How do you fit into a place you should have a connection with, but have never truly been in? Having grown up abroad all my life, that is a question I can definitely relate to. The same goes for Samantha (played by Rhian Ramos) and Eric (played by Osric Chau) in Andrea Walter’s Empty By Design, an international feature debut that she wrote, directed, and produced along with Cignal Entertainment.
The questions and themes of returning to one’s roots and feeling a sense of loneliness in a land they were told is theirs have resonated strongly enough not just with the Asian-American community, but also with the rest of the world. It has won the Best International Feature Film award in the 2019 SOHO International Film Festival, and also closed the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.
Despite these accolades, though, Andrea did not make Empty By Design to chase awards. With her other Asian friends who can relate, she aims to recount experiences they know all too well and tell stories they felt were not told enough to a bigger audience. The film only wants to shore up the representation of the diaspora of mixed-culture kids exploring a world they never really knew anything about – something all too common with Asians in the West. Cignal saw the potential in how a story like this would resonate with anyone who comes across it.
“What we at Cignal always want to do is to keep inspiring and empowering Filipinos with everything we create, and we saw Empty By Design as an opportunity to touch the lives of Filipinos abroad,” says Cignal Entertainment President and CEO Jane Basas. “We’re definitely happy the movie got the recognition and awards it did. Through Andrea’s story, we wanted to show that there’s a home waiting for them, even if it seems daunting.”
And it has definitely worked. Walter shares reactions of fellow Asians watching the film and wanting to come home. By painting a picture of the motherland—and the air of detachment while one tries to reconnect with it—as completely normal, even if it’s also intimidating and sometimes painful, she’s shown with Empty By Design’s vignettes that it can be a worthwhile and meaningful adventure.
To know more about the movie and the people behind it, watch this:
Andrea shares that the reason she made this film was the lack of these stories. “Growing up in so many cultures, you don’t see these kinds of stories told,” she points out. “No one speaks about this displacement, this way of living. That’s really it. The reason to create all of these for this one is just to show something that’s never seen or understood.”
She also shares that the most meaningful reaction she has heard from a lot of people is “I was able to see myself.” “It’s been really exciting to hear them say they wanna come home,” she adds. “A lot of them don’t want to, because one, they don’t know anything about the Philippines, and two, they’re really scared they’re not gonna be accepted, which is completely normal. I’m never accepted everywhere I go. But for them to watch the movie and see someone go through it, it really helps them understand that it’s gonna be hard. There’s not a lot of stories that tell that.”
When asked what kind of stories she is looking to tell next, Andrea voices out that she just wants to tell stories that are meaningful for herself and those she works with. “No matter what, I always wanna cast Filipinos in my film,” she says. “Whatever I’m going through at the time, in the story I wanna tell. Whether it’s a movie that’s heartfelt, like Empty By Design, or a movie that’s just fun. I like movies that are fun.”
Empty By Design is directed by Andrea Walter and is co-produced with Cignal Entertainment. The film is slated to premiere in 2020 via Cignal TV’s over-the-top streaming service Cignal Play.
Visit www.cignalplay.com or download the app via App Store and Google Play to enjoy more of Cignal Entertainment Originals plus over 600 more hours of on demand content. Currently open to all Cignal subscribers.