In his new award-winning short film entitled Sing (to me), Filipino-American director Andrew Acedo beautifully captures the story of a man who struggles with his condition of singing every time he talks but finds a glimmer of hope when he comes across a woman who has the same condition as him. The story aims to give outcasts and people with disabilities a voice as well as shed light on the mental health problems that they experience as a result of society’s judgments and ostracism.
Sing (to me) has garnered awards and nominations from international film festivals in Los Angeles, New York, the United Kingdom, and the Philippines. It is also an Official Selection of Acadamy Award-qualifying film festival, NewFilmmakers Los Angeles. The film will premiere on April 23rd, 2022 at South Park Center in Los Angeles as part of their April Monthly Film Festival and annual InFocus: Asian Cinema program.
How did you start your career as a filmmaker? What or who inspired you to forge a path in the entertainment industry?
I started making videos when I was about 14 years old. I made shorts, birthday videos, sketches, etc. Fast forward 14 years later to today and the work I do isn’t much different than what I did back then, I just have a few more toys to play with and more people to help bring my vision to life.
So, while my first professionally made short was in 2018 with the sad poet, I’d say the start of my career began when I was a freshman in high school! And the two who continue to inspire me every day to become a filmmaker are my parents, who were filmmakers themselves in the Philippines.
Congratulations on the success of your short film Sing (to me)! Can you give us a brief synopsis of the film?
Thank you! It’s the story of a man who’s insecure about his unique condition of singing everything he says, and is in desperate need for some understanding and connection. I feel like the singing is simply a manifestation of a person’s insecurities, and the film is dedicated to anyone who’s felt lonely, misunderstood and/or left out, and a love letter to those who make us feel the opposite.
Can you walk us through the process of preparing for your role as a director? What were the challenges and breakthroughs you’ve encountered along the way?
The process of preparing for the role of director is prep, prep, prep…then prep some more. I’m a firm believer that there’s no such thing as over-prepping.
But with all of that said, which surely counts as a breakthrough, your job as a director is equal parts prepping and being open to both new possibilities when you arrive on-set and any adjustments that must happen when components from your original vision inevitably become impossible.
I’ve heard directors say over and over again that directing is mainly problem-solving when you get there, but you never really understand that until you’re on-set directing a film and realize the sun has gone down, and your next three shots had sunlight in your initial vision. Directing is deciding then and there how to improvise that scenario. And I find that what you end up within that moment is always better. Because, well, that’s what it’s meant to be. The film that you end up with is the film that was supposed to be made. Maybe that’s corny. I find it beautiful!
How long did it take you to write and develop the story? What inspired you to make it?
It didn’t take me long to write the screenplay. I find that what ends up taking longer for me is the formation of the idea and themes I want to explore in my head. Once I have that, actually putting it down on paper into screenplay format actually doesn’t take me too long. I guess what also adds to that is that I don’t outline. Like, ever. So maybe that ironically shortens my writing time, because I’m open to any and all possibilities of where the story I’m writing will take me, so I end up “finishing” the screenplay (finishing in quotes because, well, I’m also in a constant state of rewriting) when I feel like the story has finished itself, if that makes sense. I guess I’m never married to a “point B,” and that honestly makes writing the funniest, most thrilling part to me of the filmmaking process.
What initially inspired me to write this story was really just a culminating frustration of how people treated and saw those deemed different. I remember the tipping point to me literally being in church, when an individual who has a disability was being stared at by more people than comfort allows. And with a brother who has Down syndrome, it always strikes a chord with me when something of that nature occurs. And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
But what I ended up really loving about this film – which actually came up through the process of making the thing – was that the main character with the uncontrollable singing condition was actually, in perhaps a subconscious way, me. I struggle with my own crippling insecurities, and the type of anxiety that has deeply impacted my entire life. I’ve felt out of place for much of my life. I’ve felt misunderstood and lonely for many of my waking hours. And it’s actually my brother that I’ve found understanding, solace, and a place in this world.
So what I thought was the reason I made this film ended up being rather surface level, and through the process of diving deep into it, I realized the sole reason I made this film.