Inquirer News Service
Thanks to Dan for this information!

(from the Philippine Inquirer.  This was written before the 
release dates were changed.)

How 'American Adobo' 
was shot in the States

Posted: 8:37 PM (Manila Time) | November 10, 2001
By Nestor U. Torre
Inquirer News Service

AFTER "Tanging Yaman," film director Laurice Guillen is 
showing her next film, "American Adobo," on Nov. 18. The 
new movie bids fair to become one of the best films of the 
year, and to point the way for other filmmakers and 
producers who want to penetrate the world market. 

That's because "American Adobo" was shot in the States (in 
New York City), and is a co-production of Filipino companies 
(Unitel Films and ABS-CBN) and Fil-American and 
American film people, including the executive producer of 
the indie sleeper hit, "The Blair Witch Project." 

With such multi-pronged backing, the film could do well not 
just locally but also in the United States. Indeed, early word 
from the US is good: when the movie was screened at the 
San Diego international filmfest last month, it got an 
enthusiastic reception from festival viewers. 

But we're getting ahead of our story: The film started out as 
a project titled "Magic Adobo" some five years ago. Unitel 
producer Tony Gloria was contacted by Vincent Nebrida, a 
former Unitel copywriter who was working with a distribution 
company in the States. 

They got to talking and wondered why the Taiwanese, 
Iranians and other foreigners were making their mark in the 
US with their movies, but Filipino and Fil-American 
filmmakers were still being left in the lurch. 

They decided to do something about it, so Nebrida wrote a 
script about a group of Fil-American friends who would 
occasionally get together in New York City to eat adobo. The 
script's references to its cast of expatriates' past centered 
around the ‘70s. 

Not quite so incidentally, one of Nebrida's friends was Kevin 
Fox, who executive-produced "The Blair Witch Project," and 
Fox was invited to join the "Magic Adobo" project because 
the unexpected mainstream success of "Blair Witch" had 
opened doors in Hollywood for him, which he could in turn 
open for the Fil-Am production. 

After Fox signed on as executive producer of the "Adobo" 
project, a Filipino based in the States was tapped to direct 
the film, but he revised the script almost completely, so his 
involvement in the movie didn't prosper. 

That was when Guillen was asked if she would consent to 
coming in as director. After she agreed to megging the 
project, ABS-CBN came in as co-producer. In addition, a 
cinematographer who worked with Ang Lee joined the 
production team, but he later dropped out because he had 
to work on another movie. Lee Meily, the cinematographer of 
"Tanging Yaman," was chosen to replace him. 

Guillen flew to the States for meetings on script revision and 
production matters. Then, on Sept. 17 last year, shooting 
began. The movie was shot like an American indie picture, 
with permits and a bigger budget than the usual Filipino 
production. Guillen and the other production people and 
actors who came from Manila lived in apartments in 
Greenwich Village in the Big Apple. 

Shooting the American indie way, they found themselves 
working really hard. Guillen auditioned the US-based 
members of the cast, and the auditions were open to all 
Screen Actors Guild members. 

Prospective members of the production team were also 
interviewed. The final shooting crew came from different 
ethnic origins, and many of them had not worked with 
Filipinos before. That didn't turn out to be a problem, 
however, as Guillen's multi-racial team worked 
harmoniously. In fact, says Guillen, her Italian assistant 
director was the best she'd ever had. 

"AMERICAN Adobo" started shooting on Oct. 2 last year in 
New York City. Director Laurice Guillen recalls that an early 
problem was refocusing and shortening Vince Nebrida's 
script, which could have otherwise resulted in a movie that 
was three and a half hour long! 

She finally convinced Nebrida that less was better. Next 
came the challenge of filming with a New York crew and its 
no-nonsense, work-work-work-way of doing things. She 
strove to master her material so well that, as shooting 
proceeded apace, she wouldn't even need to look at the 

She also instructed Ricky Davao and the other actors who 
flew to New York from Manila to appear in the film to 
memorize all of their lines before shooting started. 

They shot for only 12 hours each day, from 7 a.m. to 7 
p.m.--unlike film work in the Philippines, which can go on 
and on and on, exhausting both cast and crew and affecting 
the quality of their work. 

What's "American Adobo" like? Its director informs us, "It's 
not a travelogue. You don't really see the scenic spots of 
New York, but you feel the city's essence. There's a lot of 
kuwentuhan about the lives and longings of Filipino 
expatriates in the States." 

A visual highlight of the film is a scene which was shot on 
Queensboro Bridge. Guillen proudly states that it was the 
first tracking shot allowed to be filmed on the historic bridge, 
except for the Julia Roberts starrer, "Conspiracy Theory." 

The authorities had to close one lane of the bridge for the 
shoot. It had turned really cold by October, so the Pinoys 
from tropical Manila had their work cut out for them keeping 

Unlike Filipino productions that shoot on the sly abroad, 
"American Adobo" had all the requisite permits and 
technical support it needed. They had an NYPD escort, and 
a camera platform to which they were properly harnessed 
while shooting the actors in the traveling car. 

The crew was impressed with the competence of Manila 
"imports" Ricky Davao and Christopher de Leon, and asked 
if they were popular in the Philippines. Of course, the Manila 
delegation took advantage of the opportunity to brag a little, 
and described Boyet and Ricky as "the Robert de Niro and 
Tom Hanks of the Philippines" (!). 

Executive producer Kevin Fox was very happy about how the 
movie was turning out, and other sources inform us that the 
US film people were similarly impressed by director 
Guillen's competence and work ethic. 

For her part, Guillen says she learned a lot from Fox, 
especially when it came to creative editing. Even when they 
thought they lacked adequate coverage in terms of shots for 
a particular scene, he had the knack for finding footage from 
other scenes that could be used in the problem sequence 
that was being edited. 

In time, too, she developed a good working relationship with 
scriptwriter Nebrida, who was initially too "protective" about 
his "baby." After trust between them has been established, 
she convinced him to "let go—so I can give your script a life. 
After all, a movie is more than the written word." 

How do American film crews differ from the ones we have 

Laurice Guillen, director of "American Adobo," observes, 
"They're much more time-conscious than we are. They 
shoot for fewer hours (a maximum of 12 hours each day), 
but it's work-work-work from start to finish!" 

The US shoot was Laurice's chance to get away from the 
"direk" tag that all directors here are saddled with. She 
instructed the Filipino members of her team not to call her 
that, and the American component certainly wasn't about to 
call her anything of the sort! 

What happened was, the Filipinos felt so skittish about 
calling her by her name instead that, "in the end, they didn't 
call me anything at all!" 

One thing that Laurice liked was the complete equality of the 
sexes that held sway on the shoot of "American Adobo." The 
crew was made up of men and women, and they did the 
same amount of work. If something had to be lifted, 
everyone gave it the old-heave-ho, regardless of gender. 

She also appreciated the no-nonsense, no bullshit, 
no-sipsip atmosphere on the set. "Hindi na ako napapagod 
sa kakadiplomasya," she recalls with evident relief. 

Since everybody was expected to work hard