When a film production crew wants to add actress Coleen Garcia to their cast, they have to be willing to oblige: the new mom has to take breaks from filming every 12pm, 3pm and midnight to breastfeed her baby, Amari.
“Coleen did this every day for the six days that we shot the film. At some point I got used to it. It was time for the whole team to take a break because Coleen will be breastfeeding Amari no matter what,” said Roman Perez Jr., director of domestic thriller Kaluskos, an entry for the 18th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival.
Despite the restrictions, Roman said Coleen did not disappoint. “We are fortunate that Coleen has accepted the role. I’ve worked with her before, but I’ve noticed that she’s changed a lot as an actress now that she’s a mother. Their precision is still there, but we have also seen their maturity,” emphasized Roman.
“Coleen is an expert on continuity. She knows what her hair looked like in the previous scene, even the saliva that got stuck in the corners of her mouth, or the wrinkles in her clothes. She is very detailed. She even keeps track of her emotional continuity,” Roman noted.
“Like Muscle Memory”
So that she could breastfeed 1-year-old Amari while at work, Coleen decided to take the toddler – and husband Billy Crawford – to the shooting bubble. “There was that one time when Amari woke up earlier than usual and kept crying. Billy was there, but he just couldn’t handle the situation. I had to apologize to Direk because I really had to feed Amari. We had to rest for that and I felt so bad. It was good that Direk was very patient with me,” admitted Coleen.
Being a mother has definitely given her more depth as an actress, Coleen said. “It feels very natural to me. It’s not something I had to study or actively think about. Well, it’s like muscle memory. It’s the way you touch or talk to a child; it’s because of the emotions you express when you lose patience or when you’re already feeling too tired,” she pointed out.
“When you’re a parent, certain things should come out naturally, like the tenderness you show your child or the affection you show your husband. I’m glad I was able to experience these things in person before jumping into this role because I don’t know if I would have played it the same way if I wasn’t a mother,” she explained.
In Kaluskos, Coleen plays Rebekah, a mother caught in the middle of a custody battle over her estranged daughter, Amaya. She finds something under her daughter’s bed that will challenge her love for her child.
When asked what lesson she hopes her character will teach, Coleen said, “Invest in your family so you don’t lose them. It’s important to have a career of your own, to have other priorities in life, but you can’t expect anything in return if you don’t invest enough. When I say invest, I’m not talking financially, I’m talking emotionally. Once you start losing your family, getting them back will be difficult.
“This film is about dealing with loss. Rebekah lost her husband to someone else. She stands at this fork in the road because she has the feeling that she will also lose her child. Before it gets to that point, you really need to be in control to make sure you know your priorities and take care of them.”
For Kaluskos, Coleen had to work closely with 6-year-old Queenzy Calma, a first-time actress, as well as Karl Medina, who plays her husband. “The story begins with the custody battle over Amaya. She is not close to her mother because Rebekah has always been a career-oriented person. Amaya is raised by her father. They never really developed a relationship, especially when you compare it to the dad who’s with Amaya 24/7,” Coleen explained. “I had to keep a little distance from Queenzy because I wanted to make it easier for her too. Since our characters aren’t close together, Queenzy must feel this awkwardness when she hugs me.”
For Roman, Queenzy is a rare find. “I run a children’s show on ABS-CBN called ‘Team Yey!’ which stars Queenzy’s brother Nhikzy. I always saw Queenzy with her mother and brother. She’s never acted before, which I liked because I was looking for someone fresh and very raw. Also, Queenzy looks a lot like Coleen. They even have the same skin color,” Roman began.
“Queenzy’s mother said the child once appeared in a Kapamilya show. I said that’s good because it means she knows the cameras. That’s actually more important to me than knowing how to read the script. We found that with the right guidance, Queenzy was perfect. She follows instructions well. Coleen knows that. She saw how perceptive Queenzy is,” the director said.
Roman added that his team had other considerations before casting Coleen. “What was certain was that we were looking for a new mother. We then saw that Coleen really embraced her as a mother. She is very hands on. The video of her breastfeeding her son in a mall even went viral. Her type is the type we wanted for the role of Rebekah – a new mother who has thrown herself into this type of discourse. There is a custody battle over how much sacrifice a mother is willing to make for her child. But what happens when she realizes her child doesn’t love her?”
The 18th Cinemalaya will be held from August 5th to 14th at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City.
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