Last May, Black Eyed Peas member Allan Pineda Lindo, better known as apl.de.ap, planned a trip for nearly two dozen social influencers to accompany him to his home country of The Philippines. Sponsored by the country’s Department of Tourism and Tourism Promotions Board, the travelers were taken on a guided tour through the entire nation, from Pineda’s hometown Pampanga in the northern mountainous to the countless sandy beaches of the smaller islands.
Sensing an opportunity for quality video content, Pineda reached out to Tapestry Films Creative, the commercial branch of the more recognizable Tapestry Films, to capture the entire trip and turn it into a series of webisodes to be featured on his Facebook page. Director Jonny Zeller and producer Tim Frazier took on the task, planning what turned into a 12-day excursion for a group of nearly 70 people across half a dozen of The Philippines’ most exotic and exciting locations.
The purpose of the trip as a whole was to introduce The Philippines to a diverse group of people at the top of their industries. Many were Filipino-Americans, seeing the country for the first (or second) time. Others were repeat visitors. Vine star Liane V. brought both of her parents, who hadn’t been home in decades. Comedian Jo Koy left The Philippines as a child and has spent very little time there since. Though not Filipino, Chanel West Coast took the opportunity to film her latest music video on the beaches of Boracay. Other than that, a bunch of executives from Google, YouTube, Netflix, and a myriad of others also tagged along.
Working with Neng Miranda of the Tourism Promotions Board, Ernie Manansala of Kolab, and Audie Vergara, Pineda’s business manager, an itinerary was hammered out and pre-production began in earnest. But how to film so many characters in such a remote location with constant travel? “That was the biggest hurdle we had to take on,” Zeller said. “The creative was really the easy part. Putting a bunch of interesting people in one of the most beautiful and exciting places in the world, all out of their element – getting quality content wasn’t going to be an issue. But how do we get it?”
Ultimately, they decided to bring along an impressive camera arsenal: four RED Dragons, a Steadicam, a DJI Phantom 4 and a duffle bag full of GoPros. “Our DP, Steve Conry, was the only person that Tapestry Films Creative contracted out of the U.S. We picked up the rest of the crew and the gear locally, and they certainly had all the right tech. The only thing that felt a little dated was the Steadicam. It was an old-school Steadicam, meaning it weighed about a ton. I thought it was going to be an issue, but it didn’t stop our local operator from lugging it on an ATV out to a rural basketball court to catch apl.de.ap and will.i.am playing ball with a group of kids,” Frazier said. “In true Filipino fashion, the crew worked long hours in unbelievable heat without a single complaint.”
Though of course the crew weren’t the only stars. “Working with celebrity talent is always a unique experience,” Jonny said. “What made this different than most was that we weren’t just seeing each other from call till wrap. It was all day, every day. We traveled together, ate together, stayed at the same hotels… It was a lot of facetime. Fortunately, everyone had a great attitude.” From what we understand, it probably helped that massages, mud baths, and time by the pool were all baked into the schedule, for the talent at least.
“We really asked a lot from the talent,” Frazier explained. “The schedule was non-stop, and keeping everyone happy while they were jostled down back roads in a coach bus on little or no sleep wasn’t always easy. I think that everyone was so excited about what was happening next that they just didn’t have time to think about how nice a few more minutes in bed would have been.”
“The local camera department armed themselves with a slew of cinema lenses,” Jonny elaborated a bit on the technical aspects of the project. Staying true to the adventure doc aesthetic, three of the cameras lived on shoulder mounts while the fourth ran on the Steadicam. “We shot at various frame rates with the majority being shot at 6K resolution. The cameras were lensed with the Fuji 14.5-45mm Alura and Fuji 18-80mm Alura, Zeiss 70-200mm, and Zeiss 15-30mm. The majority of the scenes were exteriors so heavy NDs were utilized to maintain a more shallow depth of field. All of the dialogue sequences were shot at 23.98, but off-speed frame rates were used to showcase the talent and the country’s beauty through slow motion.”
According to Frazier, getting all that gear from location to location was a new kind of production challenge. “I’m used to company moves, but moving fourteen people and 45 or 50 cases of camera equipment in a puddle jumper was a whole new issue,” he claims. “We traveled pretty light from LA to Manila, but that’s where we really geared up. From Manila we drove north to Pampanga, then back to Manila for a flight to Boracay, from there to Cebu, Cebu to Bohol, then back to Manila, and finally back to LA. The small aircraft had strict weight and cargo regulations, and they don’t make accommodations for media gear like a lot of U.S. carriers. We eventually had to ship some equipment ahead, leave some behind, and check or carry on the rest.”
However, it wasn’t all travel and logistics. “The research for this project was so much fun, but it didn’t even begin to prepare us for just how gorgeous the real thing was going to be,” said Zeller. With over seven-thousand islands to choose from, it’s easy to see how that could be true.