- By Jasmine Stole Weiss
Simon Sanchez alum now Hollywood actress to film romcom on Guam
Two years ago, Rain Valdez, donning a navy blue, gray and white cheerleader outfit paired with Adidas sneakers, pitched her romantic comedy script about a transgender Hollywood actress who gets to live her childhood dream of becoming a cheerleader in her hometown on Guam.
Fast forward to 2021 and Valdez’s winning script idea landed her back on Guam, sans the cheerleader ensemble. In much of the same way Valdez’s lead character in “Re-live: A tale of an American Island Cheerleader” is able to live out her dream, Valdez is making a reality of her film aspirations.
Valdez was on the island on a scouting trip for “Re-live” earlier this month. The plot is centered around trans actor Rowena Vega, who returns to Guam for her 10-year high school reunion. Instead of the usual hotel ballroom dinner and raffle, this reunion’s theme is a do-over, allowing the class to “re-live” their high school experiences but this time as the people they’ve since grown up to be.
Vega, described as a “low-key famous and fabulous trans actor” chooses cheerleading tryouts as her do-over mission.
In a video explaining the movie, co-star and co-writer Rachel Leyco said it’s a funny and flirty romantic comedy and will feature a largely queer and Asian American cast. Producer Shant Joshi said the film is “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” meets “Crazy Rich Asians” meets “Always Be My Maybe.”
Leyco and Joshi accompanied Valdez on her recent Guam trip. Joshi said the trio were on the island for 10 days with a packed agenda.
They had several goals on this trip including location scouting, connecting with local CHamoru and LGBTQ+ community members, meeting with local producers, meeting with government entities and meeting with possible investors.
According to Joshi, many of the group’s goals were met.
“We had a great time seeing the wide diversity of beautiful locations available on Guam. We had a wonderful opportunity for Rain to connect with her family after being away for 12 years,” Joshi said. The group also had productive meetings with Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio, Vice Speaker Tina Muña Barnes and Sen. James Moylan.
They were also able to speak with the officials from the Guam Visitors Bureau, Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities, the Guam Chamber of Commerce, Docomo Pacific, Tsubaki Tower and the Guam Economic Development Authority. The group also had a private tour of the Department of Chamorro Affairs, a meet and greet at Club Icon for the LGBTQ+ community and met with production partners like Myracle Mugol, Mighty Island, Digital Kitchena nd Project Inspire.
“We are keen and excited to continue to work to engage high-net-worth individuals and corporate entities to invest into the financing of the film,” Joshi said.
In a video, Joshi said the film’s budget is about $2 million and they’re looking to start filming in 2022.
For Valdez, the trip was also a way to reconnect with her family.
Returning to the island, Valdez was also surprised by the level of development and acceptance of the local film and LGBTQ+ communities on the island.
Valdez was born in the Philippines and moved to Guam when she was four years old. She grew up on the island going to school and working. She transitioned in the middle of her time at Simon Sanchez High School, Joshi said. She was bullied but also had great friends at the Yigo school.
She left Guam in 2000 for Los Angeles for opportunities in the film industry but returned in 2009 to take care of her mother before she died. When she went back to LA, Valdez thought she’d never return to Guam but years later found she was homesick.
In 2019, she premiered her series Razor Tongue at the InsideOut LGBT film festival in Toronto. She also pitched her then-short film script as part of an InsideOut pitch contest and she won, Joshi said. Joshi was in the audience at that event. During the pandemic and after people urged Valdez to make “Re-live” a feature-length film, Valdez brought on Leyco to co-write the feature screenplay and submitted it to Fae Pictures, according to Joshi. Fae Pictures loved it.
The group’s scouting trip won’t be their last. Joshi said the “Re-live” team will definitely be back on the island later this year or early next year.