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An Interview with Ana Barredo, Director of The Year I Did Nothing

by Mike Haberfelner

April 2019

Films directed by Ana Barredo on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie The Year I Did Nothing - in a few words, what is it about?


It's about three young Filipino siblings who spend an extended summer waiting to immigrate to America - the same year their country starts a revolution to boot out their notorious dictator Ferdinand Marcos.


From what I know, The Year I Did Nothing is at least in part based on your own biography - so how deep do the similarities go, and how much Ana Barredo can we find in Christina? And what was it like to in a way revisit your own childhood/youth?


The movie is a snapshot of my life in the 80s. Even the peripheral characters such as the blind driver and the strict music teacher/strip club owner are all real people I know. When we shot the first scene (where the siblings are watching TV when the mailman delivers their immigration letter), it felt like I stepped out of a time machine and landed in our old living room in Manila. That was such a memorable event in my life that I remember exactly what we were doing when it happened. So you can imagine how surreal it felt for me as I watch these moments in my childhood playing right in front of me.


Other sources of inspiration when writing The Year I Did Nothing?


My biggest inspiration was the TV show The Wonder Years. If you're not familiar with the show, The Wonder Years is a nostalgic look at life in the 60s through the eyes of 13-year old Kevin Arnold as narrated by Kevin's adult self. What's brilliant about The Wonder Years is that although the show set during the Vietnam War era, it manages to address the topic without seeming too political and preachy because we see it from a 13-year old's perspective. That's how I wanted to depict the political theme of The Year I Did Nothing. I hope I was able to do that.


With The Year I Did Nothing being set in the Philippines, where was it actually shot?


We shot the entire movie in Los Angeles. 8 of the 12-day shoot was shot at a mansion in Granada Hills (a suburb in LA). The rest of the locations (mall, church, arcade, etc) were shot all over LA. Then we hired a local crew in the Philippines and provided them with a shot list to shoot all over Manila. That footage served as the establishing shots to complement the scenes we shot here in the US. We even rented a jeepney (one of 10 in existence in the entire USA) to add authenticity to the movie. A jeepney, by the way,  is an iconic vehicle ubiquitous only in the Philippines, in case you're wondering.


A few words about your directorial approach to your story at hand?


Although I set out to make a semi-autobiographical movie, I discovered that most of our actors lived the same story I wrote. That really helped in directing them because the scenes were just as familiar to them as they are to me.  Another unique directing experience I had during this shoot is that besides the cast, no one in the crew spoke Tagalog. It was interesting to see the crew properly laughing at the right moments even though they didn't speak the foreign language being spoken. That's when I discovered the universal language of filmmaking.


Do talk about your key cast, and why exactly these people?


The most challenging part was casting the kids. I had no idea how difficult it was to find Filipino kids who can speak Tagalog in Los Angeles. But we eventually found these adorably talented kids to play those roles. What's gratifying about making this movie is that our actors rarely get the opportunity to play (or even audition for) lead roles... or even roles with speaking parts! And when they do get cast in a movie or TV show, they are relegated to playing mostly background work or ethnically-stereotypical roles like a janitor, a cab driver or a maid. I hope our audience will see how talented our actors are, and that they're more than capable of playing meatier roles besides a janitor, a cab driver or a maid.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


Because majority of our cast are children, we didn't want them to work too late. So we wrapped everyday by 4 or 5 pm at the latest, which they all appreciated. You can say, we had daycare hours. We also tried to maintain a fun and light on-set atmosphere. We shot in July of last year, which happened to be the hottest July ever recorded in history. The mansion we shot in had no air conditioning, yet the cast and crew still managed to have fun on set despite the miserable heat. It's been almost a year since we wrapped, but we all continue to stay in touch with each other and remain friends. 


The $64-question of course, where can The Year I Did Nothing be seen?


Our world premiere will be at the Independent Filmmakers Showcase Film Festival in May. We're also being featured at the San Diego Filipino Cinema Perspective Showcase on May 25 and June 1 . We're still waiting to hear back from the other film festivals we've submitted to. For now, we're just keeping out fingers crossed and will continue to update our various social media accounts on any upcoming screening.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of The Year I Did Nothing yet?


We've only had a private screening for the cast and crew so far. No surprise, it was well received. I guess we'll find out once we hit the festival circuit. The reviews we've gotten so far have been very positive (including yours) so I'm feeling optimistic that the audience will respond positively as well. At least, I hope they do. 


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I've co-optioned (with Lay-Carnagey Entertainment) the rights to two critically-acclaimed YA novels by Jennifer Smith. It's my first attempt at adapting a novel. We're hoping to produce at least one of these books this year. I'll keep you posted on any developments.


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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


The reason I was so determined to make this movie now (and not 15 years ago, when I wrote the script) is because of what's happening, not just in the US, but the world in general. Particularly, how the world sees immigrants these days. Lately, it seems that the word "immigrant" has taken on a different meaning. As a first generation immigrant, it's upsetting how instead of welcoming them, they're being vilified. I hope this movie helps show the world that immigrants aren't scary invaders and dangerous criminals some people should fear. We're hard-working, productive individuals who just want a better life and a brighter future.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD