Elijah and Kokoy in virtual scenes from the worldwide-trending IdeaFirst YouTube series with so far over 2.2 million views (and counting!), now on its fourth episode and soon to be a movie
The daring newbies of Gameboys
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - June 24, 2020 - 12:00am

In case you’ve been glued onto somewhere else, you must have overlooked a series called Gameboys on The IdeaFirst Company’s YouTube channel that has been trending since it started streaming recently. Now into the fourth episode of Season One, the series starring Kokoy de Santos and Elijah Canlas now enjoys more than 2.2 million viewers (and counting fast!) around the world. Kokoy got good reviews for his daring performance as a sex worker in Fuccbois, a 2019 Cinemalaya entry (other films: Signal Rock and Hellcome Home), and Elijah for the award-winning indie film Kalel, 15, as an HIV patient.

Directed by Ivan Andrew Payawal and written by Ash Malanum, Gameboys is the first Filipino series to ride the latest wave of the successful Asian Boys Love (BL) series that has been trending these past few months, with Thailand’s 2Gether The Series and Korea’s Where Your Eyes Linger. It’s about the budding love story of online gamers Cairo (Elijah) and Gavreel (Kokoy) set during the pandemic. Direk Ivan has an amazing way of using the Internet and mobile platforms to tell the story.

Said Jun Lana, who runs The IdeaFirst Company with partner Perci Intalan, “Two people find each other at a time when they can only connect with each other virtually. I think that is what resonates with audiences around the world. We want to believe that one can still find love and companionship even in the midst of the pandemic.”

The series is in Filipino and viewers have put subtitles in their own languages — German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, Ukranian, Czech, Thai, Indonesian, Turkish and Korean.

“The response is so overwhelming,” said direk Ivan.

According to Jun and Perci, Gameboys The Movie will follow soon.

Meanwhile, Curve Entertainment is releasing on Friday (June 26) Isang Laro, the OPM song by Emerzon Texon (musical director) featured in the series, with Panalo Ka (performed by Letter Day Story vocalist Dex Yu) to follow shortly.

Listen to Elijah and Kokoy talk about Gameboys.

Before Gameboys, Elijah Canlas (in yellow and red shirts) and Kokoy de Santos have attracted attention for playing out-of-the-box roles in indie films Kalel, 15 (Elijah as an HIV patient) and Fuccbois (Kokoy as a sex worker)

How is your experience in this “new normal” style of filmmaking (you know, by “remote control,” working from home)?

Elijah: “It might be the most challenging shoot I’ve ever been a part of but it’s a rewarding experience nonetheless. As actors, we’ve been so used to being on set with an air-conditioned tent, make-up artists and a whole entire crew to help make a film. For Gameboys, our director, production designer and producers are only present via Zoom.”

A self-help style of shooting?

Elijah: “There weren’t any manuals on how to shoot this way. We had to experiment along the way. They sent me crates of props and lighting materials and I had to set up the entire set while Nestor, our production designer, was guiding me how and where to position the set pieces.”

And home as set?

Elijah: “When we shoot, we use my phone to capture the scenes, while my laptop is placed at an angle where direk Ivan would be able to see me act which serves as his monitor. And after each take, we send the videos to our group on telegram for direk Ivan to play back. It’s because of this shoot that I’ve found a whole new level of appreciation for the entire process of filmmaking and for every single person who completes that process.”

Kokoy in a workout scene while on home quarantine

What support did you get from your family?

Elijah: “My family is very supportive. They even opened our own home as the set for Gameboys. So much love for my mom who helps me set up before and clean up after every shoot. Even for my Kuya Jerom who operates the camera and helps us find the best shot possible, not to mention he also plays London in the show. Overall, I’m just so thankful for my family’s patience and help. And despite all the challenges, I’m very much grateful for this opportunity. I would say the experience helps me grow as an artist.”

