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These Kids Are Way Too Cool

These Kids Are Way Too Cool

This year’s Cinema One Originals film festival is starting today (today!) and if you’re looking for some quality local cinema, you really need to get on this. Scout cover girl Jasmine Curtis-Smith and Louise delos Reyes are starring in the groundbreaking lesbian film Baka Bukas (that we have to kind of reduce it that way is almost a disservice to their hard work), so you should go check that out. But there’s also Petersen Vargas’s 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten, which also definitely deserves your attention.

We profiled Petersen for the November-December issue of Scout (watch out for it this week), but we also took the time out to touch base with the film’s young, energetic cast and get to know them a little better. We also did a quick follow-up with Petersen himself after they finished shooting the movie, mostly in Pampanga, where the story is set.

Petersen Vargas

Right now, what’s left to be done in the movie? We’re in the post-production stage, but we haven’t had a final cut yet. The deadline’s crazy, but we’re editing it para lang ma-finalize na siya.

How are your deadlines? I feel like sandali lang ‘yung time niyo to shoot. Yeah. Originally, we had a month, supposedly. But because of artista schedules, and change of shooting schedules, we only had three weeks to do everything. And I remember when I did my short film, my thesis, I had three months. And now, I’m doing a full length in three weeks. (laughs) Kailangan siyang gawin.

How does it feel to finally finish shooting? Masaya, because it was eight grueling days. Eight long days, eight challenging days. After the eighth day, I was just… masaya. Masaya na.

The movie isn’t finished being edited yet, but with what you have so far, what are your feelings right now about it, before people get to see it? I’m very, very happy. Even if it’s not final, I think I know what the film will be like already. Even when I was shooting, I was already confident. I was confident with my actors, I was confident with my team, so the editing was a matter of just seeing it be showed in full.

Do you have any expectations of how people might take the story? Actually, I’m excited for the reaction of the audience. We tried some things differently with this film. Since it’s a film primarily focused on the lead character, we wanted to get inside his head more. So visually, we also get inside his head.

So, inside… (gestures to head) (laughs) Not like the visual of the brain! But you get what I mean. It’s showing something interesting, visually.

What do you hope people take away from the movie? I think I want them to know that friendship is forever. ‘De, kasi when Cinema One asked me, anong tingin mo sa pelikula mo, I said something like they say love is forever, but I think friendship is forever. And it really stays with you. It’s the one that stays.

What’s the hardest part about making the whole thing? The hardest part… I guess the hardest part is the material wasn’t really from me.

What do you mean? The script was written by another Kapampangan filmmaker, Jason Paul Laxamana. Although the original idea of the story wasn’t from me, adjusting to it is more, I might say, limited. I guess it’s a good thing din, na-challenge ako to work on those limitations. I’m working on material that wasn’t written by me.

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Jameson Blake as Maxim

Can you talk about your character in the movie really quick? My character in the movie has a dark personality. Evil personality. You could say he’s a psychopath, (to Petersen) right direk? So he has a mind of his own where he wants to follow his own rules, his own doings, he may be rude, he has bad habits. Hindi siya ‘yung typical guy you will see. Maybe on that range, but he’s on a higher kind of level of evilness.

Is this your first indie movie? Yes, this is my first.

How was the experience? It was really good. I learned a lot, working with everyone—staff and actors. Now I know how a movie works, just the basics; I always wondered how a movie works when it comes to like cameras and everything and acting and the script. So it’s really a good experience. Right now, I’m just working as a dancer in Showtime, performing. Acting is a new thing to me, so I really wanna push through with it.

How did you get into it, and this project? Well, yeah, they had a go-see for the movie, and I thought it would suit me because the character in the movie, there are similarities with [my personality] in real life. I think I had a higher chance of getting it when I told them about it, about my story as well. I never went through any acting workshops or anything, but then I still got it.

What kind of movies and TV shows are you into? What do you like watching? I’m not really much on drama, more like suspense, comedy, that’s what I like. I like these kinds of movies, true-to-life stories.

What does the phrase “too cool to be forgotten” mean to you? You could say… when Felix meets the two brothers, he never really had friends, so he found friends who were cool to be with and stuff. They were too cool to be forgotten, even though the three of us went through a lot of bad stuff. Tragic stuff. But they were too cool for him to forget.

What thing is too cool to be forgotten to you? This. My career now.

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Ethan Salvador as Magnus

Can you talk about your character in the movie real quick? I play Magnus Snyder, I’m the older brother of Maxim Snyder, we play the Snyder brothers. We play two half-American half-Filipinos, our father was an American Air Force pilot. Basically, we live in the Philippines with our mom, we really wanna come live with our dad, because we don’t like how things are going for us. In order to move back to the States, we have to graduate high school.

That’s where I befriend Khalil’s character Felix, and we become best friends, and things kinda arise in a different way. Feelings start to develop, there’s a huge twist near the end, it’s really about friendship… and more than friendship.

It’s your first time to act in an indie movie. What’s it like? Yes, it’s my first film ever. I mean, I never would’ve imagined—when you’re a kid, you just dream about this stuff. And then just actually being here, it still blows my mind that I’m actually doing this. I’m just super-blessed that they chose me for the part. I’m working hard and still learning a lot.

How did you get into this project and into the whole acting thing? Well, noong bata pa ko, gusto kong mag-artista talaga. Long story short, I always bickered with my mother about how much I wanted to be an actor, and she would always tell me not to be like my father, and I was confused because I never grew up with my father. He left before I was born, and questions arose and I found out he was an actor in the Philippines as well. So I eventually met him, and now I’m here.

