If there is anything that has been successfully flattened at the height of the pandemic, it’s the borders that separate people. The unseen curve that has drawn classes apart. Fact is, no class of society seems to be in a safe place right now. And although these may have collectively become a phase of realization for some people to see how advantaged they are, it has also opened the view of things from the other side. Cinemalaya filmmaker Kevin Mayuga took advantage of this rare opportunity of seeing things and capturing them in a story.
Just like the others, the life he is living now did not spare him from the claws of the monster that has been threatening humankind for quite sometime-- a proof that a comfortable life is not tantamount to a better place during the pandemic.
“I was going through anxiety, and some sort of depressive state (like everyone else). I felt like I was wrestling with this complex feeling called privilege guilt. I was seeing the news, that people here in the Philippines, are struggling, dying, while I’m here in my home, in a comfortable spot with my family, and I have a maid, a kasambahay with me, who do the chores and I’ve never really realized how privileged I was, until the pandemic hit.”
Even if Kevin is living on a more comfortable side, he is evidently perceptive of how the other class of life looks like. This actually fueled him to do something that challenges the way he sees things, which led and inspired the creation of his Cinemalaya entry “Ate O.G.”
Kevin had one thing in mind while brainstorming. He wanted his film to dismantle the connotation of looking at social classes to gauge on how much respect one would show the other.
“Some people don’t realize that they treat people differently because of where they are from because of social class.”
Originally a commercial director, Kevin slowly got jaded, prompting him to shift into filmmaking. In spite of his extensive experience in producing digital content such as commercials and music videos, he knew there was more he could do.
“I needed to at least prove to myself that I can still do a film. Ate OG is a homemade short film and I wanted to challenge myself as a filmmaker. What can I do with this limited space, limited resources, limited actors that I had. Can I still tell a story?” Mayuga said who worked alone for his entry.
With his knowledge on commercial production, Kevin knew that with the limited resources brought about by the pandemic, it was going to be a challenge.
“It’s kinda crazy, I came from a commercial shoot where there are 50-100 people on site, am I still a filmmaker if it’s just me?”
BTS photos during the Film Production of "Ate O.G" directed by Kevin Mayuga
Due to the restrictions imposed during the quarantine, creating a decent set-up for a film was a little tricky, so Kevin thought of borrowing cameras and lenses from his friends to support him on this mini project he was making.
“I started taking pictures in our house, to frame stuff, then I started writing a script, it was an 8-10 pages script. I camera tested, I was trying to make it a legit film production even though it was just me.”
Instead of a laptop to edit his files, Kevin surprisingly winged it with only his iPad. It was where he edited, colored and graded the whole shoot.
“I just used my iPad to edit it, using my fingers. It was crazy to me how I was storyboarding on this thing, I was trying to make it as clean as possible.”
Ate OG is a testament that in doing something you really like and you put your heart into it, all the restrictions and scarcity of resources won't be a hindrance. Kevin worked with what he had. It was a quintessential experience. No high definition film cameras, no crew. Ate OG was a product of an iPad edit and a one-man team.
WHAT INSPIRED "ATE O.G?"
The 4-hour interview Kevin had with their kasambahay Merle Cahilig, who played the lead role in his film was such an eye-opening experience.
“She had a really crazy life story, she was from the province, she ended up being maid, she actually ended up in China, a maid in China, and she was sent back, one of her colleagues framed her for stealing a bag of money, and she had to spend Christmas and New Year in the China prison.” Learning about her life story was overwhelming for Kevin as he thought she was just a simple house helper and it was the only time he got to know who she really was, apart from she fixes the house.
“She was just kind to me. This person lives in my house, she does all the chores in her room, and I don’t know the things she carries, all her struggles.” Kevin shared.
Kevin reiterated the things he realized while filming, such as the way people treat other people differently because of where they are from or because of their social class.
“You see a barista there, and it’s like the same, but here you treat people in the service industry differently. Depending on how high you are in the social class,” Kevin referred to the difference of living in the Philippines and in the US.
“There it’s the color of your skin, here it's your financial status when you were born, which province you’re from. How big is your house? People tend to judge people based on how many cars they have or if they live in a gated village,” Mayuga expressed his disappointment towards the current status of societal division in the country.
Moreover it wasn’t just how the rich looked at the less fortunate, it was the way people judge and barge in on stereotypes depending on someone’s class.
“People who are less fortunate also judge the richer people. If there’s anything we can change here in the PH, it’s that, be kinder, and not see people based on how much they have, or whatever value they have, or the social class value they are in."
Kevin’s Cinemalaya entry talks about the struggles of an aging house helper who finds herself going through an unexpected and uplifting experience. As she faces the day-to-day challenge and anxiety brought about by the home quarantine, she also deals with her two teenage employers who seem to take out all their negative feelings toward her. In the midst of running a series of stressful chores, the lead finds a familiar medicine that gives her an unexpected form of relief and a newfound connection with the teenagers in her care.
When asked about how he thinks he can influence and inspire young people who are also leaning into filmmaking, Kevin has this to say.
“Find something that really excites you, that you feel you can believe in, and tell a story about that”.
Book your tickets NOW and watch Kevin Mayuga's film, "Ate O.G" an Official Entry to the 17th Cinemalaya Film Festival streaming at ktx.ph from August 6 to September 5.
COMING SOON... Kevin Mayuga's DAILY DAILY video exclusive here at THE FILM DREAM website.
Would you love to know more stories about storytellers and filmmakers here in the Philippines?
Sign in as a site member here at thefilmdream.com and we will send you email updates.