Meet Victor Villanueva. Just a run-of-the-mill Cebuano who loves to cosplay, play video games, freelance at anything media-related, and, of course, eat liempo. He also happens to be an emerging talented film director! Known for his quirky style, he is currently promoting his first full length movie called My Paranormal Romance.
ZeroThreeTwo was fortunate enough to have dinner with him and find out about the odds-and-ends of what makes this “Special Child” (he garnered a lot of Special Awards for his films) a force to be reckoned with in the world of Filipino film makers.
Victor: No, I always wanted to be a scientist and create a walking bi-pedal machine that can launch a nuclear strike in different terrains. I would call it Metal Gear.
In all seriousness, 5 years ago, I laughed at the idea of directing a movie. I was just comfortable producing, and doing short film related stuff. I always wanted to do TVCs, then draw comics and plant kamote. I’m still scratching my head on how I ended up directing a full movie. I guess a side of me always wanted to direct a film. So I just went along with it.
o32: Which is easier in your opinion: to produce, or to direct a film?
Victor: Well pareho man silang lisod, daghan factors. If I were to compare it in RPG terms, producers would be the huge damage dealers with AOE effects. They would also be highly intelligent (high INT attribute) which would make them great tactical support on what needs to be done.
See that monster? AOE that shit! BOOM!
For directors, I would compare them to being the TANK. The one who leads the party to the dungeon. The one who must bring the torch of morale. It means coordinating with your party to make it through the dungeon while the pressure is on you cause you might be leading them off a cliff. If there would be problems, you would have to start the mission all over again. 🙁
Victor: I always loved telling stories. I would make pointless stop motion videos of toys before. I always loved shooting random stuff.
It wasn’t until college that I discovered making films was actually pretty fun, When I won my first award in.MOV film festival 2005 (submitting one of my works from TV arts class). My first reaction was like, “Look at the size of this check!” and 20k (the cash prize) was extremely huge money back then. I could buy a Nokia 8210.
And from there I started to learn more about film making. I would appear in shoots that I wasn’t even invited on and was just generally a fanboy on anything film related. You could see the foams in my mouth from all the spazzing. I also took a few courses at IAFT.
I moved to Manila, sometime in 2008, to experience more film making related stuff and was lucky enough to be involved in a few productions; indie, commercials and mainstream which includes Kimmy Dora and Here Comes the Bride.
032: People sometimes think being a director is a glamorous thing. But it isn’t all fun and games, is it? Was there any time when something really tested you and your crew’s resilience?
Victor: Tanawa akong nawng, diba glamorous kaayo, daghan kaayo bugas! LOL!
For MY PARANORMAL ROMANCE, at first we were like, “Haha the script is actually shootable” then slowly in production we realized it was actually a VERY HARD script to shoot. The numerous costume changes, the lighting to get the look and multiple actors of trying to chaos control their schedules. But somehow we managed, remaining headstrong!
One instance when our resilience was truly tested by someone really badass from above… namely GOD. There was a time in our shoot where it rained really hard, and our set got flooded, CHEST LEVEL! It was very surreal, and very unexpected!
We had most of the crew evacuate immediately from the area. But alas, most of our set and props got ruined (OH THE CONTINUITY!), our vehicles floating, and some equipment swimming. I stayed behind with a few crew members, stranded on the 2nd floor, I looked up and cursed to God, “WHY GOD WHY? Why ang nabilin lang na food diri sa taas kay Chorizo! I hate Chorizo!” Four hours later we got rescued by ERUF. I was devastated by what happened, and also the Chorizo.
We had to halt our shoot for about a month, to have everything recovered. It drained our finances. I’m sure God had a pretty good reason… on why it was only Chorizo left.
But during the break, I was able to re-assess the script, and gave time to cool down our heads.
When we resumed shoot, everyone was in high spirits gearing to get back, and lo and behold I was surprised that in one of our dinners, we had RICO’s LECHON! NOT CHORIZO! And not just any lechon, it was RICO’s SPICY LECHON! Oh joy!
032: When the going gets tough, what gets you going?
Victor: Caffeine and WILLPOWER! Giga Drill breaker!
032: On the other hand, what are the little things that you love about being in the film industry?
Victor: Well, having to meet different kinds of talented and creative people. Sharing ideas, stories etc.
And also the food in Gala premieres. I always liked that… cause it is food and it is free.
Victor: Well I’m not really sure how to answer this. I usually just go with my gut feeling with what I think works.
But I’m also very thankful of my past experiences both personal and professional. They somehow helped mold on what my style really is. Believe me there was a lot of trial and error involved and a lot of soul searching.
