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[K]Ahon – An unplanned project that arose in the pandemic

By Ralph Chan, Vienna

As we have all witnessed, the pandemic has caused a lot of pain, tears, and uncertainty for all of us. For a long time, we were trapped in the dark and wondered if there would be an end. We looked for something like activities that would bring us joy and distraction. For many like me, one of these was the famous Filipino screenwriter Ricky Lee's online script workshop.

Sir Ricky and his team conducted and organized the workshop. I was lucky enough to be part of it among many participants. Although we did not know each other personally and most of us have never seen each other face-to-face, it immediately felt like a familiar situation. Perhaps it was also because we were all on fire for one thing: to learn from a maestro how to write a movie script. In times like these, creative work is a relief, although it takes a lot of time, energy and is hard work.

Batch 24

It was not planned at all, but because of that workshop, this group of aspiring Filipino screenwriters – named Batch 24 – worked together on a film project. Since we all have to keep a physical distance from each other because of the pandemic and because some like me do not live in the Philippines, everything was handled electronically. That is also, what makes the project special.

Thanks to technology, project development and execution has taken place in the digital world. Who would have thought that a global pandemic and lockdown(s) would allow 62 aspiring Filipino screenwriters from around the world and their mentor to collaborate on a short film project? The pandemic and its effects on society, but also on individuals, gave us the idea for this film project. Our shared visual interpretations of isolation is the reason why this project was developed and executed.

[K]Ahon is a play on broken images, cuts and mirroring. This film is the result of the collaboration of all 62 participants in the Ricky Lee Scriptwriting Workshop Batch 24.

With this film, the participants attempted to express the boundaries and limits visually and creatively. It shows that the lines that separate us are thin. The same is true for relativity and duality. Every connection is related with disconnection, every interruption with organic affinity. Ultimately, all of them are relative continuance. All recordings were filmed by each participant with a cell phone in different locations in the Philippines, Austria, Canada and Japan. It was put together during the pandemic.

To get a glimpse of how it was to work on the project, I spoke to some of the core members of the project on behalf of Rawmags, Roots & Wings e-Magazine. One of them was a a multimedia artist and director Jaime Pacena II. He has worked with several well-known artists in the Philippine entertainment industry, including directing the music video for Gloc 9's Sirena.

[K]Ahon for me is really beyond what it is now. The form now of what used to be fragments of different perspectives (literally and metaphorically) is a glimpse of lives and views of the 60+ aspiring writers who came together during the initial stages of the pandemic where most of us are looking for something to hold on to outside the confines of our own quarantined lives.

For me, it was a moment of consuming each clip as if I was able to see what the others have seen, heard and felt. It gave me a moment to glimpse in where we all stood during the time where everyone is isolated from the world. Nung binubuo ko na siya it allowed me to go back sa first day of our class.

Saying hi to all of you, and to hear the first words of wisdom of Sir Ricky, until the time we progressed to more ‘painful ways’ of writing until we found our own voice in our own stories. Yung kahon na nagbigay daan para umahon sa hirap ng pandemic na ito. [When I created it it allowed me to go back to the first day of our class. Saying hi to all of you, and to hear the first words of wisdom of Sir Ricky, until the time we progressed to more ‘painful ways’ of writing, until we found our own voice in our own stories. The box that gave way to rise above the hardships of this pandemic.]”

Another person in the core team was Leandro Reyes, a poet who wrote part of the screenplay.

“When I was writing the sequence for [K]Ahon I thought about how we are all going through small similarities and large differences. This vagueness allowed the exposure of 60+ different perspectives towards a singular direction. The experience, to say the least, is very fulfilling. None of us met physically from start to end. Kanya-kanyang kuha ng footage, nagpool ng mga editors, may mga decisions na urgent. [Each footage was taken by the participant on his/her own. Editors get together when were urgent to be made.] The coordination was intense, but we all knew we could make it work, so we did.”

One of the participants who also shot some footages was the artist Jopie Sanchez.

“The [K]Ahon project to me was meant to encapsulate this very particular experience that no other set of storytellers but us would be able to have. Shot around April/May of last year, when the pandemic was still relatively new to all of us, it was visually documented and expressed our individual experiences and find a connection among each other despite the distance.

It is somewhat like figuring out how to connect and share this specific human experience given the circumstances, which was somewhat a bit of a challenge having had to shift to online interactions. Intended to have been cathartic at first, as a means to deal with adjusting to the state of the world during pandemic - I think, upon final output, it ended up being more of a celebration of what it means to be human and relate to each other's existence instead.”

Other people in the core team were Sheenly Gener (Director), Kate Torralba, Mikey Amistoso, Darren Vega (Music and Instruments), Ricky Lee, Atong Redillas, Nina Beltran Yap, Jake Consing, Jonar Johnson, Jopie Sanchez and Kyle Jumayne Francisco, who served as producers. Not to be forgotten, everyone who is part of Batch 24 and who contributed to the project, but who cannot be listed here by name.

Our invitation to YOU!

As writers and creatives, we try to portray the world from our point of view, how we see, feel and perceive it. As I wrote in another RAW article Heart-to-Heart - Why (Austro-) Filipino Youth use SNS, Sir Ricky Lee once said: "Lahat tayo may kakayanang magkwento, kailangan lang natin ng tapang magsimula." With this film project, we as storytellers have shown the effects of pandemic, isolation and lockdown from our respective individual perspective through a visual interpretation.

On behalf of Batch 24, I hope that I have been able to make our project attractive to you. We would be happy if you get to watch the film. It is part of the 33rd Gawad CCP Alternatibo 2021 (online) film festival. Salamat! See you at the festival. R&W

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