Actress Georgina Tolentino will play the role of Olympic Gold Medalist diver Victoria Manalo Draves in an upcoming biopic.
Draves was the first woman in Olympic history to win gold medals in springboard and platform diving events at the 1948 Olympic games in London.
The filmmakers will launch a new Kickstarter fundraising campaign this weekend to help finance production of the film.
The Kickstarter launch will take place following West Bay Filipino Multi-Service Center and the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Commissions installation of a bronze plaque describing Victoria Manalo Draves Olympic feats that will be unveiled during a ceremony in Victoria Manalo Draves Park in San Francisco on Sunday, October 27, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. along with a special event featuring food, drinks, a charity basketball game and community sponsors on hand to support fundraising for West Bay programs.
Tolentino recently answered some questions about the biopic project.
Tell us what inspired you to make a film about Victoria Manalo Draves.
I actually heard about Vicki when the day the New York Times released her obituary and someone randomly came up to me and said that I looked just like this woman. I read the article and had never heard of her, I instantly became immersed in researching her and did find a distinct resemblance to her. I was born and raised in San Francisco and realized the park that was named after her I use to intern at West Bay Filipino Center ironically enough. I moved to Los Angeles after college to act and found the roles I was auditioning for to be draining and not what made me want to be an actor and filmmaker. I worked for a few independent production companies while going on auditions and acting classes and decided to merge those skills to create roles that I was in love with. The more I learned more about Vicki the more I felt continuously inspired. She was a woman who overcame prejudice and to me she focused on the work. In the Olympics and sports, you are either a champion or you're not and it shows in your training work ethic. You can say otherwise in other fields, but the mental strength she had to be a legendary diver even made her an even iconic Asian American because she wasn't mediocre she was excellent who happened to be Filipino-British American. Which I think is what being an American is all about, being able to overcome against all odds. I see even approaching making this film in that way that it must require the best team and best work ethic to do something impossible.
What kind of training and preparation are you doing for the role?
I'm training in diving at Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena and Mission Viejo Nadajores (Home to Sammy Lee and Greg Louganis). The trainers I work with came from Vicki's lineage so in a sense my coaches have an extreme personal connection with her and the family of divers that have come from their teachers. I also train in ballet, gymnastics and have a wonderful personal trainer who helps me strengthen parts of my body for diving. Since I'm also overseeing a lot of the project as a Producer as well the historical research has been a huge part of preparation for understanding her life. Talking to her family and friends who speak about her with such love, I really see her spirit through them and I feel I to know the kind of light she brought to the people around her.
Also did I mention my extreme fear of heights and drowning, the same fear Vicki had. It has not been easy. And having to get back injections after an injury while training has been pretty painful. You can check out my training on our instagram/twitter/facebook and website.
In terms of acting I have been a wonderful studio in LA for three years that I plan to continue working in and getting coaching on as well as working with our director on it.
Tell us about the production. (How do you intend to recreate that period in time? What aspects of her life do you intend to focus on? Why did you choose to make a biographical film about her life rather than conventional documentary film?)
As of now it will be under my production company, Icarus Film Studios.
We are still in development as of now, we are actually launching a kickstarter to help out finish copyright and publication fees for our writer. We have a phenomenal writer and director but we need to finish these dues before we can move forward. We intend to focus her obstacles from childhood to the Olympics. I don't believe in convention. I think we will probably release something more intensive supplementally as a documentary to go along with all the research since have recordings of interviews and archives that we are using for the script. Her life is so engaging that I think having a film that people can really relate to told in a narrative than factual way can really honor Vicki in the best way that people can universally understand. A diving film about a bi-racial female character driven setting has never been done and seeing that on film will be a really beautiful to watch that can relate universally. When I say that I mean, anyone who really has worked so hard towards a goal where there are personal scarifies, personal demons to confront, fears, love and loss within friends and family. What brings people to fuel their goals? At the end of the day, there's a message we want to send for people for Vicki it was to show people that she is just like everyone else. That is the beauty of sports it is colorblind, but the prejudice that happens along the journey to even compete for gold is so tenacious that everyone can relate to the everyday battles that lead you there.Who does that medal stand for? At the end of the day, Vicki winning gave her a voice for people who believed she was any less than any other human. I want this film to be a vessel for that.
We want to show that Vicki's story is something that has to be a movement to be told and we need to prove that the community is ready for a film about one of the most historic icons and most interesting human beings I've ever learned about. There is also so much more to her than a diver and what you can read online or publicly about her. We want to show her as a real person who goes through real issues that can relate to everyone, that is what will make the Filipino community more proud.
What has been the most challenging aspect for you in making this production?
For now I would say getting past these dues which is why we are reaching out to the Filipino community for some support. We want to have the Filipino community really show that we want to see a film like this get made by helping us move out of this stage. What really broke my heart was when a Filipino American woman actually told me, "mainstream media is not ready for an Asian female lead in a film." The fact that she believed that as a result from what is out there is what even fueled me more to get this made. That women out there even believe there is no platform for film and storytelling for our stories. I understand the story's importance but also to make a film that will get made we have some great names interested in building around us to get this fully financed.
The script will be worked on by a Sundance award-winning writer/director, as well an Academy Award nomination, who is one of my favorite filmmakers and we want to finance the script ourselves so we can have a script that we are in love with that is story driven and get made the way it should, with integrity.
What do you want audiences to learn from seeing the film?
I want audiences to real see a genuine person going through what is really seen as impossible. A bi-racial woman during World War II, Japanese Internment, economic crisis and personal dilemmas going to achieve a goal.
When can audiences expect to see the film?
For more info visit: