Interview — Weekend Playhouse Releases ‘Love, Theo’ Film

An exclusive interview with the creators of ‘Love, Theo’, a Singapore dance film that came to fruition in 10 days.

During Covid-19 lockdown, while several performers’ livelihoods were threatened and were forced to look for alternatives, local dancer and choreographer Bobby Prayogi turned to what he knew best — film and dance. Alongside longtime friend Alvine Koh at the helm of the Weekend Playhouse collective, Bobby brought together a group of dedicated dancers to blend two into one.

The ‘Midnight Creatives’ didn’t rest at all. The team would be at each other’s places working till the sun had risen and the early morning birds started calling. Alvine handled the production side and Bobby crafted everything required for the creative aspect. In the span of two months, the project came to life. Through 10 days of relentless, back-to-back shoots — filled with blood, sweat and lots of tears — with a capable production team of nine, a 60-minute dance film was born.

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Pristine and undeniably sensational choreography framed well with a storyline that pierces hearts, paired with beautiful shots. ‘Love, Theo’ comes from the core of these passionate dancers; an effort to combine two mediums and let the art speak for itself.

After watching the film, we sat down and spoke with director Bobby, producer Alvine and lead cast Kayla Charissa about the filming process, challenges and inspirations. Let’s dive right into it!

To avoid spoilers, watch the film below before carrying on.

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Dreamfellas: Walk us through the plot of Love, Theo.

Bobby Prayogi: Love, Theo is about two high school students, 18-year old Mia Rose and 20-year-old Theo. Mia was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at an early age and grew up with boundaries and limitations. In school, she keeps to herself and is unseen. On the other hand, Theo is everywhere. He’s the popular kid that everybody knows. So, one day he notices her, through dance, and he’s starstruck. From then on, as affection grows, the story and their relationship unfolds.

DFL: Like a romantic drama! So what made you embark on this project? What inspired you into making this film?

Bobby: During Covid, everyone was heavy on making videos about dance. Alvine and I were talking about continuing it and to bring out something different. We did some research and came across this National Arts Council grant. We had two weeks left till the due date for the grant’s application and we just went for it.

Alvine Koh: Yes, it was unexpected. We thought, “just try la”. Whether we got the grant or not, we were still going ahead with it, because either way we already have budget restraints.

DFL: Tell us more about what Weekend Playhouse is.

Alvine: A lot of dancers don’t continue to dance as much once we move onto ‘adulthood’. It’s a never-ending topic for us. In Singapore, we’re looking at very few opportunities to be able to explore more into this dance scene. Love, Theo is one representation of how we can continue to show our love and passion for dance.

DFL: Upon looking at the trailer, personally, it was reminiscent of some movies I’ve watched: Five Feet Apart, In The Heights, High School Musical. Maybe even classics like Grease and West Side Story, with the element of drama and tragedy. Was it a style you guys were going for, or what were some of the films that inspired you all?

Bobby: Definitely. The films that inspired us the most were Five Feet Apart and The Fault In Our Stars. In the two weeks of crunch time, I was watching a lot of movies while brainstorming. These were the movies that I kept watching again and again, and still haven’t gotten bored of it. I learn something each time I watch them. So I thought, “what would it look like if these movies had elements of dance?” I watched a documentary about this patient with Cystic Fibrosis to learn more about it; see how her daily life was like to get the feel of it. And I translated all that into the story of Love, Theo.

Alvine: I think, for me, it was a mix of The Fault In Our Stars and High School Musical — something with a bit more romance. The dance segments lean towards inspiring moments in the Step Up franchise.

Kayla Charissa: For me, it’s High School Musical and Five Feet Apart as well. The fact that it’s set in a high school with a teenage vibe and with the dance elements.

DFL: What is the message of the film? Or rather, what is Weekend Playhouse trying to convey with Love, Theo?

Bobby: One thing we want to bring to the table is to create a platform for all — something versatile for dancers, non-dancers who love to watch dance, anything that has to do with arts, dance and music, as well as anything in the creative sector. And this applies to those who are currently in this, those who have been in the past and those who will join in the future.

We want to open up a platform where everyone can just share their skills and knowledge! We learn from each other and at the same time, through learning we are creating as well.

Alvine: To add on to that, it’s also to improve the creativity here so we don’t have just specific materials. Like it’s common to have a dance film that is just movement or with a bit of storyline. Now, we can do various aspects of storylines; piece it up together to get something like ‘Love, Theo’ or even more.

