By Johanna Salinas
Even film-making has gone virtual
Following the success of his 2019 horror film "Hellcome Home," Guam film maker Bobby Bonifacio Jr. has directed another movie produced by ABS-CBN. "My Lockdown Romance," a pandemic-spawned film, is now streaming on abs-cbn.com after premiering on Nov. 12.
"My Lockdown Romance," an LGBTQ romantic comedy, is about two college friends reconnecting on Facebook during the pandemic. The film takes place solely online and is reminiscent of Netflix's suspense thrillers "Unfriended" and "Searching."
Under the original plan, ABS-CBN wanted Bonifacio to shoot another movie in the Philippines. The producers flew him to Manila in February, but Covid-19 put the whole world in lockdown.
But like every aspect of life and arts, the movie industry must find a way to beat the pandemic. “The pandemic gave us a lot of restrictions and things had to stop,” Bonifacio said. “The producer had to assess when would be the right time to push through with the
project. Then, I had the opportunity to make another project which is 'My Lockdown Romance.'”
Although his forte is supernatural-horror, Bonifacio said audiences craved something light-hearted to keep their mind off plague in the real-world. With his producers still wanting him to complete a film, the director looked to the pandemic for guidance and wrote "My Lockdown Romance."
“I thought to come up with an inspirational story instead of a horror-suspense film this time around, because during these difficult events, people need to inspired," said Bonifacio.
He finished the script within two sleepless weeks.
"Luckily the producers liked it and we proceeded to find the right actors. It took about a month or two to find the right actors. Just finding actors was one of the longest processes," he said. "From June to July, we shot the movie for four to five days. Post-production work took a couple of months. We finished the entire film around late October.”
A film is a collaborative effort, employing dozens of people. However, to complete this film, the actors had to be their own makeup artists, costume designers and even set team. The movie was completed without the usual production set.
You've heard of "working from home." Have you heard of "acting from home?"
“Everyone was working from home for the actors and the crew,” Bonifacio said. “We had one day where we were able to meet and that was the last day of shooting and we did the necessary precautions. Ninety percent of the movie, we were all in our own homes. We sent equipment to the actors and set it up the production design in their own rooms and we were guiding them online.”
While Bonifacio still looks forward to creating horror-suspense movies, "My Lockdown Romance" made him appreciate different film genres. “It was an experience in finding ways to make a movie despite the lockdown,” he said. “It was all about keeping ourselves productive despite these hardships. At the same time, I learned to not limit myself in storytelling. If you share an honest story, people will support you.”
With many young adults being separated from friends and even family right now, Bonifacio wants them to feel a sense of belonging with "My Lockdown Romance."
“I'm excited to share this story, especially to young people, high school or college students. I’m pretty proud of it, not just for it’s technical work. It’s more for the message it brings. A lot of young people can be depressed because they have a hard time expressing their feelings to certain loved ones," Bonifacio said. "I hope this movie can give inspiration and hope to young people and give acknowledgement to what they do for their loved ones. It’s a message to take a step back and let someone you know you love them."
"My Lockdown Romance" stars Jameson Blake and Joao Constancia. “This story is also about acceptance and inclusivity in society and in life. In the future, hopefully, people can look at each out without judgement or labels,” said the director. “We're part of one humanity and we need to experience the same rights so we can all enjoy life. We all feel the same kind of love, no matter who it is. We all have our struggles, so we must treat each other with love and empathy. This is a love story. No matter the protagonists, we can still relate to the story.”