Production Begins on “The Last Supper”

To promote the T-shirts, Gagante and Gonzales created a 60-second short film starring Gonzales. Photo courtesy of Nolan Gonzales.

After months of fundraising, May graduates Nolan Gonzales and Brandon Gagante officially reached their $5,000 fundraising goal for production of their upcoming film “The Last Supper” on Oct. 6. The 15-minute satirical short will follow RJ, a 10-year-old second generation Filipino American, who runs away from his mother’s work at a Filipinx market in search of a bag of Doritos. 

The film, originally titled “Crying in Seafood City” after the Filipinx supermarket chain which sells traditional Filipinx goods, aims to delve into themes of cultural divide between Filipinx and Filipinx Americans, often shortened to Fil-Ams. Gagante, who identifies as a Filipino American, said, “Often, at a young age I saw me and a lot of my cousins being critiqued by family members and a lot of Filipinos being critiqued by Fil-Ams, and in the end, all it did was just close ourselves off from being able to grow.” 

Gagante said, “When I was younger, I didn’t like being Filipino and going to Oriental markets like Abor Oriental and Seafood City. We figured Seafood city is a great setting to explore this because some Fil-Ams go there and they just get a little bit of culture shock with that.” 

He continued, “I was reminded of everything that my friends would make fun of me for — the way we look, the way we act in public, the way we smell, the way our food smells… I started disliking all of that about my culture.” 

Gagante said, “The film’s themes are very important to Nolan and I’s experiences growing up in San Jose, such as our relationship with Filipino Oriental markets — what they represent as safe spaces for Filipinos. Everything we’ve written in the script is a part of something that’s happened to either of us while we were growing up here.” 

The film has been in pre-production since July. After finalizing the crew and undergoing a casting process Gonzales described as “tumultuous,” the film is slated to begin production on Oct. 17. 

“Our biggest problem with casting was trying to find our main role, RJ — we had barely any applicants, and the ones that did apply weren’t Fil-Am kids,” said Gonzales. “It’s already so hard to find Filipino actors, especially child actors.” 

They ultimately cast 10-year-old Filipino American aspiring actor Ronen Tanaka as RJ, and his actual mother, Rae Lane, as RJ’s mother Mina. 

“When [Lane] auditioned, she was just phenomenal, and then she mentioned her son was interested in acting — we were like ‘Yes,’” Gonzales said. “They ended up having just such good, natural chemistry.” 

While Gonzales and Gagante have both worked on student films before, Gonzales, who formerly worked as USFtv’s narrative producer, said this was their first independent project that required a larger budget. “In the past, for the short films we made, we would just pay for them out of our pockets and cast our friends, so this was a major step for us,” Gonzales said. 

According to Gagante, the process of fundraising was one of trial and error. “A lot of the things we tried failed, like a lot.” For instance, the two rented out a space for $150 to host a dance workshop fundraiser. “Me and Nolan have been dancers before anything else, so we’re pretty interconnected with the dance community,” Gagante said. “We thought this would be a great way to get some money in the budget.” 

“We did the calculations — we decided that if we got maybe 55 people to attend, we would make a $700 profit, and we really needed the money,” Gagante said. However, only four of the pair’s friends turned out, bringing them back to the drawing board. 

They then began a kickstarter fundraiser, which operates on an all-or-nothing model — if the campaign did not reach 100% of its $5,000 goal by the Oct. 6 deadline, then backers would not be charged and the film budget would not receive any of the funds. To fundraise, Gagante and Gonzales sold T-shirts with Aborn Oriental Market’s logo on the front, and the phrase “We Got Food at Home” on the back. They were made as a collaboration between San Jose-based clothing brand Jubo and Aborn Oriental Market, a shop Gagante and Gonzales described on their Instagram as their “childhood Filipino market.” The fundraiser met its $5,000 goal, with 51 backers purchasing shirts. 

Gonalzes said the $5,000 budget will be used for cast and crew wages, transportation, and food. “One of the things I hope people will take away from this is just to be shamelessly yourself,” Gagante said. “I want Filipinos to be more shamelessly ourselves, and the way to achieve this is to pour more love into spaces that allow you to be you, like these Oriental markets.”

Gonzales and Gagante anticipate the film will be finished by mid to late November, after which they plan on submitting the short to multiple film festivals. Gonzales said they will host an “unofficial premiere for friends, family, cast, crew, and everyone who helped out” upon release. 

Updates and more can be found on the film’s Instagram page @thelastsupper.filamfilm.

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