Figuring out the ‘safest’ way to film during the pandemic

Filmmaker Michael Manese: ‘Asian PersuAsian’ will be his fourth short.

Up-and-coming New York filmmaker Michael Manese gears up to shoot his fourth film tentatively titled “Asian PersuAsian” amid a coronavirus pandemic that has halted production and possibly the film’s release.

Manese’s project has an All-Filipino/ FilAm cast, all based in New York and New Jersey. The film is made possible by a grant from the Inwood Art Works Filmmaker Fund. It is set to shoot in Upper Manhattan in September, a year after the grant was awarded.

The film tells the story of a public marriage proposal gone haywire. John is all set to propose to his girlfriend when one by one his friends disclose information to him that start to play with his head. “Why are you telling me this now?” seems to be the ongoing theme.

The film’s cast and crew are all assembled but the “biggest challenge” remains the lockdown.

“I first got the grant in the summer of 2020. Unfortunately, obviously, I couldn’t do any shooting because of the lockdown,” said Manese whose Angry Doug Films in producing “Asian PersuAsian.”

Within the year filming was on hiatus, Manese got his vaccine and found a cast and crew who were also similarly inoculated.

“The biggest hurdle I’m facing now is trying to figure out the best, the safest way of shooting this project during a pandemic. I’m doing a lot of research online. The SAG-AFTRA site has been very helpful. I’m also reaching out to fellow filmmakers who have projects lined up,” he said.

The cast is led by actor Philippe Garcesto, who was born in Iloilo City and moved to New Jersey just as he turned 8 years old. He has performed in Off-Broadway and regional theater productions. He trained in Karate and Judo while learning to play violin, piano, and guitar. He attended Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts where he pursued his degree in BFA for Visual Arts. He studied Mixed Media, Performance Art, and Theater. He also started writing original Spoken Word poetry and has published several poems.

Alfiero Supan was born in the Philippines and moved to the United States in his teens. He was initially trained by Marion Tonner of the Oregon Ballet Center. He also trained in martial arts – such as Karate, Aikido and Wu style Tai Chi — for over 30 years. He studied acting and theatre arts at Brooklyn College and Rowan College at Gloucester County.

Edgar Eguia is a N.Y.-based actor.  He trained at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting on Broadway.  His theatre credits include “Pip’s Island,” “The Cheaters Club,” and “The Bad and the Better.” He has appeared on YouTube movies such as “Upcode,” “Meat Lovers,” and “Happy Hour.”

Jeremy Rafal is a N.Y.-based actor, musician, writer, and educator. He was born in the Philippines and raised in Hawaii. Theater credits include his own solo plays “The Boy from Bantay” (FringeNYC), “Funhouse Funk” (NY Winterfest), as well as “I’ll Never Love Again” (Bushwick Starr), among other productions. He has appeared on film, TV, and commercials.

Actress Joyce Lao was born and raised in Baguio and Benguet province and moved to New York City more than 10 years ago. She traces her family’s origins to the Igorot and Cordilleran aboriginal people from the Northern highlands and mountains of the Philippines. She attended the Stella Adler School of Acting, and is presently enrolled at The Juilliard School, studying Music, Drama and Dance courses. She has produced, acted and written a few short films that have been screened in the film festival circuit. She is also the co-creator/producer of a new web series endorsed by YouTube entitled, “These Three Girls.”

Jasmin Malave is a NYC-based actor. Her artistic credits run the gamut from acting, tech, costuming, and choreography. Trained at the Atlantic Acting School affiliated with NYU Tisch, she is an active member of The Story Pirates where they celebrate the words and ideas of children through improv and sketch comedy. In 2019, through The Drama League, she debuted a new work she co-wrote about the modern Filipino American.

Manese’s project is leaning toward a rewritten title. Another FilAm filmmaker, Jhett Tolentino, announced he is working on a feature film with the similar sounding title, “Asian Persuasion.”

“The current title is something I came up with when I first wrote it expecting that I would have a diverse All-Asian cast (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, etc.),” he said. “Today the cast is all Filipino. My goal, soon, is to come up with a more Filipino-centric title.”

Born in the Philippines and raised in Passaic, New Jersey, Manese studied filmmaking at Rutgers University. He has been doing films for more than 20 years.

“My goal as a Filipino American filmmaker is to bring ‘Filipino Chic’ into the mainstream,” he said. He wished to produce films that that are “thought-provoking, daring, and experimental that can also reach a wide audience.” — Cristina DC Pastor

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