SxSW 2021 Interview – THE FABULOUS FILIPINO BROTHERS director Dante Basco

Come see this movie! It’s about four brothers, played by actual real brothers, starring in four different stories all surrounding a Filipino wedding. It’s funny and weird and romantic and in every story, something strange happens, maybe strange is the wrong word… fantastic is better, well, I mean, yeah fabulous. The Fabulous Filipino Brothers, that’s the name of the film. 

Having its World Premiere in Narrative Spotlight at SxSW Online, we speak with director Dante Basco, here at the festival with THE FABULOUS FILIPINO BROTHERS! 

Glad to have you at SxSW! Let’s hear more about you and how you got started in the business and what you have worked on in the past!

I’ve been in the industry as an actor for many years. Most notable roles in my career are Rufio in Steven Spielberg’s HOOK & the voice of Prince Zuko in AVATAR THE LAST AIRBENDER. As far as I started in the business, I started out as a breakdancer in the Bay Area with my brothers, the group was called Streat Freaks & went by Pop n’ Fresh. 

I thought I recognized you! How did this movie all come together? 

My producing partner Rawn Erickson and I have been flying in and out of Southeast Asia over a dozen times getting this film pitched and financed and we finally got it green lit. I have had the idea in my head for a few years. I knew if I was going to direct I wanted to make something with my brothers, for my brothers. I wrote the original draft with my brother Darion and we crafted each character to specifically cater to what each brother does best as an actor. We shot in our hometown of Pittsburgh, CA and in Manila, so we had to do scouting trips for not locations. Our hometown was gracious and we basically got to shoot wherever we wanted, so thanks Pittsburgh! 

Then there was Manila where we flew out to scout and thought we had everything locked in until we came back to start shooting only to find out we lost every single location due to one thing or another… but somehow by the grace of the filmmaking gods, we were able to pull it all off anyway. 

The shoot was amazing, since me and my family are lifers in this industry, it’s been a long time coming for one of us to direct and since we were all working together and supported by other friends things for the most part went pretty smoothly… as if everything we’ve ever done so far has led up to this point and we’re using everything we know how to do to get through it… it was a lot of work for sure, but it was like the adventure of a lifetime. 

Then came the post, not my favorite part of making a movie, especially since I come from the acting world and it’s always been about shooting, but in so many ways it’s the most important part of the process, putting it all together. Endless hours with our editor Brian, it’s great we had a good relationship with him as we’ve worked together in the past on a previous film I produced, but I must say, at times it felt like we would never get this together. But it did come together and when a scene started to work, it was amazing. Then we got into the sound and color and did that in San Francisco and in Santa Monica, we traveled back and forth a few times but amazing guys at Disher Sound and Tunnel Post got us in the right shape and we got into SXSW! It’s crazy because we would say on the set while shooting, you know this film should be a SXSW, that would be the best festival for it… and we somehow got in. It’s incredible.

What keeps you going while making a project? What drives you?

This is made with my family, for my family… that kept me going. I Have to get this done and more importantly, I want it to be good. 

What was your biggest challenge and what was the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

The biggest challenge, it’s hard to say but making this movie, like making most movies, was nothing short of a minor miracle. I mean the whole thing was challenging, every single step, from financing to pre pro, to shooting to post, it’s most definitely the hardest thing I’ve done in my life! But at the same time, it went fairly smoothly as we just did one step at a time. But all together, it’s an arduous mountain! And as far as rewarding, after 35 years in the industry to bring a home back to my hometown and shoot with members of my family and community in the film, watching us work and being a part of it all was incredibly rewarding. These are people that have been supporting me and my brother and sister’s from afar for so many years, rooting for us and to bring one home for them to also share in it was special. 

I am about to get technical, but I would love to know about the visual design of the movie and how it was made.

We shot with one Arri Mini and my Director of Photography Andrea Walter. We had a great relationship because the year before I had just produced her directorial debut EMPTY BE DESIGN and she was gracious to come and shoot mine. And we talked a lot about the visuals and what I wanted to do and what she wanted to do. We talked about having different feels for each vignette and color pallets. Also about how scenes would be played and use of wide shots because of such a big cast. We decided to keep the whole movie on sticks for a traditional feel, until chaos breaks out towards the end of the movie. And steadicam shots to open and close the as well as the small transitions between vignettes, for the flow of it all. Things may be shuttle but we’re all thought out one way or another. 

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie at SxSW Online?

I can’t wait to see how people take the film and I hope they enjoy it. I mean, it’s nerve wracking for sure, but most of all, I’m looking forward to people finally getting a chance to check it out. 

Clearly this is such a different time with virtual festivals and online screenings. How do you feel about releasing movies in this current format and how do you feel audiences will see most films in the future?

Well the world has changed and we as filmmakers are changing with it all. I think ultimately good movies will break through regardless of the platform. Audiences will watch however they find your film. I don’t think streaming is going anywhere, the predominant amount of film watching will probably be at your home on your TV streamed. I think people will watch movies on the biggest screen they own or have access to, at times it may be a movie theater but for the most part it will be in their home and their TVs. 

Where is the movie going next? More festivals or a selective release?

Some festivals and then we’ll see! 

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or work in the business. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into filmmaking, especially now as things are evolving at such a fast rate?

Go make your movie, it’s easier than ever, write what you know and shoot in your backyard.

And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen?


This film and many others like it will be showing at the virtual South By Southwest taking place March 16-20th. For more information and to register for the festival, point your browser to!

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