Start packing two weeks before the trip,” said actress Kira Balinger when Inquirer Entertainment asked her to share some travel/work hacks with onscreen partner LA Santos, who will experience working abroad for the first time later this year. The two will fly to Ontario, Canada, to shoot the romantic drama film “Maple Leaf Dreams,” along with director Benedict Mique.
“I expect it to be cold in Canada when we get there, so make sure to bring warm clothes. That was actually a challenge for me when I shot a previous film abroad—how to act while feeling extremely cold. You just have to be focused and know the script well. Hide your cell phone while on the set because you have to be consistent with your character’s world,” Kira told LA.
In “Maple Leaf Dreams,” they play Molly and Macky, who have been dating for years already when they decide to migrate to Canada in order to seek greener pastures, especially after experiencing financial losses due to sickness in the family.
Molly applies for a student program in Canada and gets in. The plan is for Macky to find work in order to support both of them, and later take up a course there, as well. However, adjusting to their new environment complicates what used to be a trouble-free relationship. They now have to fight to keep their love alive.
Kira also offered these acting tips to LA, whom she first worked with in the series “Ang Sa Iyo Ay Akin” in 2020. “Don’t act the role. You really need to have your heart in it. We read the script and saw how most of the scenes require heavy-drama acting. Make sure you already feel it before agreeing to start a scene,” she said. “Know your character well. Discipline is also important. When talent fails or doesn’t work in your favor, hard work prevails.”
She continued: “Since this is going to be shot abroad, we do not have the luxury of time. There will be technical problems, and hopefully not, location problems as well, so we really have to work together… All these tips I’m sharing with LA, I’m also telling myself. There were times when I would notice myself and say, ‘Parang ’di na ako natural.’”
As for LA, he refuses to feel pressured since this is his first lead role. “I’ve prayed for something like this for a long time. I just want to learn as much as I can from the experience. I also want to be able to show what I have in my heart as an actor,” he said. “I know I still need guidance. I promise to work hard to improve.”
No. 1 issue: Loneliness
Benedict, whose wife is currently in Canada under a student program, also offered a few pointers on how the two can develop their characters further. “It took a while for us (writer Hannah Cruz) to finish the script because we had to find out what Filipinos living there are dealing with and how they are coping. The No. 1 issue is loneliness. For some people, homesickness is really difficult to handle. Also, there are days there when the sun comes out for only seven hours. This can really affect the mental health of a Filipino, who is so used to experiencing sunshine for long periods,” he began.
“Molly is required to study for 40 hours a week, while Macky, only 20 hours. With their limited financial resources, they can only survive for one semester. The money they need for the next semester, they will have to work for during this semester. Just imagine how stressful this situation can be for them. Our Canadian team, who are all Filipinos trying their luck in Canada, went through the same thing,” Benedict said.
Kira, who is half-British and was born in Hong Kong but grew up in the United Kingdom before relocating to the Philippines at age 10, also shared her thoughts on the topic of migration. “We all have individual struggles. I look at OFWs (overseas Filipino workers), or those who migrate, and say they’re so brave to go to a foreign land where they don’t know anyone,” the actress said.
“I admire them because they are able to take that risk, to sacrifice their own wants for the sake of their family’s needs. We shouldn’t judge them because this is what they think is best for them. For some people in the Philippines, the system has failed them, so they opt to migrate. They feel that they have no other choice but to leave,” she explained.
LA, who has relatives in Australia and the United States, agreed and added: “They leave to start a new and, hopefully, better life. They obviously have different reasons for doing so, but what’s good about this is that when you visit Filipino communities in these areas, you’ll feel like you never left the Philippines. They’re warm and caring, and will gladly show you around,” he said.
“Maple Leaf Dreams” is produced by Lonewolf Films Inc. in cooperation with JRB Creatives and Star Magic.