Charlie Dizon wasn’t the first choice, and other things you must know about ‘Fan Girl’

Director Antonette Jadaone’s Fan Girl is a wish-come-true for anyone – boy or girl – who’s adored (and even loved) a celebrity from (really) afar, never mind that he or she doesn’t know you, and likely never will.

An unabashed one-time fan girl herself, Jadaone said the movie’s premise had been something she’d been thinking about for several years now. 

“She will realize a lot of things about her idol – kung siya ba talaga yung idol na kilala niya or meron pang ibang idol sa likod ng taong iyon (If she’s the idol she thinks she knows or if there’s a different persona to her idol),” said Jadaone, who’s best known for directing among the past decade’s most beloved romcoms, both mainstream and indie. 

Hype for Fan Girl was intense even before shooting began, thanks in part to Jadaone’s open auditions for Jane, the fan girl. For the director, it was important to cast a relative unknown, if only to make the fantasy seem even more real. 

24-year-old Charlie Dizon fit the bill perfectly – although Jadaone didn’t know it right away. “Binigyan niya ako ng cake (She gave me cake),” Jadaone joked in an earlier interview with Rappler, when asked what convinced her that Dizon was the perfect choice.

Dizon, in fact, wasn’t the team’s first choice to play Jane. Someone else had been cast and shooting was about to begin when that actress had to drop out because of contract issues.

The production team quickly combed through past auditionees, made calls, and reopened auditions. This time, however, there wasn’t much, er, time because in 3 days, they needed to resume shooting.

At that point, production had already been delayed thrice. 

Finding ‘Fan Girl’ 

There was something about the way Dizon carried herself and walked into the room, recalled Jadaone.

The young actress stood out, even if Charlie didn’t quite know what the project was about or that she was rattled by a request to take all her makeup off. 

Yung lines, sobrang na-awkward ako noong inarte ko, so tawa ako nang tawa sa harap nila after. So medyo nakakahiya, pero okay naman after,” said Charlie, who recently starred in Four Sisters Before The Wedding

(I got awkward after reading the lines they asked me to act out, so I kept laughing after. It was a little embarrassing but things turned out well after.) 

While the team immediately felt that Dizon was perfect as Jane, Jadaone herself wasn’t completely sold.

“The first two days, 'di pa ako makampante kasi iniisip ko pa rin ang dating fan girl. Pero meron kaming crucial scenes na kinunan on our 2nd day. Kung sinasabi man nila na everything happens for a reason, ito 'yun,” she said, referring to Dizon’s acting prowess. 

(The first two days, I was still unsure because I kept thinking about the previous actress. But we shot some crucial scenes during the second day [with Charlie]. And that’s when I told myself – if they say things happen for a reason, this is it.) 

Dizon has been getting rave reviews for her performance from the international circuit. Fan Girl premiered at the Tokyo International Film Festival and made the rounds in another festival before its Philippine premiere on Christmas Day via the Metro Manila Film Festival.

If the trailer for Fan Girl isn’t enough to convince you of Dizon’s rising star, her portrayal as Teddie in the prequel to Four Sisters and a Wedding should. 

But there was no glamor in making Fan Girl. Dizon said Jadaone encouraged and imposed “method acting” (or a variation of) on the movie’s stars. This meant both Dizon and Paulo Avelino were expected to fully live their characters even when the cameras weren't rolling.

Dizon, for instance, didn’t get her own tent, as most movie stars do. Instead, she took breaks and mingled with Jadaone and the rest of the crew. The director also made it a point to minimize Dizon and Avelino’s interactions prior to shooting, if only to make sure they’d remain strangers, as Jane and the fictionalized Paulo are in Fan Girl

Dahil baguhan si Charlie, gusto kong mapagdaanan niya yung tamang proseso sa pelikula. Dahil umaarte na siya dati, gusto kong mawala sa kanya na artista siya. Gusto kong maramdaman niya dito na isa siyang fan, isa siyang fan girl,” explained Jadaone. 

(Since Charlie is new, I wanted her to go through the process of the film. She’s acted before, so I wanted her to forget the notion of herself being a celebrity. I wanted her to feel that she was a fan, she was a fan girl.) 

Finding the Filipino fan girl went beyond casting Dizon. Jadaone said the open auditions themselves were a good way to gain even better insight into the modern Filipino teen. 

About the fan and the girl 

Fan Girl always had an intriguing, albeit vague, premise. Since day 1, we’ve known that it was about a young girl who meets her idol and spends time with him. Its finer details have been kept mostly a secret, with only recent trailers giving a better look into how the movie is decidedly unlike most of Jadaone’s filmography. 

First, the movie is an exploration on the idea of celebrity, particularly in the Philippines. “Nahiwagaan ako sa ganoong kind na duality ng isang celebrity. Feeling ko minsan naguguluhan rin ang celebrity sa sarili nila, kapag nasa isang sitwasyon sila, kung sila ba yung celebrity or sila ba yung totoong tao na andoon sa sitwasyon na iyon,” said Jadaone. 

(I’ve always been amazed by the duality of a celebrity. Sometimes, I think they’re confused by it too, when in certain situations, they’re unsure if they’re a celebrity or a real version of themselves.) 

Image courtesy of Black Sheep

Paulo plays a fictionalized version of himself – a role which Jadaone has said she’s thankful Paulo was willing to play. If the trailers are any indication, this version of Paulo Avelino is dark, complex, and potentially even sinister. 

But the movie, which Jadaone’s podcast co-host and fellow screenplay writer Juan Miguel Severo has described as work closest to her output during her collegiate days, is also a exploration of what it means to be a girl in the Philippines. 

“They said it takes a village to raise a child. Gusto kong mapakita dito na sa panahon ngayon (I want to show that nowadays), it takes more than that. It takes a country, a whole society to raise a girl… in this sexist, misogynist country,” she said. 

“As women, as a country, as a people, we should really think about the kind of country, the kind of environment kung saan lumalaki ang mga batang ito, mga batang babae na ito (where these young girls grow up). Do you think that this is a safe environment for them to grow up into the strong independent women that we want them to be?” she added. 

Fan Girl is part of the 2020 Metro Manila Film Festival and can be streamed via Upstream and GMovies. –