses of their own. Orlando and his wife franchised a Rufo’s Famous Tapa branch, Paul and Caroline are franchisees of Sumo Sam.
Catherine has won an Agora award for her Posh Nails concept and has another venture called FML or Foot Massage Lounge.
She shares, “What our dad has always taught us is to think outside of the box when it comes to business. That is his formula for success. For us, something may be impossible, pero sa kanya, possible yan (but for him, it’s always possible). His vision is always something larger than life.”
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