Jon Red and the beginning of digital filmmaking in the Philippines


Introduction to Sigfreid Barros-Sanchez’s article titled “Sins & Scenes: The problem with Filipino films and the new breed of Filipino filmmakers.” Read the rest of the story as published in Speed‘s July 2014 Audio-Video issue.

[dropcap]2014[/dropcap] marks the 15th year of digital filmmaking in the Philippines. I still vividly remember how I was blown away when the father of digital filmmaking in the Philippines, Jon Red, first showed his film Still Lives to an audience at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Jon, a maverick and more of a risk-taker filmmaker than his brother Raymond, showed a film whose camera never moved and only the actors were blocking themselves in front of the camera. At the end of the film, it was revealed that the camera was used by a local police to monitor the drug dealings of a syndicate and was placed on a mirror inside the house. Red would later admit that using a digital camera was just an accident as he was supposed to borrow a pneumatic camera but someone decided to lend him a new camera that the owner just bought from the U.S. The accident turned out to b­e a happy and historical one as it catapulted Red to the distinction of being the first Filipino filmmaker to ever use a digital camera for his full-length film. Other filmmakers followed: Ed Lejano, Chuck Escasa, and Nonoy Dadivas with theirMotel trilogy, Khavn dela Cruz with his company Filmless Films, Cris Pablo with his gay-themed films, UP Film students, headed by the then very young RA Rivera and his ever-loyal sidekick Ramon Bautista, with their short films, and some films done by the purists of Mowelfund Film Institute. A few years later, it was also Red who thought of what could be the predecessor of the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. It was during his stint as one of the film department heads of CCP that he thought of the idea of giving awards to student filmmakers via the Gawad CCP for Alternatibong Pelikula, together with CCP resident film guru Ed Cabagnot. Red suggested to get funding from generous institutions to give grants to filmmakers who have beautiful and unique stories to tell. When Red left CCP, Cabagnot would pitch the idea to the heads of CCP, finding an ally in businessman Antonio “Tony Boy” Cojuangco, who promised to give P500,000 grant to each aspiring filmmaker. The rest, they say, is independent cinema history. Words Sigfreid Barros-Sanchez