Kokoy: “It is different. More than being challenging, it is a learning experience. Every day, I get to learn something new which is also very refreshing and, of course, I’m very thankful for all the help and support of my director, the team (staff and family) and my co-actors. They made this whole process easier.”

Ano ang pagkakaiba ng feeling compared to acting with personal contact?

Elijah: “It’s different. At  iba talaga ‘yung challenge niya because acting is reacting. And with this process, nakatitig lang kami sa phone. All we can react to is our co-actors’ voice na minsan ay delayed or choppy pa. At first, it was so hard to adjust to kasi parang nanghuhula ka lang. But after a couple of episodes, I would say I’ve gotten used to it. Pero nakaka-miss lang talaga na sa personal mo kasama ‘yung ka-eksena mo, sana soon... hahaha!!!”

Kokoy: “Sobrang magkaiba, kasi minsan sa eksena importante  ‘yung human touch kasi nakakahugot ka doon ng emosyon. But in Gameboys, iba sya kasi ‘yung ka-eksena mo nasa ibang screen, nasa ibang lugar, so doble effort kumbaga pero doble din ‘yung fulfillment pag nagagawa nang maayos ‘yung eksena.”

Elijah with IdeaFirst producers partner Jun Lana who directed Elijah in Kalel, 15, and won a Best Director award

Pareho ba kayong techie (kabisado ang Internet)?

Elijah: “Hindi naman po sa kabisado ko ‘yung Internet, but I think most people are techie nowadays, especially my generation because we grow up with social media and gadgets. But that’s one of the good reasons about the world we live in today. It may have its disadvantages but filmmaking processes like the one we’re doing in Gameboys are now possible and we’d like to take complete advantage of that.”

Kokoy: “I won’t say na sobrang techie ako, siguro may alam ganoon pero andyan naman si Google. Hahahaha!!!

Kokoy, you are daring and “baring” in Fuccbois. Di ka ba worried na magkaroon ng image as a sexy star?

Kokoy: “Hindi naman po. And also if ever, I don’t see anything wrong with it. I think alam ko naman po ‘yung calibre ko as an actor and I know I can do more po and siempre plus point din po ‘yung being confident with my body kasi magagamit ko din po ‘yun sa mga eksena.”

Elijah, tell us about your experience in Kalel, 15.

Elijah: “Kalel was my first shot at a title role. To this day, it’s still been the most rewarding learning experience I’ve ever had as an actor. I still feel blessed with the fact that I got to act alongside the greats, like Tito Eddie (Garcia) and Tita Jane (Jaclyn Jose), while being directed by direk Jun who gave me so much wisdom.

“A lot of people ask me how I got the courage to do those daring scenes in the film. But to be honest, I would be ready to do anything just to make a film like Kalel, 15. As long as it’s necessary to do, and most especially, if I get to work with a team and director whom I really trust”

IdeaFirst producers Perci Intalan

Tell us about yourself before you got into showbiz and how you were discovered (family background, educational attainment, etc.)

Elijah: “I studied Theater Arts at the Philippine High School for the Arts when I was 12. Towards the end of my first year in high school, Tito Jerry and Tita Peewee O’Hara went to our school to find actors to cast for their Cinemalaya film, Sundalong Kanin. I was blessed enough to be cast for one of the lead roles and from there, I started to do independent festival films.

“In 2016, I chose to focus on my studies and the theater first. But I started to miss acting for films and, thankfully, direk Jun, direk Perci, Kuya Ferdy (Lapuz) and The IdeaFirst Company decided to trust and sign me  up in 2018. Ever since then, I’ve worked on projects like Kalel 15, Edward, LSS, Past Present Perfect, and others.”

Kokoy: “When I was younger (he’s now 22), I joined a nationwide pageant organized by Miss Earth Foundation. I won. May mga talent scout po doon pinag-VTR po ako for commercials and, luckily, nakuha po agad ako sa first audition ko, tapos nagtuloy-tuloy na po audition sa mga TV shows and movies po.”

(E-mail reactions at rickylophilstar@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

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