And then how did you get the project? I auditioned for it. I saw an audition for it, and I auditioned a lot for other parts, and most of them were in Tagalog. And I’m still learning Tagalog. And this one, sobrang swerte ako because it was English. I just nailed it. They gave me a little sample piece, I tried my best to really give my all because I really wanted this.

Are you afraid of being typecast after this, like as a Fil-Am boy? Of course. No one wants to be typecast. I really love what I do, and everything that I’m learning. And I really wanna be a diverse actor. I don’t wanna be seen as just a boy next door. Or a Fil-Am boy from the States.

What kind of TV shows and movies are you into? I’m a big superhero fanatic, so of course I watch Arrow, Flash. Big fan of Walking Dead.

How do you interpret the movie’s title, “too cool to be forgotten?” What does that mean to you? Too cool to be forgotten, it’s… everything in the movie, it’s like everything that happens, it’s really different, so I guess it’s a hard to forget. I’m really bad at this, I’m sorry. (laughs)

It’s all right! Last question, what thing from your life or childhood is too cool to be forgotten? Meeting my father for the first time, obviously. It wasn’t a child thing, it was a life thing. ‘Cause you know, I never met my father, I always grew up knowing he was an actor, and I just met him last year, for the first time ever. And to be able to have his guidance here and there, and for him to introduce me to this industry, this is such a blessing. It’s definitely too cool to be forgotten, for me.

Last, last question. What are your next plans in the industry? This might be a little daring to say, but I really want to expand the Philippines’ horizons.

Not just your horizons. Not just my horizons—I wanna be able to give something different. Aside from the romance and the love triangles and the soap operas; they’re beautiful, but there’s so much potential for this country to expand to different areas. It just takes a little bit more inspiration to get people to step out of that and not be afraid to try something cool. Try something new. Don’t be so confined—I hear a lot that we have to give for the masa, like what they’re into, but there are so many cool stories the Philippines has to offer. And I hear it, and it doesn’t get passed, and it’s like sayang talaga. When are we gonna start showing the world that the Philippines actually has really cool stuff?

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Khalil Ramos as Felix

Can you talk about your character in the movie real quick? I play Felix, he’s a 15-year-old sophomore. Has no friends, has zero friends. He lives in Pampanga with his parents. They were relocated because Mt. Pinatubo erupted. So basically, the whole film is in the ’90s, and his everyday routine is just going to school, listening, full of studies, parents, studies, and that’s it. And then the film starts with Felix in his English class. And his English teacher requires him to write a journal, and that’s where he starts his journey. He started off writing stuff about his teachers, stuff about his classmates, stuff that he hates, stuff that he likes.

But then as his journal goes on, he meets two guys, si Magnus and si Maxim, who are both transferees from another school. They’re both Fil-Ams, and it changes his whole life.

How is it like to act in an indie movie? Is it your first time? It’s not my first indie movie, but it’s my first year in Cinema One Originals. This is my third lead in an indie. But this is really totally different. It was a super different experience. It started off with the preparations; probably this is the most I’ve prepared for a film. I really felt the whole crew, everyone, they got our creative input and what we think the characters should do, what the characters should think, even the casting process, we were all involved. The script, we were all involved.

I guess we really put our lives into it for a couple of months. And then when we started shooting, it was all in place. There were, of course, ‘di mo maiiwasan na mga problems, but we were able to shoot it well, and the remarks were good. The set was really happy.

What led you to go into this project? I was given the script, I forgot when, siguro in the middle of the year. I started reading it. The script was written by direk JP Laxamana. I auditioned for one of his films before, pero hindi lang natuloy. So I was interested right away. I read it, my handler read it, and then it was really interesting. My handler met with direk Petersen, and we liked it from the very start. It was a challenge, it was a risk for my career; it tackles homosexuality as well, but we decided to just take the risk and jump.

Some of your other castmates said they saw themselves in the story. Was there anything that resonated with you in the movie? Sabi nila they saw themselves in the characters? Our number one similarity siguro, Khalil and Felix, I like to think a lot. And Felix does that as well. In the film, when you watch it, it’s like you’re in the mind of Felix. And maybe, if I would make my own autobiographical film about myself, siguro ganun din. It’s full of just me thinking and talking to the audience kasi I really think a lot. And with my decision-making, in my everyday life, for some reason maybe, I think a lot. Just like Felix, that’s what he does also. ‘Yun ‘yung main similarities namin.

But we also have a lot of differences. Felix doesn’t have friends, I’m not naman anti-social. But I feel him sometimes, in some scenes, that I can relate with him. I mean, everyone naman siguro sometimes would feel alone. Felix often feels that.

What kind of movies and TV shows do you like watching? Right now, I like watching Mr. Robot, Narcos, for movies I watch Memento, Fight Club, Wes Anderson films, [Christopher] Nolan… I watch movies about fucked-up characters. Fucked-up dramas. (laughs) I’m getting interested in that theme. But generally, I like watching all kinds of movies.

What does the phrase “too cool to be forgotten” mean to you, personally? It’s about who you are in this world. Who are you? Are you someone who’ll be forgotten? That phrase for me is about you and who you are the people. What your value is to people. And what you can bring to their lives, and what people can bring to yours.

What thing from your life or childhood is too cool to be forgotten? Oh, wow. From my childhood? Siguro it’s my singing. That’s what’s too cool to be forgotten. Ever since I was a kid, since I was five, I kept joining contests. And it’s what molded me into who I am today. A lot of singers inspired me, a lot of teachers inspired me to perform. I owe it all to them. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t start singing.

*****

If you need any more convincing to go watch it, we had Khalil Ramos personally invite you to tomorrow’s premiere:

2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten starts showing tomorrow, November 17 in select malls around Metro Manila. Check out their full schedule here.


Photos courtesy of Petersen Vargas

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Romeo Moran
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