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  • Writer's pictureApocalyptic Thanksgiving

A movie that's eerily similar to our movie, My Apocalyptic Thanksgiving.

Please Stand By
Please Stand By

Please Stand By is a wonderful movie about a young autistic woman. She escapes her group home to submit her Star Trek manuscript to a writing contest that’s hundreds of miles away. I highly recommend it. The movie stars Dakota Fanning as the lead with autism. Years earlier, she coincidentally played the daughter of a special needs man played by Sean Penn in the movie I am Sam

This movie has a modern twist. The main character is an attractive young girl who ‘seems normal’ including having her own job but has autism. She is the main driving force in the movie. The story is set up to show that she has autonomy in her group home if she lives in accordance with the house rules. As is the case with other real people in similar situations and conditions, she isn’t locked up. In fact, her home is quite comfortable by most people’s standards, especially with the housing crisis in San Francisco. And she even has her own computer where she writes her screenplay.

Dakota Fanning as Wendy
Dakota Fanning as Wendy

Plus, she’s obsessed with Star Trek which makes her that much cooler. (It just doesn't state which version of Star Trek though because it's a surprise) These are just some of the many similarities to our movie My Apocalyptic Thanksgiving (MAT). I will talk about this in a series of blog on this film since this is the case. My other area will be to shed some light on the challenges of writing a character with special needs.


Spock and Captain Kirk
Spock and Captain Kirk

Millennials relate to each other with shared experiences through our phone and social media. Generation X tends do this with pop culture. My experience shows that special needs adults and children also use pop culture to relate. In Please Stand By, Wendy (Dakota Fanning) uses her favorite TV show Star Trek to connect with others. The filmmakers cleverly intercut Wendy’s Star Trek story during her journey across California. It helps reflect her feelings that she is unable to convey in person. That is a typical characteristic of someone with autism. When they feel emotions it is an intense feeling that they can’t control or verbally share.

The Walking Dead exhibition at Comicon #SDCC
The Walking Dead exhibition at Comicon #SDCC

Our movie MAT also has a lead character with special needs and is named Marcus. He is obsessed with zombies and uses his favorite zombie TV show, Apocalyptic Zombies, to make sense of the world around him including other people. If you don’t understand zombies, you don’t understand Marcus. This creates great subtext into his relationships, motives, and his thoughts. Apocalyptic Zombies conveys many of the feelings that Marcus feels: panic, loneliness and cornered. It also displays his quirky sense of humor for Apocalyptic Zombies is about fast zombies terrorizing people like in the classic 28 Days Later…

As vs Evil Dead
As vs Evil Dead

As I wrote for the character Marcus, I had to go deeper than Marcus’ love for zombies because everybody loves zombies especially me and my wife, Holly Soriano. Both of us adore the Evil Dead and Ash vs the Evil Dead series. Marcus loves Doris in a mother-son sort of way. His caregiver Doris also loves zombies too. Marcus further identifies with the show’s main character Andrea when she loses her own mother for Marcus hasn’t had contact with his mom since his childhood. Andrea’s plight is further desperate for she also needs to charge her cell phone in the middle of the apocalypse… How can a girl really cope if she only has two bars!?! Marcus follows her example by going on his own journey to find his long lost mother.

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  • Writer's pictureApocalyptic Thanksgiving

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

Hey there everyone! We realize we let our Facebook family know about our trailer. It’s just that we didn’t let our website family know about our trailer. Here it is: Our MAT trailer.

But it’s not just any trailer. It’s a teaser trailer meaning that we roughly had a minute to tell our story. Let me tell you what… That was damn hard. We had to figure what to put in and what to leave out all the while tell our story. As you can imagine, we were sad that we didn’t get to include everything. It’s just that our allotted time really only let us tell the really big idea of our story: a guy with special needs looking for his mom.

Yes. It was truly hard to distill our story down except it also helped clarify our current stage. We’re in what is called “post.” Many know about this process whereas others don’t. I’ll give a tiny overview for those unfamiliar: It’s when the film has been shot and its raw footage is being shaped into the final film that audiences eventually see. And here’s the thing about post: I’ve heard many horror stories about it.

In fact, I’ve been told that post is where films go to die. We’re happy to report that our film is far from that. We’re just about at the point called “picture lock.” This is when the creative edits are done with the film and we move into the final stages before the world sees MAT. (Is this cool or what!?!)

I digress for I didn’t relate how our teaser trailer has helped with post. It’s that it reminded us of what to emphasize and dig into deeper. And applying this logic helped us to cut the film. The other big thing that has helped us is that we've had a family of fellow filmmakers give us notes on our various renditions of the film. It’s been an incredible learning process that we’re so profoundly happy that we did. Plus, we’re able to fix things not working while we’re still in a position to do something about them.

