Catnip, 2012

Catnip is one of the projects that has a special place in my heart. Maybe simply because it was my first ever out-of-school project – yup, right after the graduation ceremony I threw those high-heels in the car and changed into my sneakers then run off to the shoot. The journey before the premiere night was long but it sure was a fun ride!

Liv | Lauren Young
Cieca | Maxene Magalona


Liv lives with her two apathetic siblings, an emotionally devoid mother, and an obsessive compulsive, bipolar, and practically psychotic father. She is an introvert at home, constraining her true personality because everything she does is wrong due to overblown parental ego. Whenever shes not at home, she has this live-fast-die-young attitude, enjoying life while she can. She enjoys the company of her friend Cieca since she can be herself in front of her and be loved for who she is despite her rough attitude. She practically abuses Cieca as her daily dose of pain reliever.

Cieca is a silent, bored girl who views life as repetitive and fleeting. She has a loud mind, often talks to herself while scrutinizing her surroundings, predicting things before they happen since everything in her eyes is a cliché. Her mother died when she was young and lived alone ever since. Her father sends her excessive money for living expenses to cover up for not being there for her. Cieca found the perfect company with Liv. She is amused by Livs avant garde-esque unpredictability and sees her as something new, something to look forward to, and values her as a friend.


Catnip was written and directed by Kevin Cayabyab Dayrit.

My Experience Behind-the-Scenes

Catnip is one of the most memorable projects that I’ve worked on since my career started because, well, it basically started my career. I was just a bored fresh out of thesis defense college student waiting for my graduation so I got in touch with my friend, Justin Santos from Lunar Saints Production who was managing Catnip that time, to see if I can intern for him to keep myself busy for the month and to try and see if I fit in events or filmmaking. He hired me as his Assistant Production Manager / Production Assistant and then everything happened from there.

The photo above is from the second to the last day of shoot. I remember this was my graduation day. After the graduation ceremony, I just changed my shoes and ran off to the shoot. It meant hitting a pause on the celebration dinner – but it was all worth it! We also had some mini shoots where Lauren Young, one of the main actors, shot the scene herself.

Working with the Team

Justin and I met in college when he needed some help with his thesis, and his thesis partner is our friend. They were two years ahead of us, so we were fresh, young minds looking for something fun to do. Anyway, I still remember my first meeting with Justin as his assistant for Catnip. He handed me the script and it was like, I think 70 pages long. I was like, what the fcuk? I am not a bookworm and I have dreaded all book reviews that I had to write, but when I started reading Catnip – I didn’t put it down until I finished it. Took me 2 hours, I think. You know, I like to imagine things while reading them. So I stalked the director right after that.

Kevin Dayrit is a very good and creative filmmaker who is not afraid to speak his mind. This was the first time I worked with a real director so I did not really understand when he was demanding things, sometimes way beyond our budget, but eventually he would adjust and go for our Plan B-Z. Sometimes he just needed to see us try.

We welcomed Cesca Lee to the production team because Justin and Niq, as producers, needed help. Cesca was – because she later on pursued her dream to be a Director of Photography but she is still – one of the best Line Producers/Production Managers in their circle of filmmakers and up to today, I still think she is the best mentor I ever had. She was straightforward and firm when it comes to making decisions on budgets and the team but at the same time she has a really sweet personality.

I never really had interactions with other production teams as I was just super focused on mounting the shoot. Though, I have interned for our Director-of-Photography, Neil Derrick Bion, back in college when we shot our school’s 25th Anniversary Documentary Film. I was his lens girl. He tried to teach me how to use the camera, but I just stared at him super puzzled [LOL!]. It was easy to work with him because he was always kind and patient, at the same time there is a balance between fun and getting shit done.

Of course, there is a whole team of people who put a lot of effort into finishing this production, not to mention my friends who I just dragged into working with us to be able to get things done – I can’t thank everyone enough like I was the director/producer for this!

The things we did for the love of filmmaking

Aside from having just two shooting days left, we only had a month to finish the entire film. So there were a lot of sleepless nights, we did not go home for weeks or days, drowned ourselves with coffee, ordered two plates of Crispy Pata and prayed we don’t die before we finish the film.. all those things. Kevin was the one doing the editing, with the help of his brother Kerwin Dayrit. They basically did everything post-production – offline, online, audio and music scoring. Cesca and Justin helped them most of the time, while they send me elsewhere to manage pre-production for upcoming shoots.

We did it!

Okay, so after dying several times for the entire month – we made it to the premiere! It was an amazing experience to work with these people. Especially this is the first ever project that I did outside of school. Catnip will be a big part of my career forever.

Left to Right: Kevin Dayrit (Director), Rommel Luna (Dad), Yam Mercado (brother), Lauren Young (Liv), Maxene Magalona (Cieca), Pammy (Sister)

Catnip received various awards at the CinemaOne Originals awards night and was showcased in different festivals after the premiere.

CinemaOne Originals Awards:

  • Best Director – Kevin Dayrit
  • Best Screenplay – Kevin Dayrit
  • Best Editing – Kevin Dayrit
  • Best Music – Kevin Dayrit, Isoebelle Lagdameo, Rugis, Circa, Join the Club


  • CinemaOne Originals 2012
  • New York Asian Film Festival
  • Cinesb Film Festival 2013

Author: Jam Ibay

Proud Filipino who moved to New York to be with the love of my life, Gerald. Now navigating through the huge changes in my life.

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