SF State student, Kailyn Dulay makes her debut in Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winning short film
“When You Left Me On That Boulevard” is Dulay’s first taste of success on a national stage
March 17, 2023
When Kailyn Dulay took the lead role in “When You Left Me On That Boulevard,” she had no idea what to expect. Little did she know, that same short film would soon take home the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
The Sundance Film Festival took place this January. For Dulay, a third-year Cinema major at SF State, it was her first taste of nationwide acclaim.
Dulay was inspired by the casting decisions and predominantly Asian American crew.
“This entire experience was so amazing because this was an all Filipino American cast and in the area I grew up in,” Dulay said.
Growing up, Dulay recalls not having any representation in the media.
“I just categorized myself with the Asian community, not really knowing or understanding what it meant to be Filipino,” Dulay said.
It wouldn’t be until college when she took a Filipino American history course where she learned what it truly meant to be Filipino.
After being cast in February 2022, the 4-day shoot took place in May in Dulay’s hometown of San Diego. They shot only a few blocks away from the house that she grew up in.
Hair and makeup production artist Rochelle Sunglao spoke highly about working with Kailyn on set.
“We got to goof off a little and hang in the makeup and hair room,” Sunglao said. “It was like talking to one of my younger cousins.”
She laughed while recalling the conversations she shared with Kailyn once the two got more comfortable with each other.
Seeing how many people were supporting Dulay, Sunglao expressed happiness for Dulay’s success.
“How supportive her parents are, that struck me. They were fully invested in her succeeding in acting because they see how happy it makes her,” Sunglao said.
It was easy for Dulay to get into character because she related to her role as Ly.
“When I was reading the script, I was just imagining my family,” Dulay said.
One character from the script that stood out to Dulay was the aunt hosting the Thanksgiving dinner.
Dulay had her 18th birthday during the pandemic. In Filipino culture, there is a coming-of-age celebration called a Debu for people turning 18.
Dulay’s was a small, family-only party that was hosted by the same aunt she was reminded of in the film.
“That was the last thing that she threw for me,” Dulay said.
Between shoots, Dulay went to her grandmother’s house and happened to run into her aunt.
“She came over to my grandma’s house and I told her,” Dulay said. “She was so excited, she was like, ‘we’ll watch it when it comes out, we will have a whole family party and everything.’”
Before it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, Dulay’s aunt passed, adding more sentiment to the film for her and her family.
After a small private screening for just the cast and crew, film Director Kayla Abuda Galang told them to expect a call in a few weeks.
Dulay received a call earlier than expected, the news of the film making it into the Sundance Film Festival left her with one response, “I was in shock, the only thing I was really saying was, ‘Oh my God.’”
Dulay’s mother, Gian Dulay was the first to hear the news. “First thing was the tears, next was just this feeling of how proud I was of my daughter,” Dulay’s mother said. “Who she is growing into and the role model she is able to be for girls out there like her.”
Roughly 15,000 short films were submitted to the Sundance Film Festival and only 65 of those films were accepted. “When You Left Me On That Boulevard” was the grand jury prize winner, the highest award at the festival for short films.
Getting into Sundance was one of many new experiences for Dulay. She didn’t know who won the grand jury prize until after she returned home from the Sundance Festival premiere.
“I was on my phone doing something else. I got a text from one of the producers,” Dulay recalled, reliving the moment she received the big news. “I yelled… and ran down the ladder, I was showing my mom the texts and then she was going through their [Sundance Instagram] story.”
The officials from the Sundance Film Festival were posting the winners to their Instagram story in real-time alongside the award ceremony.
“When she [Dulay’s mom] saw my face on there, we both just started bawling,” Dulay said. “When you’re in these things, you don’t really like to think about what could happen with it.”
The first person Dulay called after receiving the news was her friend Naomi Sanchez. The two have known each other since high school when they met in a film class about Marvel movies.
For an entire minute, the phone call was quiet. After having time to process what Dulay told her, they shared the full spectrum of excitement.
“We were crying, we were swearing, we were like — screaming at each other on the phone,” Sanchez said.
Although the industry may have certain demands, maintaining her own identity is important to Dulay.
“I hope that I still retain the most authentic me as possible because I think that is what shines through instead of assimilating into what roles or images the industry wants from you,” Dulay said.
Regardless of the number of awards or accolades the film receives, Dulay feels she has already received all the validation she needed.
“For me, … the people it matters most to is my family because this, this was all for them.”