Both Richard and I have a favorite writing teacher Corey Mandell that explained in terms of writing but it also applies to a film in progress. His comment is that the story that plays in the writer’s head isn’t the one in the reader’s head. The reader only has the pages. S/he isn’t privy to everything that the writer generated to put together those specific pages in that particular order

The same can be said for films and their audiences in that we have plenty of footage not in our current cut. But the generous souls helping us inspect our film has allowed us to better understand audience reactions and what needs to be clarified. This is especially since most had little to no information before they saw MAT. In fact, some had only seen our teaser trailer and others had only heard us talk about it a tiny bit.

We’ll let you know of any updates. In the meantime, enjoy the MAT again since it’s been a bit or maybe even the first time.

And we haven’t said it enough… Thanks so much for all of your support! It’s beyond super cool!. 

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  • Writer's pictureApocalyptic Thanksgiving

Locations define the life blood of characters: where they live and raise their families, earn their pay and spend their time. They also help define the backstory of the characters. As a low budget filmmaker, the most important question you should ask always yourself is:

What locations do I have access to for free?” #indiefilmmaker

Most locations in MY APOCALYPTIC THANKSGIVING (MAT) are filmed in my family’s different houses. The story also takes place in South Central Los Angeles because the special needs adults that inspired it reside there. I still call the South Central by its original name since my old school neighbors still refer to it by its Original Gangsta name. May sound funny except Los Angeles has tried to scrubbed the notoriety associated with that name immortalized in songs like Tupac’s anthem, “To Live and Die in LA.” Los Angeles has even attempted to nickname it to “‘#SOLA” like the neighborhoods WeHo (West Hollywood) and NoHo (North Hollywood.) The moniker #SOLA is of course referring to the new and improved name of “South Los Angeles.”

I know I’m Filipino and this movie is a mini biopic (sans zombies), but I still chose to make in about Koreans in South Central. The big reason is that Koreans are part and parcel to South Central and its culture. They are a big part of the community with their different businesses. An example is the great film GOOK that focuses in on a Korean store during the LA Riots

There are hundreds of group homes or “board ‘n’ cares” all over South Central. Most house four to six clients per home. They did this to help better integrate the adults with special needs into the community. This was as opposed to locking them away in a mental institute where they have zero interaction with society. We hosted the clients during the filming. They delightfully welcomed the cast and crew. In fact, they still talk about this experience to this day with joy.

Another house added “triple the value.” We shot Kim’s bedroom and stairs that Me Young climbs. And we also used the basketball court since its look inspired the feeling we were trying to convey in that scene. The ultimate filmmaking trick was using the garage for the office in the laundromat since the one on location was way too small. I also found ways to incorporate it more than originally planned since it’s a free location. Plus, I was able to use my junk as background set decorations. I’ll clean it up… One day.

A gangsta’s crib was a difficult location to find. Originally we were going to go with the trope of some boarded up abandoned house. But we couldn’t find any without big “no trespassing” signs. We figured that they still have tenants that like to do things like crawl in your shoes or burrow in your skin. Those are definitely not wanted guests on set. Our conclusion was to use an indoor pool that we could access. We have to give major props to our Production Designer Carlo Garduno.Carlo did an amazing job of decorating the indoor pool wall with gangsta graffitti. While we were filming prison scenes in the Clayton Museum, Carlo was painting up a storm

Originally, we were going to film The TV show, “Apocalyptic Zombies” in Montana. Part of it would in the tiny town of Fromberg where Holly’s Mom used to live. We had access to a whole town, half of which was abandoned. The Mayor even offered to block streets for us when we were filming. They are a theater group that was specifically to help us do local casting. We even had access to my other sister’s famous pig Hamlet: And the Devries-Roberts Cemetry even said we could film there

It would have been epic to Montana, but we ran into too many challenges trying to make it happen. As a result, we shot the TV show in Los Angeles. We had access to an Airbnb and friends were able to give us access to locations. It was also fun improvising some scenes here and there in different parts of the greater Los Angeles area. A cool thing is that many parts of downtown Los Angeles organically look like a scene out of the apocalypse with its random graffiti, trash and abandoned buildings.

Mad props to our actors Callie Gilbert (Andrea) Andre Devin (Mini Rambo) and Lisa Crosato (Sharon) who toughed out the cold, wet rain in good spirits. A couple of funny mishaps were when Callie locked her keys in her car and a seagull pooped on Lisa’s shoulders

Many thanks to Rick Clark from Hearts on Fire Tattoo Parlor. His place added so much authenticity to the gang.

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