SXSW Short and Sweet: “Learning Tagalog With Kayla”

Austin filmmaker tells how she made an accidental quarantine short

Kayla Abuda Galang, the multi-hyphenate talent behind SXSW Texas short "Learning Tagalog With Kayla"

Welcome to Short and Sweet, our look at short films playing at SXSW. Today's we talk with Kayla Abuda Galang, writer, director, director of photograph, editor and star of "Learning Tagalog With Kayla."

Austin Chronicle: So ... how's quarantine going?

Kayla Abuda Galang: Ha! Quarantine's been okay. I've been mostly working from home and keeping my cats off my keyboard. Haven't been baking as much lately, though I'm hoping to get back in the game after SXSW. I also think I'm still reeling from Winter Storm Uri from mid-February -- we just got our hot water back about a week ago. So that feels like the big overarching "thing" right now.

AC: A lot of filmmakers have been squeamish about making a quarantine film, but you took the bull by the horns. Were there any second doubts about making a quarantine film (even if you never say the q-word)?

KAG: It's funny because I didn't even really consider it to be a quarantine film until after I shared it with friends and family. My filmmaking partner, Sam, even told me that if she didn't know any better, she'd just think my character is afraid of going outside. So, there were no hesitations about making a quarantine film to begin with. I think I just saw what was in front of me, found it interesting and funny enough, and decided to go for it.

AC: They say necessity is the mother of invention: How much of the production was from just what you had to hand?

KAG: All of production came from what I had on hand! I didn't even have a tripod because the plate was broken, so I used a light stand instead. I made the most of my space and the ways I could collaborate with my roommates. For instance, David is a photographer with a great eye, so I had him operating the camera at points. Will is a talented musician, sound mixer, and sound designer, so I had him mixing and composing for the piece.

AC: How was the actual shoot?

KAG: The shoot itself was easy peasy. I imagined different vignettes for each line and pieced out filming over the course of the week. If I found downtime at work, or if the sink was perfectly loaded with dishes, I'd quickly set up and shoot. It was perfect and breathable. The hard part was recording all of the Tagalog dialogue, because I don't fluently speak Tagalog and I'm very self-conscious about it.

AC: A lot of people are sort of holding their breath about how they're feeling right now: was there any catharsis to this film?

KAG: There was definitely some catharsis to the film! I got to speak my sad thoughts into existence and in Tagalog. What really gets me though, is the relatability people say the film has. I made it after a four-year personal project hiatus with no plans to submit it to anything, so the kind responses were surprising! Of all my projects, this one took the least amount of time and money to make, and it was my most personal, honest, and silly. Knowing that it rings true for at least one or two people out there makes me feel a little more connected in these weird, weird times.

"Learning Tagalog With Kayla"

Texas Shorts

World Premiere

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

South By Southwest Has a New Investor
South By Southwest Has a New Investor
With 50% ownership in SXSW LLC, P-MRC provides “lifeline”

Kevin Curtin, April 18, 2021

SXSW Film Review: <i>When Claude Got Shot</i>
SXSW Film Review: When Claude Got Shot
Documentary goes beyond the headlines of Black-on-Black crime

Shane Pfender, April 7, 2021

More by Richard Whittaker
The <i>Chronicle</i> Complete Guide to the Minions
The Chronicle Complete Guide to the Minions
Your yellow pals, from Despicable Me to Rise of Gru

June 30, 2022

SXSW Goes Down Under With SXSW Sydney
SXSW Goes Down Under With SXSW Sydney
Australian expo to be Austin brand's first licensed expansion

June 29, 2022


SXSW 2021, SXSW Film 2021, Kayla Abuda Galang, Learning Tagalog With Kayla

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle