Your new movie The
Year I Did Nothing - in a few words, what is it about?
It's about three young Filipino siblings who spend an extended summer
waiting to immigrate to America - the same year their country starts a
revolution to boot out their notorious dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
what I know, The Year I
Did Nothing is at least in part based on your own biography - so
how deep do the similarities go, and how much Ana Barredo can we find in
Christina? And what was it like to in a way revisit your own
The movie is a snapshot of my life in the 80s. Even the peripheral
characters such as the blind driver and the strict music teacher/strip club owner are all real people I know. When we shot the
first scene (where the siblings are watching TV when the mailman
delivers their immigration letter), it felt like I stepped out of a
time machine and landed in our old living room in Manila. That
was such a memorable event in my life that I remember exactly what we
were doing when it happened. So you can imagine how surreal
it felt for me as I watch these moments in my childhood playing right
in front of me.
Other sources of inspiration when
writing The Year I Did
biggest inspiration was the TV show The Wonder Years. If you're
not familiar with the show, The
Wonder Years is a nostalgic look at life in the
60s through the eyes of 13-year old Kevin Arnold as narrated by Kevin's
adult self. What's brilliant about The Wonder Years is that
although the show set during the Vietnam War era, it manages to address
the topic without seeming too political and preachy because we see it from
a 13-year old's perspective. That's how I wanted to depict the political
theme of The Year I Did
Nothing. I hope I was able to do that.
Year I Did Nothing being set in the Philippines, where was it
We shot the entire movie in Los Angeles. 8 of the 12-day shoot was shot
at a mansion in Granada Hills (a suburb in LA). The rest of the
locations (mall, church, arcade, etc) were shot all over LA. Then we
hired a local crew in the Philippines and provided them with a shot list
to shoot all over Manila. That footage served as the establishing shots
to complement the scenes we shot here in the US. We even rented a
jeepney (one of 10 in existence in the entire USA) to add authenticity
to the movie. A jeepney, by the way, is an iconic vehicle
ubiquitous only in the Philippines, in case you're wondering.
A few words about your directorial
approach to your story at hand?
Although I set out to make a semi-autobiographical movie, I discovered
that most of our actors lived the same story I wrote. That really helped
in directing them because the scenes were just as familiar to them as
they are to me. Another unique directing experience I had during
this shoot is that besides the cast, no one in the crew spoke Tagalog.
It was interesting to see the crew properly laughing at the right
moments even though they didn't speak the foreign language being spoken.
That's when I discovered the universal language of filmmaking.
Do talk about your key
cast, and why exactly these people?
The most challenging part was casting the kids. I had no idea how
difficult it was to find Filipino kids who can speak Tagalog in Los
Angeles. But we eventually found these adorably talented kids to
play those roles. What's gratifying about making this movie is that our
actors rarely get the opportunity to play (or even audition for) lead
roles... or even roles with speaking parts! And when they do get
cast in a movie or TV show, they are relegated to playing mostly
background work or ethnically-stereotypical roles like a janitor, a cab
driver or a maid. I hope our audience will see how talented our actors
are, and that they're more than capable of playing meatier roles besides
a janitor, a cab driver or a maid.
What can you tell us
about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
majority of our cast are children, we didn't want them to work too late.
So we wrapped everyday by 4 or 5 pm at the latest, which they all
appreciated. You can say, we had daycare hours. We also
tried to maintain a fun and light on-set atmosphere. We shot
in July of last year, which happened to be the hottest July ever
recorded in history. The mansion we shot in had no air conditioning, yet
the cast and crew still managed to have fun on set despite the miserable
heat. It's been almost a year since we wrapped, but we all
continue to stay in touch with each other and remain friends.
$64-question of course, where can The
Year I Did Nothing be seen?
Our world premiere will be at the Independent Filmmakers Showcase Film
Festival in May.
We're also being featured at the San Diego Filipino Cinema Perspective
Showcase on May 25 and June 1 . We're still waiting to hear back
from the other film festivals we've submitted to. For now, we're just
keeping out fingers crossed and will continue to update our various
social media accounts on any upcoming screening.
Anything you can
tell us about audience and critical reception of The
Year I Did Nothing yet?
only had a private screening for the cast and crew so far. No surprise,
it was well received. I guess we'll find out once we
hit the festival circuit. The reviews we've gotten so far have been very
positive (including yours) so I'm feeling optimistic that the audience
will respond positively as well. At least, I hope they do.
Any future projects
you'd like to share?
I've co-optioned (with Lay-Carnagey Entertainment) the rights to two
critically-acclaimed YA novels by Jennifer Smith. It's my first
attempt at adapting a novel. We're hoping to produce at least one of
these books this year. I'll keep you posted on any developments.
Your/your movie's website,
Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
official website is
We're also on Facebook
- there's no escaping us. We're everywhere!
Anything else you're dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
The reason I was so determined to make this movie now (and not 15 years
ago, when I wrote the script) is because of what's happening, not just
in the US, but the world in general. Particularly, how the world
sees immigrants these days. Lately, it seems that the word
"immigrant" has taken on a different meaning. As a first
generation immigrant, it's upsetting how
of welcoming them, they're being vilified. I hope this movie
helps show the world that immigrants aren't scary invaders and dangerous
criminals some people should fear. We're hard-working, productive
individuals who just want a better life and a brighter future.