Last Memorial Day weekend indie filmmaker Zeinabu Davis gathered a cast and crew to shoot a film based on my short story Pandemic Bread. The story was inspired by my day job which involved interpreting end of life calls between doctors, Covid patients, and their families. At the height of the pandemic, I was called to interpret these fraught conversations at least once a month.
My short story placed in the top ten of a hundred Covid tales published by the San Diego Public library in an anthology titled The San Diego Decameron Project.
Click on the link below to read my original story:
I read an excerpt of the story at the launch party, and soon afterwards Zeinabu asked if she could adapt it to film.
Because Pandemic Bread is a story about Filipino immigrants, I urged Zeinabu to cast Filipino actors, and she found the cream of the crop. Princess Punzalan, an award-winning Filipina actor with over 800 film, television and radio performances happened to be living in Los Angeles. By sheer serendipitous coincidence, she worked as a hospice nurse in between acting gigs. The sorrow derived from that day job served her well as she took the lead role as an interpreter.
We were equally fortunate to find Becca Godinez, a seasoned stage actress and singer, whose own Covid ordeal informed her performance as a grandmother struggling to survive the disease.
Aware of the dearth of opportunities for people of color in the mainstream film industry, Zeinabu purposely assembled a diverse crew.
Since she’s also a professor at UC San Diego, Zeinabu pulled in her undergraduate and graduate students to work as assistant director, make up artist, caterer, set designer, and production assistants on the film. This enabled many of them to earn their first IMDB credits.
Other members of the UC San Diego community pitched in to keep costs down during the five-day shoot. Professors Wayne Yang and Christina Ree lent their home for location shooting and enlisted their son Jenobi to act in a supporting role.
In late August, as California roasted under a record-breaking heat dome, Zeinabu collaborated with Rommel Andaya and Lee Zarate to edit the film. It was so hot on the last day of editing that their computer broke down.
With Pandemic Bread in post-production, Moriah Hayes and Josh Orris have begun working on the behind-the-scenes documentary.
Moriah even produced a TikTok video: the first, and probably the only one I will ever be in…
Click on the link below to watch it.
Josh says this heartfelt indie film starts and ends with me. I disagree. I believe it starts and ends with the POC and LGBTQ folks who came together to make a scrappy indie film, whose soul is infinitely larger than its budget.
Pandemic Bread may not be a blockbuster Marvel superhero movie, but the good people who worked on it are all superheroes to me. Their superpower is telling the truth.
Thank you for telling the truth.