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Filipino Musician Luis Villanueva Makes Waves as Filmmaker on the Global Film Industry




Luis Villanueva is a winner in the 2023 NFFTY, the world’s largest film festival for young directors. He is currently working on the unreleased short Filipino documentary film, KAPWA, his first venture into the narrative and documentary space.

Luis Villanueva is a Filipino filmmaker based in New York and is currently making his imprint on the global film industry. He recently graduated from Columbia University with dual degrees in Film Studies and Business Management. Hailing from Manila, this young Filipino filmmaker and musician stands out for his innovative work as a creative.

By the time he arrived at Columbia, he already had a major label record deal as an artist signed to Warner Music Group in the Philippines. He was signed at the age of 17 as an artist-producer and has worked with a network of creative collaborators since, accumulating over 2 million streams on his releases. Eventually, he developed his passion for filmmaking by creating music videos for his own music which went on to win multiple international awards.

Last year, Villanueva won the Best Visual Effects” award at the 2023 edition of the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY) for his work in post-production as a video editor and VFX designer. Based in Seattle, NFFTY is the worlds largest film festival for young directors. Many filmmakers at NFFTY have gone on to win Oscars and Academy awards – just the likes of Benoit Berthe Siward and Rayka Zehtabchi.

Siward screened his film in NFFTY 2015 and afterwards was nominated for the Academy Awards® and an Oscar® for best animated short film in 2022. Meanwhile, Zehtabchi won an Oscar for her documentary film Period. End of Sentence,” a year after winning the audience choice award for the same film at NFFTY 2019.

With an NFFTY award, its safe to say that Villanueva has a bright future in the film industry.


PÉCHO” and his love for music video

The first music video he did was for his track PÉCHO, featuring two other all-Filipino artists living in New York – kakie and Wilchai. The music video is a bilingual French-English piece inspired by house music culture and world cinema from Hong Kong to Manila to New York. A non-linear narrative drives the film's plot as it paints the artists within an imaginative, hallucinatory vignette of love and betrayal. Villanueva was the director, editor, and director of photography for the video.

PÉCHO received a Remi award at the WorldFest Houston film festival, qualifying the film for consideration for a Canadian Screen Award, the Canadian equivalent of the Emmys and Academy awards in the US or the BAFTA awards in the UK. WorldFest gave the first awards to many giants of the film industry, including Spielberg, Lucas, Ang Lee, the Coen Brothers, Ridley Scott, John Lee Hancock, Brian de Palma, Randal Kleiser, Oliver Stone, and David Lynch.

PÉCHO was also an award winner at 12 international IMDB qualifying film festivals, including the New York International Film Awards, Rome Prisma Film Awards, and Swedish International Film Festival. It was also selected as a finalist at the Paris International Film Awards, the Firenze FilmCorti Film Festival, Oniros Film Awards, among others. The film was also an inclusive production, with Asian, LGBTQIA+, Black, Female, and Disabled representation in both the cast and crew, breaking boundaries and forging new pathways in music video production.


This NYC-based Filipino filmmaker and musician stands out for his innovative work as video editor and VFX designer. He is the grandson  of the esteemed Filipina pianist Nena Villanueva, who at age of 12,                                    debuted at Carnegie Hall.


Wish U Were Here” and Facetime”

His next project Wish U Were Here” is a track that features Jess Connelly and Jason Dhakal, who are two leaders in the Asian RnB Scene with over 20 million cumulative streams on Spotify alone. Villanueva directed, edited, produced, composed, and shot the music video for Wish U Were Here”, an art film that explores the use of state-of-the-art technologies at the frontier of the video installation art spheres such as projection mapping.

Wish U Were Here was shot in five different countries over seven months, with scenes shot in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Oman, and the Philippines. Featured in over a dozen publications, including Notion and HipHopDX, Wish U Were Here is the first music video in the world to make use of holographic fan technology programmed with Touchdesigner.

