MANILA -- Young actresses Meg Imperial and Ella Cruz have known each other for quite some time now, but they got to work together in a film only last year. They co-star in Bona Fajardo’s comedy mystery thriller, “Steal,’ which they shot in Japan last February.
Imperial plays Hiyasmin Macaraig, who opted to stay in Japan after the restaurant she was working in closed down. Subsequently, she tried different odd jobs to provide for her family in the Philippines.
Cruz, meanwhile, is Cynthia Mae Valdes or CM, an English tutor. When her work contract ended, she also decided to stay in Japan to provide for her jobless live-in partner and their kid.
To distinguish their roles, both Imperial and Cruz had to submit themselves to a look test, with their other co-stars. “They asked me if I could cut my hair, so I did for my character,” Imperial told ABS-CBN News. “Para maiba din ang image for the role I play.”
They are joined by Jennifer Lee as Mitch Sarmiento, a masteral student in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Japan. She’s bright, but she got herself into gambling, as a way to relieve stress from her academics and her recent heart break.
Also in the cast is Nathalie Hart, a mysterious Filipina named Platinum whom the three girls meet in one of their weekend get-togethers. Platinum proposed a hard-to-resist scheme to steal money from her abusive, illegal peddler Japanese husband, Tanaka (Guji Lorenzana).
The girls, needing money badly for different reasons, agreed with the scheme. Platinum provided all the details they needed and they easily stole a bag full of money from Tanaka’s henchman.
Cruz, who is known as the Millennial Dance Princess, won the best supporting actress in the 2019 Cinemalaya film, “Edward,” megged by Thop Nazareno.
As CM in the film, Cruz sports the kawaii look. “I always wore bright colors na stand out sa lahat,” Cruz said. “I used my own winter clothes, which I previously used in other countries.
“Mga boots ko, nagamit ko talaga. I did layering sa clothes ko everyday. It was really cold. As CM, I’m the youngest, but very observant, thinks straight and more mature mag-isip.”
In “Steal,” she was also the soul of the team as she shared her experience working with the girls.
“All of us in the cast, we really committed 100 percent for our roles,” Cruz said. “I had to cut my hair short. Even the makeup, it has to be very glamorous. My look has to be matapang. Although my role is not sexy nor fashionable.”
Even if both of them had no liberty to be assisted by their respective production assistants (PA) while filming in Japan, Imperial and Cruz had no complaints. They were all independent in doing things for themselves.
“It was my first time to shoot a movie with no PA or no makeup artist,” Cruz said. “Pero naging masaya and madali for us. When we were in our stand-by area, there was no heater. Sobrang lamig. We really had layers of jackets and coats on. Tapos food trip lang kami while waiting.”
The girls promptly showed up for their early morning call time at 4 or 5 a.m. “We carried our own stuff,” Imperial said. “We helped each other constantly. There was also harmony with the production staff. Never naming nakita na uminit ang ulo ng director.”
Thankfully, no one was the cause of delay while filming, “All of us were very independent,” said Imperial. “Walang nag-attitude sa amin. We woke up on time. We worked together better and we were always willing to adjust sa location and with our co-workers.
“Sobrang na-appreciate ko ang cast, crew and our director. Walang nag-complain. I’m very proud of the production and artists. Sa takbo ng shooting for two weeks.”
The actresses were thankful not only for the experience of shooting a film in Japan. “Steal” shows the quaint and modern charm of the city. They saw the life of the Japanese people living in the district of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka.
They also saw the culture of Japan. They got the chance to enter a Japanese temple for the first time and met a monk.
The girls all became good friends after filming in Japan. “Na-appreciate ko sila after our shoot,” Imperial attested. “Whenever we talk, kamustahan, makikita mo talaga na may pinagsamahan na kami. Two weeks kami sa Japan. We all became close.”
Steal” is jointly bankrolled by Bluart Production and Viva Films. Director Fajardo previously worked at the helm of “Hanggang Kailan” and “I Found My Heart in Santa Fe.”
Cruz is starting their family dream house this 2021. “I am willing to work doubly hard, so the construction will be finished this year,” she said.
“I want to do more films. Bawi ako this 2021. I also want to learn to speak in Korean and maybe to release another song again. Two years din ako that I didn’t release a song.”
For Imperial, she will work on her self-improvement this year. She will invest on putting up businesses this year and venture into something new and challenging.
“I believe 2021 is the time for transition,” she stressed. “I worked that out in 2020, so for this year, I’m prepared. I am willing to socialize more when the pandemic is over. I want to be a better person for 2021.”