TikTok celebs cast alongside JK Labajo for ‘When This is All Over’
We wanted a cast of new faces,” said indie filmmaker Kevin Mayuga as to why, aside from singer-actor Juan Karlos “JK” Labajo, his film “When This is All Over” features some of the more influential TikTok personalities.
“When This is All Over” is an official entry to the 19th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, which will run from Aug. 4 to Aug. 18.
Kevin said he first knew of Labajo via last year’s Cinemalaya best film “Blue Room,” which also features another one of his main cast, Nourijune Hooshmand. “Working on an indie-film budget, we couldn’t afford big stars, so we felt that it was easier to cast personalities that we already knew had a following. We looked for personalities who could embody the characters well and would give a natural performance,” he told Inquirer Entertainment.
“So, we went to TikTok! We searched for people who were very expressive and entertaining. Lottiebie’s name was among the first ones to pop up. We also found Jico Umali, known as the ‘Sheesh Guy.’ Another name is Aaron Maniego, who is the ‘Pambansang Bortang Barbie,’ and Reneé Dominique, who is actually a musician, but we found her on TikTok doing UP conyo things,” Kevin explained.
The others came from theater, like Jorybelle Agoto, Zara Loayon and Chaye Mogg, whom Kevin found on Instagram.
Since they have never done a project together prior to this, Kevin said the actors attended workshops facilitated by acting coach Brian Sy. “He was a big part in workshopping the nonactors and making us all feel like one big barkada,” Kevin said.
“Technically, they’re nonactors, so we made sure to get those who already have personalities similar to that of their characters. They didn’t need to adjust much. We just tweaked things a bit. This was also why Lottiebie’s and Aaron’s characters are named after them,” Kevin pointed out.
Meanwhile, Kevin is all praise for his lead actor. “JK is such a great character, an entertaining person. He brought so much energy to the set. If you meet JK, you will notice that he really has an aura, an energy. I’d like to think that we created that space for him to just bring out that energy,” said the director.
“Prior to shooting a scene, he would goof around with the others, but when we say ‘action!,’ he would cry. Watching him, I was so amazed. He is also very collaborative. When we first met, he asked so many questions so he could really figure out what his character is like. He wanted to know what he could bring to the character,” he recalled. What’s nice is that the character sounded like him. He also has a similar story, I think. It was close to his heart. You will really feel the drama in JK when you see this film.”
Lottiebie admitted that, prior to doing the film with JK, she thought the singer-actor “was someone difficult to approach. I thought he was a—‘snob’ isn’t the right description—quiet type. That was my first impression.”
She added: “I also thought he was exactly the same as his character, someone distant and unreachable. But on the set, he was this wacky guy who knew how to mesh with other people. He adjusts and warms up to whoever he’s talking to.”
Kevin then described JK as an “old soul.” He added: “JK knows how to portray this particular character in a way that’s different from the other roles he has played. We were all amazed by JK’s performance, especially when I realized that he was only 21 at the time we shot this.”
“When This is All Over,” according to Kevin, was the result of him having to deal with something he termed as “privilege guilt.”
“While everybody outside was suffering during the pandemic lockdowns, I felt safe and comfortable with my family instead. I felt guilty and kept asking, ‘How can I help other people when I’m stuck here?’ It deals with the themes of privilege and class, but not in a very upfront way, and, of course, the consequences of these things in the youth culture setting,” he said.
Kevin emphasized that this happened to a lot of people, “and it’s not like we found one story and made something out of it. This is what happens when we’re in limbo. We ask ourselves, ‘Is the pandemic really over? Is it already OK to enjoy and party? Then why are we still keeping things hush-hush?’ I feel like it’s relatable in that sense. We all had our own little parties, just all hushed up.”
When asked what lessons she wanted her followers to take home from seeing the film, Lottiebie said: “I learned about relationships of different types of people through this movie. My character, as well as Zara and Jorybelle’s have this very Pinoy type of relationship. It’s very close-knit. We consider each other as buddies. Direk Kev said it’s interesting to witness when two extremely different groups of people interact with each other.”
The 19th Cinemalaya festival will be held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City. INQ