by Francis Abbey
I have been an independent filmmaker in the Washington D.C. area for more than 20 years. In that time I have written and directed two feature-length comedies, a fantasy webseries, and numerous short films. My Filipino mythology-inspired script Say Boo has won several awards and ranks in the top 1% of 94,000 projects on the screenwriting website Coverfly. For the past 8 years I have worked for TEGNA Media, producing news and documentary content and during which time I have earned a CBS Eye on Excellence award and 5 Capital Emmy awards.
As the son of a Filipina immigrant, I wanted for years to make films with other Filipino artists. It was challenging to find collaborators, however, because the community is dispersed. Social media finally made it possible to find the right people.
The DC 48 Hour Film Project is a competition in which contestants produce a short film from start to finish in a single weekend. I have participated in the competition a number of times over the years and saw it as a great opportunity to pull together a Filipino-led team, Barkada DMV.
Barkada DMV started with my wife RC and myself. I recruited my friend Rhonda Mendoza whom I’d met in filmmaking circles years earlier. Then I put out a call on social media for cast and crew. Al Sotto, whom I’d worked with on my film 6 Nonsmokers, was the only actor I’d previously worked with who responded. Three actors came by way of posts in Facebook groups: Elaine Espinola, Ian Ampoyo, and Ang Opulencia. And our final cast member Jannah Bilker came via Rhonda’s connections.
I employed the help of my friend Lee Perna, a local producer with some 15 48 Hour Film Projects to his name. Our film “The Houseguest” got a great reception from the audience screening and we took home 3 awards including Audience Award and Honorable Mention for Best Acting Ensemble.
The experience was so great for the entire team, that we came back just over a month later for the Baltimore 48 Hour Film Project. We added 3 new FilAm members to the Barkada: cast members Ali Dash and Keith Villones, and composer Andrew Cerafica. It was another great experience and our film “Pinoy Noir” won 3rd Place in the competition. Our 3rd place finish qualified us for the 48HFP Yes We Cannes competition, for which we brought back "Pinoy Noir" for a new case and added cast member Ellie Rodriguez and another Pinoy behind the scenes, assistant editor Kai Morales.
Barkada DMV premiered "Very Merry Mahusay," a Christmas sequel to "The Houseguest," at the Old Greenbelt Theatre. We were thrilled to screen our work for a Filipino audience, who expressed their gratitude for increasing Pinoy representation. Now we're looking to build on these successes for even bigger and better things in 2023.