DFL: I was going to say that the song choices are really good. I personally feel it’s really good — pulls at the heartstrings!

Alvine: That’s why he’s [Bobby] my Creative Director!

Bobby: If I don’t cry, it means it’s not good enough.

Alvine: When he was doing the script, he was listening to the same songs for two weeks!

DFL: Kayla, did you have any acting background? Because honestly, I think you were pretty good, man. Like you really pulled it together. The story’s about Mia and Theo, but there’s a lot of screen time on Mia.

Kayla: Really? Aww…thank you! Acting background…nothing really. It’s always been like for calefares or extras, but roles with lines and your face, not really!

DFL: Kayla, did you have any acting background? Because honestly, I think you were pretty good, man. Like you really pulled it together. The story’s about Mia and Theo, but there’s a lot of screen time on Mia.

Kayla: Yeah, it is a consideration because I didn’t expect myself to enjoy it this much la honestly. Before I even embarked on this project, people were teasing like how it’s a whole Filipino thing! My mum and friends used to say they could see me as an actress so why not? But I brushed it aside, because I always thought, “if you’re a dancer, you’re a dancer…keep it as that”. So after this, if there’s more for me in the future then why not? Especially if there’s dance inside, then that’s a bonus!

DFL: Yes, I think that ties in very nicely with what Bobby and Alvine said earlier about creatives coming together, and a platform for them to explore and expand!

So, for you, Kayla, what was the most challenging part about your role? Any specific scenes that were really challenging?

Kayla: I think it was the sickness aspect of it. If you asked to act, okay can, but I had to always bear in mind that I [Mia] have cystic fibrosis. Like sometimes when I dance I’d ask if I have to ‘full out’ but because Mia’s a sick patient I don’t have to go all out for it to be more genuine. And especially the scenes that touched on genres that I’m not comfortable in or haven’t actually experienced, like the duet and Waacking part!

Yeah, but mostly the sickness part, because I think that’s what made everything extra heavy and emotional for both people who were acting in it and people who will watch it. It was hard for me, because I know I have to feel it myself for the audience to feel it too.

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DFL: Speaking of the duet, I enjoyed it a lot! It’s very beautiful. The way you guys used the bench and stuff…it was very nice.

Now, Bobby! For you as the producer, writer and the main cast, what was the most challenging part?

Bobby: I think the most challenging part that I faced is trying to manage everything and everyone, especially during the production itself! Like I have to give cues, I have to take note of certain things and I have to direct…and at the same time I’m in the shot. So I’m basically going everywhere just to ensure everything is in place.

And while doing all that, the most challenging part is also to bring up the chemistry again when I’m on screen with her [Kayla]. So I have to switch every single time — to go from director mode to dancer mode and then to ‘Theo’ mode ( the lovey dovey side). That’s hard because I don’t want to be the person to take that away from Mia Rose because she’s always there prepped and then I have to fit her energy.

DFL: What about you, Alvine? What were the difficulties that you met with in the making of this film?

Alvine: I think from the start, being clueless first! But then, just trying to know what’s going on and being much more ahead of everyone. A lot of times, he [Bobby] already has more than one role and everyone will be looking at me as the second person for anything else.

Also, when it comes to the production — because I have never done one before! It was definitely manageable, but overwhelming as well. One of the biggest challenges was to chase everyone for time, because time means money and I am accountable for everything regarding logistics. There were times when we’d forget something so we’d have to put our heads together to see how it can be resolved. But we managed to pull through!

I’d say it was more heartfelt than challenging because of the amount of hard work put in. And what was the most inspiring was the end product.

DFL: I heard the cast and the crew members in production are all dancers?

Alvine: Yes, we’re all dancers! For the core team, they have some kind of production background.

Bobby: The core team, some used to dance before or still do, so they have the idea of dance. But what we were looking for was whether they have the idea of ‘filming’. We put the same amount of focus on the storyline, which is why when it came to casting we made sure it felt like this person was made for the character. Also, fun fact, I wasn’t supposed to be Theo! We found Mia and were looking for a ‘Theo’, but we couldn’t find one who could fit the specific character we were looking for. And anyway, Theo was going to *ahem* [pass] so my focus was more on Mia.