The first project he directed for another artist was the music video for Saint Levants hit single, Facetime. The video has since amassed 590,000 views at the time of writing. Saint Levant is a rapidly growing artist who was recently named as the Middle Easts first Dior ambassador. Saint Levant released the hit single Very Few Friends”, which has amassed over 60 million streams on Spotify alone. Saint Levant is an artist who uses music to captivate and unite people across multiple identities, effortlessly combining English, French, and Arabic in his music, offering a distinctive take on modern RnB. His trilingual wordplay and seductive style have quickly propelled him to global fame, establishing him as a breakout sensation.

Villanueva co-directed the video for Facetime with Pedro Damasceno, a peer from Columbia University and a member of Saint Levants management. Villanueva was also the director of photography of the videos second unit, and he contributed to VFX and editing as the projects assistant editor. The video was a big jump for Villanuevas career considering the wider audience, and the greater budget and production value allowed Villanueva to focus on the creative side without limitations. The film includes a variety of visual motifs inspired by other works in world cinema, such as scenes inspired by the visual iconography of Wong-Kar Wais Fallen Angels and other works that Villanueva was exposed to during his time at Columbias film school.

Villanueva also had the opportunity to direct a music video for Saint Levant in 2023, Dior Ambassador, and one of the worlds fastest-growing recording artists with over 100 million streams on Spotify alone.

Holy Jungle Films Projects

Eventually, Luis graduated and was acquired by Holy Jungle Films – a Filipino-run film-production company in New York that specializes in content for the fashion and beauty industries with past clients including Apple, Nike, Prada, Alfa Romeo, Adidas, NARS, among many others. Talent in past productions includes Selena Gomez, Sydney Sweeney, Paris Hilton, Hailey Bieber, Gisele Bündchen, Kate Moss, Derrick Rose, Stan Smith, Andy Murray among many others.

Villanuevas first music video project with Holy Jungle Films was the music video for Bansa 7aly” (pronounced Bansa Ha-Lee) – released at the same time as the original track by Egyptian artist and vocalist Bayou. This was Villanuevas first released project involving the use of Unreal Engine, a 3D software used primarily by video game developers that is also widely used in the production of films for its capabilities in VFX and 3D CGI. For this project, Villanueva rendered a 3D model of Neo-Cairo, a neon-filled city set in the future based on Cairo, the hometown of the tracks vocalist Bayou. Villanueva also directed and edited the project – this was a big step up in his capabilities as this was the first time that he worked with 3D CGI that he modeled himself using his expertise in VFX design that he picked up during his time at Holy Jungle Films.

At the forefront of the intersection between fashion and film, Villanueva had the distinguished opportunity to serve as the youngest camera operator for the Helmut Lang Automne-Hiver 2024 show, an event that garnered significant attention from The New York Times. Working on a show displaying a collection by Peter Do, an esteemed LVMH Prize winner and the creative director at Helmut Lang, this role not only underscored Villanuevas technical prowess and adaptability but also positioned him at the vanguard of fashion cinematography, contributing to a visual presentation starring multiple Vogue cover models and Forbes 30 under 30 features. The shows video content was solely shot by Holy Jungle Films, meaning all official Helmut Lang content was shot by the Filipino-led production company; much of the content that made it onto many of the runway models’ social media feeds was also shot by Holy Jungle films, reaching an audience of over 25 million users.

Currently, Villanueva is working on the unreleased short documentary film KAPWA, an experimental short about how the colonial history of the Philippines’ past was the catalyst for the religious fanaticism in the Philippines, centered around the tradition of the Black Nazarene and the Siete Palabras play in Pampanga. As he ventures into the narrative and documentary space, Villanueva hopes to uplift Filipino art by expanding into the feature film and documentary mediums. Villanueva, together with Holy Jungle Films CEO Anton Esteban, hopes to scale Holy Jungle Films into a multinational production company in order to create global creative opportunities for the Filipino diaspora. 

#LuisVillanueva #pinoycreative #filmmaker #musician

#NFFTY2023 #PÉCHO #WishUWereHere

#videoeditor #VFXdesigner

#HolyJungleFilms #KAPWA #docufilms




































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