2 Fil-Am Oscar winners, one year later | Inquirer Entertainment
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2 Fil-Am Oscar winners, one year later

By: - Columnist
/ 08:20 PM February 04, 2012

“WHAT stands out in heart and mind are the people who helped make my time at the Oscars like I, too, was a movie star,” says filmmaker Gigi Dement, shown at right on the set of “Bastards of Young,” an indie feature she is producing.

LOS ANGELES – A year ago, three Filipino-Americans – Stephen Dypiangco, Gigi Dement and Stefanie Walmsley – made news when their “God of Love” won the best live action short honor in the Academy Awards.

Luke Matheny directed and starred in the film that Gigi and Stefanie coproduced while Stephen served as the producer of marketing and distribution. In the following excerpts, Gigi and Stephen reminisced about that giddy, memorable night last year and updated us on what they have been busy with since then.


To this day, what still stands out in your memory of that Oscar night last year?

Stephen Dypiangco (SD): The memory that stands out the most is arriving at the Vanity Fair party. It was like a dream come true when Luke flashed his Oscar and they let all 11 of us in his entourage in. From the moment we got there, we were surrounded by Hollywood’s elite (Tom Hanks, Quentin Tarantino, Justin Timberlake, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Gyllenhaal), which was overwhelming and exciting all at once.


Gigi Dement (G): Oh, so many! I remember saying to myself to “remember everything” because I knew the Oscars are, perhaps, a once in a lifetime experience. Although, there was ample opportunity to become starstruck while I was in LA for the Oscars, what I know I will keep with me for the rest of my life is the outpouring of kindness and support from the Filipino community. Whenever I am asked what the most rewarding thing about the Oscars was, I unequivocally say this each time. To me that was worth the Oscar’s weight in gold.

Because I have been working for a long time in this and other industries, I have had the opportunity to socialize and meet celebrities on occasion, so the brushes with greatness at every turn on Oscar night are more like a surreal blur in my memory. What stands out in my heart and mind are the people who helped make my time at the Oscars like I, too, was a movie star.

STEPHEN Dypiangco (right) with Frank Langella (center) and Patrick Epino at the recent Sundance Film Festival

Oliver Tolentino saved me two times last year. First, by creating a beautiful gown for me in five days. I was in the middle of shooting a movie when I got the call from Luke telling me that I would be going to the Oscars. Being on set shooting 12 hours a day in Queens and New Jersey left no time for me even think about getting an Oscar-worthy dress. Upon hearing of my predicament, Winston Emano and Yong Chavez quickly put me in touch with Andrew Caruthers. From there, Oliver began to quickly and masterfully design my dress. We only had a couple of phone conversations and exchanged a few e-mails with measurements and photos of fabric samples, but by the time I arrived in LA a few days later, Oliver already had something for me to try on.

The second time he saved me was on the afternoon of the Oscars by sending makeup and hair artist, Rodrigo Alcover, to my hotel room to transform me from a working mother and indie filmmaker to the woman you saw in the photos. Shortly after Rod finished, to my surprise, Oliver and Andrew came to help me get dressed, literally sewing on the finishing touches of my exquisite gown. I have to say, thank goodness they did! I was all by myself and didn’t figure into the day how I was going to pour myself into the dress and zip it up!

Another moment that really stands out was when we arrived at the Vanity Fair party. If you remember, Luke gave a charming and heartwarming acceptance speech which, on top of “God of Love” winning the Oscar, put Luke directly in the spotlight. After the countless interviews with the press and posing for all the cameras, Luke turned to us and said, “I’d rather just be making movies.” At that moment, Luke kept it real and that gave the whole experience perspective. We didn’t set out to win the Oscar. We set out to make a good movie that said something about ourselves and somehow, that was enough to bring the two together.

What projects have you done since then?

SD: Several months ago, another Filipino-American filmmaker (Patrick Epino) and I launched a YouTube channel called the National Film Society (http://www.youtube.com/nationalfilmsociety). With a brainy and offbeat approach, we make weekly web videos about filmmaking, movies and pop culture. The response to our work has been positive thus far, and we look forward to building the National Film Society into a major production house. One very recent development is that we’re going to be partnering with PBS, which has tapped us to host their coming online film festival in March.


We just came back from the Sundance Film Festival, where we shot some fun video interviews with filmmakers and actors such as the Oscar-nominated Frank Langella. Honestly, we were quite intimidated being on camera with such an established actor. At first, he was thrown off by us being on the video standing right next to him, but he was a good sport and played along. Hopefully, we can continue to work with more talented actors and create funnier videos.

G: As an independent filmmaker – well, I guess a filmmaker in general – you have a lot of irons in the fire because you never know if your financing will fall through, your client will have second thoughts or if your screenplay needs just one more rewrite. Things always seem to get pushed off, so I try to stay busy doing a number of things. In the past year, I’ve been trying to finish up a couple of short films I directed many years ago that got shelved because I was raising my daughters. After producing other people’s films for so long, I just figured it was time to show people that I can write and direct as well.

On the producing front, my first feature, “Babygirl,” is finally finished and hopefully, we will be hearing from some interested festivals in the near future. Set in the Bronx, “Babygirl” is a bittersweet drama about Lena, who finds herself trapped in a love-triangle with her mom’s latest boyfriend. The only way out of it is to stand up and confront some difficult home truths. I also joined Toy Closet Films in producing the indie feature “Bastards of Young,” which is about four early-30-something friends who meet at what ends up being their last annual Halloween party. But instead of celebrating career success, they are forced to confront darker realities: Adultery, divorce, pregnancy – the basic issues that make adulthood more complicated than anyone expects it will be.

On the horizon, I have recently joined the producing team on another New York story that will be directed by an up-and-coming director whom I met while at NYU. I also have some other pet projects that I hope to get off the ground in the next year or two – a coming of age film that my husband is writing, about a boy who tries to survive life with his crazy mother and another about Horace Mann, a former middle school chess champ, who goes back to his old school to teach chess to the special education kids. Eventually, the special ed kids take on the school’s chess champs in a Bobby Fisher meets the Bad News Bears knock down that leads Horace to redemption and forgiveness.

If I were to return as an Academy nominee someday, I would …

SD: Purchase a really nice tuxedo to wear, take an obscene amount of pictures from start to finish and meet as many of my filmmaking heroes as possible.

G: If I ever have the good fortune to return as a nominee again, my first move will be to contact you and Janet, Winston Emano and Oliver Tolentino again! The advice, support and guidance you gave Stefanie, Stephen and me was invaluable. You helped us navigate a foreign landscape and made such a momentous event in our lives much more significant.

What is even harder to believe is the impact that this small film has had in the Philippines. The pride my homeland has expressed in us over the Oscar win holds more meaning to me than the Oscar itself. Without Winston setting up the press conference and the Filipino-American press taking an interest in our story, the Philippines, perhaps, would never have even known that several Filipino producers were involved in the success of “God of Love.” I’m hearing from family and well-wishers from across the globe for the first time in years.

E-mail the columnist at rvnepales_5585@yahoo.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben

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