DFL: This is quite a step for the dance community in Singapore. More focus is being put on dance via video/film, featuring topics of struggles faced, coming-of-age stories and more. What are your thoughts on this?

Alvine: Definitely, one of the things is the platform we mentioned earlier, but also to give a new perspective. How can we come together and show it’s possible to go beyond what we know?

Locally, at that time, nobody was really creating dance films in that aspect where the dance fits into the storyline and elevates the emotions. With dance, everything is amplified when you pair it with the right songs and moments. It’s actually the best medium for all creatives to express — it’s called ‘body of Arts’ for a reason!

Bobby: One thing that we want to put across too is to share a different perspective of things. We’re trying to instil the idea that you don’t have to be the best to do something like this! You just need the will and passion — if you want to do it, you shall do it.

DFL: We know that this could be the beginning of something really great for the local dance scene. Any hints on what’s the next step for you guys or Weekend Playhouse?

Bobby: A lot of people have asked if there’s going to be a ‘Love, Theo 2’…unfortunately no, it will be its own thing. Moving forward, we’ll be going into film more while still giving back to our dance community — where we’re from.

DFL: How would you describe this film in three words?

Bobby: Heartwarming, heartfelt and passionate.

Kayla: Sweet, realistic and unexpected!

Alvine: Sincere, peak emotions.

DFL: Okay, this is for the readers now. Make sure you catch the film ‘Love, Theo’ on Youtube because it’s trailblazing and changing the perspectives of what a dancer in Singapore can do!

Right, thank you so much to the three of you [Bobby, Alvine and Kayla] and the whole team for sharing your art and stories with everyone. It’s very uplifting to know that there are still people out here breaking boundaries while being creative! Dreamfellas thanks all of you and we hope to see a lot more sensational work from all of you!

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Director: Bobby Prayogi
DoP: Zaki Zakwan
Co-producer: Bobby Prayogi, Alvine Koh
Assistant Director: Zaki Zakwan
Production Manager: Alvine Koh
Assistant Production Manager: Zuleiny Saifollah
Soundman: Irfan Shah
Lx/Gaffer: Alvine Koh, Irfan Shah, Zaki Zakwan, Khairul Irfan
Screenplay: Bobby Prayogi
Casting Director: Bobby Prayogi
Casting Team: Alvine Koh, Irfan Shah, Zaki Zakwan, Elfy Hafiyan, Zuleiny Saifollah, Danny Prayoga
Choreographers: Bobby Prayogi, Zuleiny Saifollah, Naomi Francine Alex, Muhammad Arfan, Syamil Ashraf, Kayla Charissa, Eugenia Tan, Natasha Koo, Muhammad Sarni, Harris Erwin, Muhammad Azri, Low Ying Han, Muhammad Syafiq
Cast: Kayla Charissa, Bobby Prayogi, Sabrina Omar, Harris Erwin, Steph Tan Shi Tong, Evangeline Koo, Khairi Afifi, Eugenia Tan, Lilis Nurathika Lim, Misha Akilah, Natasha Koo, Nor Adlina, Izwan Subari, Muhammad Sarni, Muhammad Azri, Low Ying Han, Muhammad Syafiq, Zarni Khoo
Cameos & Extras: Khairul Irfan, Badarudin Hassan, Zaki Zakwan, Sairi Mohd, Eskay Seah, Ady Saufi, Zuleiny Saifollah, Elfy Hafiyan, Irfan Shah, Alvine Koh, Paulina Gracia, Ethan Daniel, Muhd Ismail Yusoff, Syarul Haffyan, Erna Shahirah, Andrew Chin Kin Hou, Muhd Lutfil Hadi, Siraj Munir, Lim Xin Ying, Nur Sharekha
Wardrobe: Bobby Prayogi
Props & Sets: Alvine Koh, Irfan Shah
Production Photographer: Eskay Seah
BTS Cameraman: Khairul Irfan
Runner: Elfy Hafiyan
Loggers: Alvine Koh, Zuleiny Saifollah, Ady Saufi
Main Editor: Bobby Prayogi
2nd Editor: Irfan Shah
BTS Editor: Khairul Irfan
Music Mix: Bobby Prayogi

Weekend Playhouse strives to provide a platform that offers opportunities for Creatives to explore and grow their crafts while they progress individually. Eventually, create and empower connections between individuals through movement narratives.

All images courtesy of Weekend Playhouse and Eskay Seah.

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