Luis Villanueva: Up close and personal


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

Last year, Villanueva won the Best Visual Effects award at the 2023 edition of the National Film Festival for Talented Youth for his work in post-production as a video editor and vfx designer. The Seattle-based NFFTY is the world’s largest film festival for young directors. Many filmmakers at NFFTY have gone on to win Oscars and Academy awards.

Villanueva also had the opportunity to direct in 2023 a music video for Saint Levant, a Dior ambassador and one of the world’s fastest-growing recording artists with over 100 million streams on Spotify alone. This year, as a cinematographer, Villanueva shot Vogue cover models and Forbes 30 under 30 standouts Irina Shayk and Alton Mason at Peter Do’s New York Times-featured runway show for Helmut Lang.

‘PÉCHO’ and his love for music videos

The first music video Villanueva did was for his track “PÉCHO,” featuring two other all-Filipino artists living in New York, kakie and Wilchai. It is a bilingual French-English piece inspired by house music culture and world cinema from Hong Kong to Manila to New York.

The music video received a Remi award at the WorldFest Houston film festival, qualifying the film for consideration for a Canadian Screen Award, an equivalent of the Emmys, Oscars and BAFTA. “PÉCHO” was also an award winner at 12 other international IMDB qualifying film festivals, including the New York International Film Awards, Rome Prisma Film Awards and Swedish International Film Festival.

‘Wish U Were Here’ and ‘Facetime’

Aiming to expand the scale and creative scope of his work, Villanueva directed, edited, produced, composed and shot the music video for “Wish U Were Here,” a track featuring Jess Connelly and Jason Dhakal, who are two leaders in the Asian R&B Scene with over 20 million cumulative streams on Spotify alone.

The first project he directed for another artist was the music video for Saint Levant’s hit single, “Facetime.” The video has since amassed 590,000 views at the time of writing.

Holy Jungle Films Projects

After Villanueva graduated he joined Holy Jungle Films, a Filipino-run film production company in New York that specializes in content for the fashion and beauty industries.

Villanueva’s first music video project with Holy Jungle Films was for “Bansa 7aly” (pronounced, in Egyptian colloquial texting Arabic, Bansa Ha-Lee), released at the same time as the original track by Egyptian artist and vocalist Bayou.

Currently, Villanueva is working on the unreleased short documentary film KAPWA, an experimental short about religious fanaticism in the Philippines.

Catch him on TribuneNOW’s Spotlight this month.