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A utopia of their own

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Neal P. Corpus

Posted on June 28, 2021

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We talk to filmmaker Celeste Lapida as she raises funds for her film Taking My Time To Dance.

What does the ideal queer world look like? Is it one where the LGBTQIA+ community can marry who they wish, and enjoy the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts? Or perhaps it’s a world where you can be whoever you want to be, without fear or judgment.

The answer, really, is all of these and more. For filmmaker Celeste Lapida, the ideal queer world starts with a place where no one tells you not to. It is a place where there are no external nor masculine voices telling us to live our queer lives differently.

The film's fundraising video featuring Celeste.

This is the setting of Celeste’s upcoming second film, Taking My Time To Dance. It tells the story of Rana, a young queer individual whose only wish is to try their hand at drag. As described, there aren’t any heteronormative forces that threaten to derail Rana’s goal — only support from their grandmother and other drag queens.

The only thing stopping the production of this queer utopia, however, is COVID-19. While Celeste and her film have gotten a grant from Globe Studios, their budget lacks funding to address COVID-19 safety protocols while shooting, which will take place in August.

We talked to Celeste via email to learn what inspired her to write the film, the challenges of mounting a production, and her dream for the queer community.

PASYAL: How did your journey with filmmaking begin?

CELESTE LAPIDA: My lolo is a wedding photographer and is one of the first people to show me the value of images, whether it was building it — lighting and framing it — or what the image meant or the emotions it held. I learned all of this growing up with him.

So, when it came as a requirement in high school, I wasn’t so surprised that I was excited to make a short film for the first time.

Taking My Time To Dance is your second film. Could you tell us a bit about your first film, Contestant #4?

Contestant #4 is about a relationship between two queer people, one old and the other young. The story came about from my fear of not being able to come out, which at that time was something I deemed an important part of my own coming-of-age.

Along with Kaj Palanca (my co-writer and director) we imagined an old man living alone in a big house, keeping a secret from the outside that’s always changing (maybe even transitioning) to a different state and a young boy who befriends him. What brings them together is an unspoken agreement of queer companionship.

Taking My Time To Dance is Celeste's second short film. Poster courtesy of Celeste Lapida

What was the impetus for Taking My Time To Dance? How did you begin writing it, and how long has the project been ongoing?

Just like Contestant, the story comes from something I also feared. I had only begun realizing more about my femininity and queerness, and I started doing drag and expressing my gender into territory I haven’t explored much.

I was afraid to keep questioning my gender, because I know how dangerous it meant for someone to live with an ambiguous expression of identity. So I tried questioning Rana's (the protagonist) identity, instead.

I started writing Taking in late 2018. I became braver and more comfortable with my identity in 2019, the year when the script received its grant from Globe Studios. In 2020 I started transitioning medically, and this is also when the drafts of the script I was more confident with were completed. In all these years, I’ve kept and gained new relationships with queer people — the real inspiration of Taking.

Tell us a bit about the grant from Globe Studios. How was the process like, and what are your thoughts about working with them?

I’m really glad to know people from Globe Studios trust the script and myself. The script doesn’t really have a conflict, and I’ve questioned myself (even the integrity of Taking) for quite sometime as to why the script was a bit quaint, only to realize that the omission of characters who would normally go against a (Rana’s) queer coming-of-age is the reason why.

I guess it’s strange, even to me (for a time), to see queer characters finding themselves in a safe environment and discovering so much just in queer friendships and women guiding one another towards somewhere else.

The start of the pandemic had to pause operations with Globe Studios, since the script and the filmmakers (my fellow grantees) would also go through workshops with practitioners who would help us with our script, design, direction, and production.

But the time we all took to develop our films makes me really excited for what we all promise. We’re all like classmates in a small batch about to graduate and turn these scripts into images we’ve been eager to put out.

Jan, Armi, Kixx, Kints, and all the people behind .GIFF (Globe Independent Film Festival) were like our older siblings, guiding us to a place we would be comfortable to make our films.

Celeste started writing Taking My Time To Dance in 2018, and continued in the following two years as she became more comfortable with her identity. Photo courtesy of Celeste Lapida

Apart from COVID-19, have you experienced any other challenges in making the film happen? What do you wish people knew about being a young filmmaker?

Its been hard to pitch the film and to make others realize how much this might mean to queer people without having to show a dangerous plot — situations that happen in real life and greatly affect the community, instead a glimpse into what it might mean to be safe as a queer individual.

Regardless, its really hard to find financiers in general, on top of presenting a project immensely queer. As much as it's an exciting process to go through, there’s still so much that can be done to provide support towards filmmakers and other artists with small projects like ours, especially from the government.

Definitely, a greater attention to the arts — not just when it receives laurels from different bodies, but as it is about to be brought out into society — would be synonymous to a safer environment one way or another.

A striking line from your fundraising video is that in the film, “No one tells Rana not to.” What is your dream for this film, and for the queer community in general?

Perhaps this is when queerhood starts: desiring for a better place, somewhere far from present rigidness, somewhere vast and unexplored. For me, Taking My Time To Dance promises to present a glimpse of this somewhere, as the film takes place in the midst of queerhood.

I'd like to think the rest of the community is dancing its way to somewhere else. All these films are just films, a collection of images in a duration. The work, the dancing, is something we need to do ourselves together.

To donate and read more information about the film, click here. Follow the film's Instagram page here.

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