I’m also thankful to have helpful friends who criticize my work (often times destroying it in a blaze of fire! I’m looking at you Ruel Antipuesto!), cause listening helps you improve a lot.
And going with your gut feeling, combining it with experience, adding a little bit of yourself in your work, you are able to give the artwork… a SOUL. And with giving it a soul, you let the artwork live and allow it to resonate with your audience!
*Does interpretative dance*
032: What are some of your influences?
Victor: I’m a big anime/manga fan, and an avid videogamer. I’m into Neil Gaiman books and I also enjoy the occasional pop culture reference (guilty pleasure).
032: You also picked such a talented cast of actors and actresses. How did the cast search go?
Victor: They say that 90% of directing is casting. So it’s always very crucial to me to cast the right characters then you combine that with your gut feeling on what works.
If ever naa kay hesitation na he/she can’t pull it off, re-examine, analyze. Basin pwede ma workshop? Ma rehearse? You have to bring the character out of them.
For Saranghae My Tutor, the perfect lead for that was Ozzie Ouano. I discovered him through RED HABAGAT’s videos in Facebook. He had the charm of a BETA MALE, the lovable loser, and he had certain quirks which really worked for the character I imagined. The casting for the Korean parts were very difficult. We scouted a lot of ESL schools, some were shy, some couldn’t speak English at all (or was extremely terrible at it). I was beginning to abandon the project cause the Korean aspect of it is what’s drawing premise of the story and it was hard to find them. It wasn’t until one of Downboy Studio’s guys referred me to these two Korean students. When I saw them, I knew they were the perfect ones to play the role.
For My Paranormal Romance, I discovered Phoebe Kaye Fernandez through a friend’s entry for the Sinulog Film Festival, Byahe by Peter Mancao. Boang boangon man siya na babae, pero cute. So I knew she was perfect for the lead role of Merry. For the lead guy, it was difficult. There were many who auditioned for the role, but somehow didn’t quite fit. Then I found Van Roxas. When we put them together with Phoebe Kaye, they had great chemistry. Kiligon gud mi sa set kung mag tapad lang ang duha haha. Publio Briones III is always a favorite and staple actor in all my work. The guy is a brilliant actor, but oftentimes he gets the SERIOUS and GRIMDARK roles. Right from the start I already had him in mind, in his most PUBLIO role yet, a wacky yet delusional villain who loves to sing. LOL
For When Mary Met Guido, sus! Mga bugal bugalon naman tong duha daan haha. They just played themselves (it was their pre-nup video after all.) So I just worked with what they had and took advantage of their chemistry. Most of the time ma delayed mi sa shoot namo kay pirmi ra mig pangatawa kay sige’g adlib ang duha. The challenging part though was to make Mary cry cause that girl is always laughing. So I had whiteflower placed near her eyes to stimulate the tears. It worked… hilariously haha, sorry Mary!
032: So far you’ve made many short films and this is your first full length movie. Many are excited to see “My Paranormal Romance” this February 11-16 at Cinema One Originals: Cebu Film Fest! I know I am! You mentioned that when you were slated to direct MPR, you dropped some projects to focus on this one?
Victor: Yes, my producer and DOP advised me to drop everything. I was gonna be directing for the first time (full length movie) so it needed my full concentration. They would whip me if they ever found out I was logged in at Facebook, and also plus the fact that I have ADHD tendencies that sometimes gets in-…….oh look, a rabbit!
032: Ever considered directing dramas or other genres like horror, suspense, and the like?
Victor: I could probably pull off a drama, but I kind of laugh at the idea of me doing a horror or suspense. For horror and suspense to be succesful, it has to be very mathematical in execution and I’m terrible at Math!
032: What are your thoughts about you starring in your own film or a film directed by someone else?
Victor: OH I WOULD LOVE THAT IDEA! Honestly, a part of me always wanted to be in front of the camera. Actually I’ve been going to auditions in hoping that the Shakespearean in me would be discovered, and would win an Oscar. But so far it has been unsuccessful 🙁
Probably my biggest break was in the Korean movie, BLUE SALT (Hindsight) when they shot here in Cebu. I had my 10 seconds of fame (With Speaking lines! OMG!) together with Song Kang Ho (Thirst, The Host), Shin Sae Kyung, Chun Jung Myung (Cinderella’s Sister) and Lee So Young. I WAS SO HAPPY!!!
032: And—drumroll please! The quintessential “What would you want to impart to aspiring movie makers?” last interview question.
Victor: Follow your dream, follow your heart! Even if you take an arrow to the knee, pull out the arrow and eat it!
032: Thanks for the interview vic! So ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, set your jets for more upcoming films and productions directed by the one and only Victor Villanueva! Stellar movie-viewing experience guaranteed!