Alessandra De Rossi behind the lens

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Alessandra De Rossi behind the lens
Alessandra on fulfillment from directorial debut My Amanda: ‘That you can tell your story however you like it. You call the shots, and nobody can tell you what to do. That’s why I decided to direct My Amanda, because I was scared that the dynamics of the friendship (in the film) will change. I offered it to two directors and they both didn’t get it! So sabi ko, ako na nga! Hahahaha! Ayun.’
STAR / File

Alessandra De Rossi had to multitask like crazy in her directorial debut My Amanda.

The award-winning actress not only top-billed and directed the film but “she also wrote it, produced it, edited (it) and scored it, everything!” revealed her My Amanda co-star and producer Piolo Pascual during a virtual press junket ahead of its world premiere last July 15 via the international streaming giant Netflix.

To those who haven’t seen it yet, the film is about the deep and pure platonic love between a man (TJ) and a woman (Amanda). Impossible? According to Alessandra, such friendship exists in real life. In fact, the movie drew inspiration from her own relationship with her guy best friend — their pet names for each other, Fuffy and Fream, made it to the film — and other male friends in and out of the showbiz industry, including Piolo.

Alessandra stars, writes, produces and directs My Amanda, which is exclusively streaming on Netflix. Photos on this page show the actress behind the scenes with co-star Piolo Pascual, who also serves as one of the producer
Netflix and Piolo Pascual PH Instagram account

Proof of her deep friendship with her leading man: My Amanda is her gift to Piolo for “turning my life around” after casting her in the 2017 rom-com Kita Kita, one of the highest-grossing indie films of all time, produced under the actor’s Spring Films.

Said Alessandra, “I have the closest friendships with men. I call them boys, not men, and they treat me like a guy. I treat them like my older brothers and it’s something that I wanted to share with Filipinos also (through this film). A guy and a girl can be friends.”

“I had alcohol, getting drunk, sleeping beside each other (scenes) — I don’t drink by the way — but they had to be part of the film because I don’t want people to always be beside the opposite sex and think that there’s some sexual tension. I want people to treasure friendships and appreciate them as they are, and just stop adding malice to everyone. Not everyone is there for sex or relationships.”

But since My Amanda wasn’t a conventional take on love, nobody wanted to touch it, Alessandra recalled. There were plans to “tweak” the material because it was deemed “unbelievable.” So, to stay true to the story she wanted to tell, Alessandra decided to direct it.

Initially, she thought the experience was going to be smooth-sailing. She felt that with the seasoned Piolo as lead star, that meant one burden off her shoulders as a director. Still, having to fill in other roles all at once had her questioning herself: “What did I just get myself into? How did anyone believe that I’m gonna direct it? Why did no one stop me?”

And she wasn’t just thinking as director/writer/actor, but also as co-producer. “The producers were all my best friends, and my sister (Assunta) and my brother-in-law (Jules Ledesma). So, I had to take care of their money. I was also thinking as a sister, as a friend.”

It took a toll on Alessandra’s health that she landed at a hospital during the filming “because I kept everything inside. I didn’t want the energy on set to drop. So, all the stress I kept inside me. Di ko maintindihan yung nararamdaman ko.

“Because everything was the first time and I’m not really the magagalitin (type), it takes a lot really to make me angry. But at the same time, it’s your baby and you see that everyone is taking it seriously. But of course, (we encountered) weather conditions, things you wouldn’t expect to happen on set...”

Before she knew it, she was suffering back and stomach pains that required hospitalization. When Piolo mentioned during the mediacon that Alessandra hasn’t recovered to date, the actress quipped, “Yung bank account ko ang di nag-recover kasi three times siya nangyari in two weeks.”

But she survived it all with flying colors.

As of writing, My Amanda is the No. 1 title on Netflix Philippines. More positive reviews are coming in. Awards should not be far behind.

One week after the premiere, The STAR had an e-mail interview with Alessandra where she talked more about her next career plans.

When it comes to her personal life, however, it was Piolo who hinted that the very private Alessandra is happy and content with her special someone, who is reportedly also a director. He told The STAR in a separate chat, “I should say Alessandra chooses well. She knows who she’s gonna go for, who she wants to be with. And after all this time, I’ve known her for more than 20 years, she’s come to a place where she’s settled. I just wish for her to be in that bubble. As showbiz as we are, we live in a different world in real life. She has that already. I want her to keep that.”

Congratulations on your directorial debut! How are you feeling now that My Amanda has (finally!) premiered on Netflix?

“It’s done! Finally! We shot this film pre-pandemic, sadly, inabot sya. But that gave me more time to focus on the post-production and learn so many things. But sabi nga, God is never late. I think it still premiered at the right time.”

Were there any specific aspects of filmmaking that you were excited to focus on as director?

“I just wanted to tell the story from my point of view. Beyond that, everything else came as a surprise hahaha. I was not prepared for everything else that followed, problems during filming, the post-production and everything it takes to complete a movie. I completely forgot about the whole filmmaking process, and me having to wear so many hats! I just wanted to tell a story! Sorry po! Hahaha!”

Without giving any spoiler, why did you choose to go for this ending in My Amanda?

“I’d like to give you a very, very honest answer, that won’t put me in a bad light or whatever... But the truth is… I didn’t know how to end it. There you go. As honest as honest can get.”

Looking back, what was the hardest scene to shoot?

“Hardest to shoot were the car scenes. As always, and I should’ve known that. During tapings, we take a whole day or evening to shoot car scenes, I should’ve known about this. Because you have to go back to the same spot, over and over, Piolo’s side first, then mine. Up until we ran out of daylight. Too challenging for someone like me who is a newbie and who just wants everything done ASAP all the time.”

What do you want viewers to take away when they see the film?

“I just want them to have a good time. And to treasure their friendships and the people who love them and accept them for who they are. No matter how annoying one can get.”

What sort of fulfilment do you get out of directing compared to acting?

“That you can tell your story however you like it. You call the shots, and nobody can tell you what to do. That’s why I decided to direct My Amanda, because I was scared that the dynamics of the friendship will change. I offered it to two directors and they both didn’t get it! So sabi ko, ‘Ako na nga hahahaha!’ Ayun.”

How did you learn to direct? Did you take any courses, etc.? Is it true that your first directing project was supposed to be Through Night and Day (her 2018 film became Netflix Philippines’ most popular title in 2020)?

“Yes. Because I was supposed to write that, too. But since I was too busy with other TV engagements, I asked someone else to write it. Bilang peace offering, sabi ko, magdi-direct nalang ako! But when I saw that script, ay ang daming drama! Mukhang di ako makakapag-concentrate. With My Amanda, mas madali sya. Because comedy siya most of the time and we’re not filming abroad.

“I thought I already knew too well. More than two decades in the industry, kaya ko na to guys! Pero syempre hindi! To my surprise, pinag-film school ako ni God sa two years na post-prod(uction) of My Amanda. That’s the school. Real-time!”

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a first-time director?

“That if you chose to direct it, and it’s your first try, don’t be the actor also. Timbangin mo kung ano mas mahalaga. In this case, both talaga. The friendship that I want to be pure, as pure as it can get, and the characters’ love also. Eh ako pareho?”

What are your next plans as an actress-director? Can you give us any ideas of stories/projects you’re working on?

“I have no idea yet for now. Too many at the back of my head. But I want the pandemic done before I open my mouth and say, isa pa? Actor muna ako. It’s a much easier job and it pays more. Hahahaha!”

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