Exclusive: Filmmaker Diane Paragas talks the creation of film Yellow Rose

Yellow Rose Film Pic Credit: Think Jam.
Yellow Rose Film. Pic Credit: Think Jam

Yellow Rose, by filmmaker Diane Paragas, is a film about a girl fighting the odds stacked against her through the power of music and through the help of friends and family.

The film, starring Eva Nobleza, Liam Booth, Princess Punzalan, Lea Salonga, and Dale Watson, is as eye-opening as it is beautiful. It takes viewers on a journey that is impossible to forget.

Filmmaker Diane Paragas recently took some time to answer a few of the questions we had about the movie and her filmmaking process, as she brought to life a story of a Filipino girl living inside a nation she loves but that did not love her in return.

Here is what Diane Paragas had to say:

Monsters and Critics: Thank you so much for taking the time to inform us and our readers about Yellow Rose! It was such an incredible film to watch; it had such a moving storyline with really dynamic characters. What inspired you to create this film?

Diane Paragas: I grew up in Lubbock Texas and was one of the only Filipino kids in my school growing up.  Back then music was a big outlet for me, so I used that personal experience in this story.  I didn’t really listen to a lot of country music, but I liked the idea of Rose being deeply connected with Texas, and particularly, its music.  So, I focused on that.  Also as far as the immigrant angle, as a Filipino American story, we all know someone directly who is experiencing being undocumented, so that felt right as well.

M&C: Your cast performed at such a high level. How did you go about putting your cast members together?

Diane Paragas: The casting process started a few years back when we were making our short film.  Some of that cast that I met at that time I fell in love with. So when it came time to cast for the feature, Eva Noblezada, who was someone I was tracking, was finally ending her run as Kim in Miss Saigon.  So I sent her the script and went to see her on Broadway, and she blew me away with her naturalistic acting and terrific voice.  We had dinner after, and I just loved her personality and offered her the part on the spot.  Luckily she responded to the script.  Shortly after that, I wrote for and offered a part to Lea Salonga, who also said yes.

M&C: What has been your proudest moment at the helm of this film?

Diane Paragas: My proudest moments are when people from different walks of life and political persuasions write to me or approach me to tell me that the movie moved them. Sometimes they thanked me for feeling seen and represented; and other times, people thanked me for opening their eyes to the situation of undocumented families. And sometimes, they thanked me just because they loved the music. It’s all so gratifying because this movie was something I definitely made for the audience.

M&C: What was the most fun moment you had while on set? (Any fun stories to share?)

Diane Paragas: We had so much fun on set.  It was a scorching hot summer in Austin but a lot of the crew lived in a house, so we were like a family during the shoot. I think the most fun was at our wrap party. Dale and Eva had planned this mini-concert where they played old jazz standards like Summertime with a full band. None of the crew including myself had any idea they had planned this; it was so much fun.

M&C: On the flip side, what was maybe one of the biggest challenges you faced as a filmmaker when putting Yellow Rose together?

Diane Paragas: The film took a long time to finally get financed — more than 15 years after I had written the first draft. So that was probably the most difficult thing. Also, I think shooting all the scenes with the ICE officers and the detention center was hard just because we all knew that this was happening all over the country to families just like Rose’s, and it collectively broke our hearts.

M&C: Did this film stay relatively true to how you imagined it from the outset? Or did you make storyline adjustments throughout the filming process? 

Diane Paragas: In many ways, the actual filming far exceeded what was in my imagination. I love working with actors and real people (Dale Watson plays a version of himself in the film) because they bring such life and texture to these characters. I was definitely changing the script as I went along, just capitalizing on what I could see the actors were capable of doing (especially Eva, who is such an extraordinary, intuitive actress).

M&C: This is one of those movies that moves people — I would go as far as to say it challenges stances and preconceived notions about right and wrong as it pertains to how the US handles immigration cases. What message are you hoping to convey to people when they watch Yellow Rose?

Diane Paragas: I hope that when people see this film they are able to leave their politics at the door and simply watch a story about a mother and a daughter who get separated and what it feels like for the one who gets left behind.  It’s a human story above all else, and that’s what I wanted to show.

M&C: Lastly, what can you share about your upcoming projects?

Diane Paragas: I’m very excited as I’m almost finished writing my next scripted film, which is called Lizards.  It’s a pop music opera set in the Japanese-occupied Philippines during WWII and follows the journey of a young woman who has a magical lizard and eventually becomes a guerrilla in the war.

Yellow Rose, acquired by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, is available on Digital, Blu-ray and DVD now.

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