2010 – Home Unknown Year in Review

Posted on December 29, 2010

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Filipino American, Filipino movie, documentary, Stephen Dypiangco, Home Unknown

A self-portrait of Filipino American filmmaker Stephen Dypiangco from his documentary Home Unknown.

At the tail end of 2010, I want to share some thoughts on how far Home Unknown has come along in the past 12 months. When the year began, the project was very disorganized, and I was under the misguided impression that I could pretty much complete this feature length documentary by myself. I’m happy to say that now in December the project is stronger than ever, and my perspective has completely changed. Instead of trying to shoulder all of the work alone, I’ve found some great collaborators to work with and am in the process of establishing several exciting new partnerships.

So here’s a few highlights from 2010:

WATCHING EVERYTHING: I started the year by watching all 90+ hours of footage that I have. This includes home movies from my trip to the Philippines in 1994-1995, which my eldest brother Joe thankfully recorded. However, the bulk of this material centers on my main trip back to the Philippines in 2006-2007, which I recorded during my last year as an NYU graduate film student. As I poured over scenes from this journey, I took copious notes on what I liked, didn’t like and thought might be relevant to my movie. I’m glad that I took this step of cataloguing everything because I’ve looked back on these notes so many times for guidance throughout the editing process.

GETTING LOST: After thoroughly watching everything I’d shot, I dove into editing. I didn’t have an outline or even much direction, so I thought the best way to move forward was to just start working. I figured that cutting scenes together would lead to me finding the story as I went along. But as I worked on piecing together various scenes, I began to realize that I was in way over my head. This lead to panic and then action.

LOOKING FOR HELP: Realizing that there was no way I could possibly complete this film on my own, I began reaching out for help. I knew that I wanted to find Filipino collaborators, so I started emailing the only Filipino filmmakers I knew, who were almost all across the country in New York. This includes my NYU classmate Clarissa Delos Reyes and fellow NYUer’s Christina DeHaven and Gigi Dement. Through these friends, I got a few leads here in LA, but nothing seemed to pan out. I felt doomed to slave away on my own . . . until I found an awesome collaborator, Stephen Deline. This other Steve D is a friend of a friend who happened to also be working on editing a feature documentary that he shot back in 2006-2007. But instead of a personal documentary about a trip to the Philippines, Steve’s film centers on New Orleans public schools in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Steve and I agreed to meet every other week and give each other feedback on each other’s projects. This sort of mini-writer’s group for documentary filmmakers proved to be a huge help in finding my movie’s focus and digging deeper within myself. It was through our fruitful time together that I really shaped the current Home Unknown trailer.

Lucila Dypiangco, Home Unknown, Filipino, Pinoy, Filipino documentary, Facebook

My mom, Lucila Dypiangco (aka Mrs. D), is no stranger to Facebook these days.

BUILDING A WEBSITE: Starting the Home Unknown website through wordpress was something I tackled little by little over the course of several late nights. I’d never made a website before, and I definitely was intimidated about doing so for a long time. I knew that I wanted a website, so I had asked friends and family for help. But when those options didn’t seem like they would work out, I decided that I would just do it myself. Having a website to show people what Home Unknown is all about has given a tremendous boost to the project. It has also provided my retired parents Oscar and Lucila Dypiangco a way to share their experiences, memories and personal tastes. While I probably don’t blog as regularly as I’d like, I do feel positive knowing that the site is growing and offering a way for new fans (Filipinos, Filipino-Americans, Asians, Asian-Americans, children of immigrants, whoever) to find the project and get in touch with me.

PARTICIPATING WITHIN THE FILIPINO-AMERICAN COMMUNITY: Becoming active within the Filipino American Network (FAN) has led to meeting so many wonderful people such as Walter Boholst, Ed Mallillin, Jason Lopez, Arlyn Sinsay, Winston Emano, A.J. Calomay, Patrick Epino and many, many others. Helping coordinate FAN’s Project PSA initiative also paved the way to meeting Filipino filmmakers like Ronald San Augustin, Jim Herr, Drea Castro, Clarinda Morales, Marvin Suerto, Eric Tandoc and others. Lastly, this experience introduced me to the great work nonprofit organizations like SIPA, the Filipino American Library and FilAm Arts are doing within the community. While not directly helping Home Unknown at this point, these individuals and organizations will hopefully be allies and supporters of the film down the road.

FILLING OUT APPLICATIONS: Applying for several filmmaking programs sponsored by Film Independent, the Center for Asian American Media and the Tribeca Institute have been challenging experiences that have proven quite beneficial. Each program has forced me to fill out comprehensive applications, which have called for bios, project descriptions, budgets, timelines and much more. Articulating my film’s focus and laying out a plan for the future has helped me further crystalize my ideas and bring the project closer to completion. No longer am I simply opening Final Cut Pro and editing aimlessly. Now I’m taking the time to lay out the best possible plan, formulating what I hope will be a strong story that makes viewers laugh and reflect on their own ideas of assimilation, race, identity and home.

It’s been a great 2010, and I know that 2011 will be even better. If you have any ideas, suggestions or interest in sharing your talents with the making of Home Unknown, please leave a comment below. Together we can do something truly amazing.