SXSW Short and Sweet: “Learning Tagalog With Kayla”
Austin filmmaker tells how she made an accidental quarantine short
By Richard Whittaker,
7:00AM, Sat. Mar. 20, 2021
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"