11/11/2016

A new day

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Di ka ba kinabahan kasi may mga endorsements ka rin?”  A member of the press asked me this at the Cinema One Originals 2016 Film Festival press conference. Let’s allow that to sink in. I was asked if I was afraid to take on a lesbian role because of my endorsements. This is how the majority may possibly already see the LGBT community — as something not to highlight in the community because it’s taboo. Unusual. Different. Or simply, something they don’t fully comprehend.

Just like parties aren’t your usual locations for business proposals, just like lesbians aren’t your usual choice of main characters in a film. And that’s how it all started. Say hello to my newest film: #BakaBukas. The story revolves around Alex (played by yours truly) who falls in love with her best friend, Jess (played by Louise Delos Reyes).

So, what happens nga ba talaga when you fall in love with your best friend? I don’t really know, but our director Samantha Lee does and it’s through this film where I understood exactly just that. Masakit pala.It’s also quite taunting and gives you a little bit of anxiety — like when you don’t know if it is okay to fall in love with that person. Direk Sam gave me a wonderful script that would have been unthinkable to pass up on, so we both worked together to make our visions work. She may be new to full-length narratives but she definitely has the spark for it.

JASMINE CURTIS-SMITH: How long did it take for you to write the script for Baka Bukas?

SAMANTHA LEE: It took me around 10 days to do the first pass I think. I remember I had to get it done before flying out to Melbourne so I was in a coffee shop every day just writing.

Other than giving a different perspective of the LGBT community, what else would you hope the viewers could take away from the movie?

A lesson you may have learned or a pain unknown to some? (Ouch.) Ikaw, Jasmine, did you learn any lessons?

Listen to your director.

It’s funny because doing this film helped me process a lot of things that happened to me three or so years ago. Like everyone’s pain is valid, even if it’s not on the same level as yours. And sacrifice comes with resentment, even if it was your choice in the first place. Did you find it weird that you could relate to my pain?

Poster child: Baka Bukas will screen at the Cinema One Originals 2016 Film Festival from Nov. 16-22.

It’s more comforting rather than weird.

True. You were the one thing I didn’t have to worry about (much).

What’s the biggest hurdle you encountered in your first narrative full-length film shooting? How did you overcome it?

I’m usually very controlling. I’m usually very guarded with my feelings, and this time I couldn’t do that. I had to be accessible to my actors, to put myself on the same emotional level as them so that they trust me more. And I had to learn how to trust. I mean, in essence, I gave my heart and said, “Here, do with it as you wish.” But not in a romantic way.

If you think about it, you’re the veteran and I’m the rookie in this situation. A lot of times I wanted to ask: “Am I doing this right?” “Am I f**king this up?” You only started calling me direk on the fourth or fifth day of shooting and I’ve always wondered if that was when I grew into the role.

If you could score the movie with International artists, would you? And what songs would you use?

I know you can help me out with this one! M83, Wet, Death Cab for Cutie, New Order. Who else? I wrote the entire first draft of the film listening to Weak by Wet over and over because I wanted the film to encapsulate that song: a joyous insecurity. And Third Eye Blind’s Deep Inside of You.

I think there’s a secret language that exists between people who love the same music. “Your pain is my pain,” I think.

Yes! Definitely! Hence, the “F.U. Sam!” during that one scene. Where did you get your inspiration for the aesthetic and feel of the film?

What’s good about working with a team I grew up with is that they know my aesthetic. Do you remember when we were on the way to shoot that scene in the field and I was describing to Sasha what was going to happen? She said, “Oh, that’s very Sam!”

I think there’s a secret language that exists between people who love the same music. “Your pain is my pain,” I think.

Alex’s bedroom is the most me. The weekend before the shoot, Whammy [Alcazaren, production designer] came over and just got random stuff from my bedroom. I told him I wanted the paint color to look like something I picked as a child and eventually had to live with as an adult. There were photos of one of the girls I dated on the walls! There was a lot of Kanye paraphernalia. He even threw in references to my old films.

Did you find that a lot of the physical aspects of the role helped you become Alex?

I loved that the room was so personalized. Not sure if you noticed but I looked at ALL the photos on the wall. I was trying to find and figure out if your ex would be on it. (Laughs)

Hahaha, OMG. Let’s not.

Is there anything you would hope to have done differently in the filmmaking process or was it everything you hoped it could be?

A LOT! DO WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT THIS? THIS IS GOING TO GIVE ME ANXIETY. Hahaha, joke.

Honestly this whole time I’ve just been praying to get the best possible iteration of this film possible so what gets me through is just the belief that all the heartbreaks were for a reason.

Ikaw? Were there parts of Alex you would have played differently?

The room aided me with kicking off the first day. It was sort of a base I used for my character for the rest of the shooting days. I saw the posters on the wall of the artists that Alex listens to, and so I listened to them. The majority were also bands or artists I loved too, so I guess — and like you said — there’s that kinda “secret” language that made me “feel” Alex.

I think in terms of the physicality of the role it helped me a lot that we have the same piercings. It grounded me in weird ways like there would be moments where I would be watching you on-screen and just have this out-of-body moment of me being there.

Like Doctor Strange!

Yeah, I haven’t seen that movie. Most of the time, I’m so far from you guys. There’s a certain distance so I’m detached from this character who is supposed to be kind of me. Then when I see that piercing, it’s like a Taser to the heart.

“Yes” to piercings! I was so happy when you didn’t ask me to take them off. I usually get told to do so because it doesn’t fit the “pretty damsel in distress” character. What can you say about the press interpretations of certain themed films like this? The questions usually asked, the reviews of the audience, the ideas formed of the film, etc.?

So far we’ve only dealt with press. And that has been mostly disheartening but expected. It shows just how far we have to go in terms of being able to represent the LGBT community properly. I always say that I’m in this little gay bubble and I think that the things discussed in this film are non-issues. But they areissues to a lot of people. Two girls kissing is still an issue.

Jasmine, you had to bear the brunt of a lot of the politically incorrect press stuff. I put a certain amount of pressure on you in terms of being able to deliver the message well. And for the record I just want to say I’m super proud of you.

The pressure was warmly and gladly welcomed, direk! I always love being able to make a stand for what people refuse to understand or make room for. Rather than allowing them to always make jokes in order to avoid the real topic matter, I’ve found this amazing empowerment when I can make them listen.

I think they’re listening. Fingers crossed.

Is there anything you would like to say to Jess now?

Hi! Please watch Baka Bukas, Nov. 16-22 as part of the Cinema One Originals festival. (Laughs) I actually think she’s coming to the gala. I’ve had this note saved in my phone since February that I told myself I was going to send to her when it was time to invite her to the screening. Wala. It’s still there. Unsent.

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