‘Hi, Miss Ganda’ Is A Thriller About Beauty Influencers And Stalkers

 

More people are turning to social media to become online personalities and influencers. This influencer culture has led to people obsessing over their portrayal in the virtual world.

Aside from that, young people are documenting themselves for content to put online, without knowing who’s peaking into their personal lives.

That is the issue broached by director Lino Vergel De Dios and director of photography John Peter Chua (Philippines), the winners of Viddsee Shortee in September.

The two bagged the award for their final year project, ‘Hi, Miss Ganda’. The film is about a girl obsessed about becoming the perfect beauty YouTuber. At the same time, she fails to realise that her constant online presence has birthed a stalker.

We reached out to both filmmakers, Lino Vergel De Dios and John Peter Chua, to learn more about the idea behind ‘Hi, Miss Ganda’.

First, here’s how it all started

“I started videoing skits with my cousins when I was eight and I never really stopped. I got into horror and thriller movies when I was a teenager,” says Lino Vergel.

“Slasher movies and Hitchcock movies were my main inspirations in pursuing filmmaking seriously.”

I would look around at the shadows in my house trying to scare myself into thinking up horror ideas and camera angles – Lino Vergel

As for John Peter Chua, his family always had a tradition of going to the cinema after church.

“It was always a treat for me to be taken to different worlds and meet different characters as a kid. When my older brother started taking up his master’s in film, I started taking filmmaking seriously,” says John.

“I directed a documentary entry into a student film festival and I won 3rd place. I realised I had a potential for it and took a filmmaking course right before college – and never stopped since,”

Lino and John met when they were both in line to apply for a production outfit during their first year in college.

Fast forward to the second year, they enrolled in the same production class. They got to talking and bounced ideas off each other. Not too long later, they teamed up – along with some other friends and made ‘Hi, Miss Ganda’ as their final project.

Our generation’s obsession with the ‘influencer culture’

Valerie, the beauty influencer in Hi Miss Ganda
Logan Ang as Valerie, the beauty influencer in ‘Hi,Miss Ganda’

“The idea for ‘Hi, Miss Ganda’ is an observation of our generation’s obsession with online personas and the ‘influencer culture’. Young people are documenting themselves for online content without knowing who’s watching their personal lives.”

According to Lino and John, society always had an obsession with beauty. But the trends nowadays are more rapidly absorbed by much larger audiences.

“We wanted to highlight how old-fashioned and patriarchal mentalities can clash with newer generations. We’re not promoting or rejecting the way beauty is understood in a modern world, but we are trying to reflect the interactions that happen and the perspectives that clash.”

The film also aims to address how young teenagers are attempting to break into the Youtube makeup vlogging circle. By doing that, they risk exposing and putting themselves in dangers way.

“The film is not only a criticism of the dangers of beauty creators. It’s also to remind the youth to be cautious and mindful of the internet’s nature,” the filmmakers explained.

On the set of 'Hi, Miss Ganda'
On the set of ‘Hi, Miss Ganda’

The stalker in the film represents both online and real-life threats

Having a stalker break into one’s house is an extreme example of the danger. The character can represent the presence of observers that you have on social media.

It is also the way society reacts to online trends. It also represents the manipulative ways that men assert how women should act or look.

The stalker illustrates how people’s expectations, comments and criticism can physically and emotionally harm an individual.

We used ‘Black Mirror’ as inspiration on how technology shapes our culture

Valerie facing her stalker in Hi Miss Ganda
Valerie (Logan Ang) facing her stalker (Martin Leachon) in ‘Hi, Miss Ganda’

“We took some pointers from shows like ‘Black Mirror’. The show reflects how technology shapes our culture and how scary that can be. The threats that come with technology and social media often go unnoticed because of how relatively new it is. By the time you’re able to indicate the threats, it might be too late.”

The filmmakers wanted a long build-up as the main character, Valerie, slowly realised she was being watched.

We tried to emulate slasher classics like Halloween (1978) in creating an eerie and stressful tension, where you don’t know what’s hiding in the shadows.

“Many of the shots lingered for an uncomfortable amount of time as Valerie was unaware of the impending danger. We had a very minimal setup for lights and cameras, so we were forced to be deliberate with what could and couldn’t be seen in each shot,” they explain.

Sadly, most people overlooked the theme of the film

According to both Lino and John, the influencer culture is deeply ingrained in people that they are unaware of the dangers it brings. People only tend to focus on the glamorous side of being an influencer, without considering its negative ramifications. However, they are still content that the film reached a huge number of people. Which means they got the message across.

“Both of us were surprised to see that a lot of people watched the film on Viddsee. Given that the film was only a school project, we did not expect it to be a hit with the audience!”

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