Just completed this interview with Fil-Am Ako in which I talk about Home Unknown, filmmaking, being Filipino-American and much more.
Please tell us who you are.
I’m Stephen Dypiangco. I was born and raised in Montebello, a suburb east of Los Angeles, California. My parents, Oscar and Lucila, emigrated from the Philippines in 1969, ten years before I was born. Originally from the province of Pampanga, my mom spent most of her life as a high school English teacher, both in Metropolitan Manila and in the Los Angeles Unified School district. My dad, who was born in Laguna, was an auditor for the California worker’s compensation insurance company. Growing up, my schoolmates were mostly Chinese and Mexican, with just a few Filipinos. Until I went to NYU for graduate film school, my education had exclusively been at Catholic schools (St. Stephen School for elementary, Loyola High School, Georgetown University).
After college I spent a year as a volunteer with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, which had a huge impact on my life. While living in the poverty-stricken city of Camden, NJ, with its share of violence and danger, I worked with a nonprofit organization that promoted the wellbeing of farmworkers. My experiences there opened my eyes to harsh realities I had never fully understood. They also made me appreciate the great lengths to which my parents had gone to provide my three older brothers and me so many opportunities.
Interested in fusing my passion for social justice with the art of filmmaking, I was fortunate enough to gain admittance into NYU’s prestigious graduate film program. At NYU, I wrote, directed and produced several short films and worked alongside incredibly talented classmates.
What is Home Unknown?
Home Unknown is a feature-length personal documentary about my family, which I began work on in 2006, during my final year at NYU. After a lengthy conversation with an older cousin, I started to realize how little I knew about our family’s history. Since I was born in the U.S., I didn’t really know my relatives in the Philippines nor what that country meant to me. Although I had been there a couple of times as a child, I hadn’t gone back as an adult.
Since my parents are now retired, they return to their homeland every year around Christmas time. With this in mind, I decided to make a film about going back to the Philippines with them to find out about my relatives and Filipino identity. But when I came back to NY from shooting in the Philippines in early 2007, I got sidetracked. I finished up my NYU coursework, moved back home to LA, got married in Montana, produced a low budget film, directed several music videos, wrote a screenplay, wrote tons of synopses for Netflix and much more.
Last December, I was finally became ready to start editing my documentary and to bring it to completion. Since then, I’ve been actively trying to connect with other Fil-Ams , hoping to find others like me who might be interested in lending their talents to this project. Momentum is slowly starting to pick up. I can now see my film reaching a much larger audience than I ever expected, which is very exciting. What started out as a project for just my family, and possibly a few film festivals, seems to be growing into something much bigger.
Where can people view Home Unknown?
Although I am still editing the feature-length version of Home Unknown, people can already check out the trailer and various related webisodes through these websites:
My goal is to keep releasing new videos, pictures and updates that relate to the movie’s progress, my parents and what it’s like to be the child of Filipino immigrants.
To continue reading this interview, please click here