Fredu: Skills plus passion

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Fredu Bayon-on is no stranger to films, or filmmaking.

In fact, his face would invariably light up when you talk about movies, and not just the watching part of it. He loves the process – the how-to’s of making a terrifyingly real sea monster, for instance, or the proper use of the most mundane objects to create creatures straight from your worst nightmares.

Thus, when news was broken to him that his film was among the finalists for the Metro Manila Film Festival, Fredu broke down.

He was riding a jeepney, he reveals to DNX, when he received the call.

“Imagine that, my film will be shown nationwide… that is something,” he says.

Not bad for somebody who has not even graduated from college.

THE ARTIST THAT IS FREDU

In a world filled with talentless hacks with an inflated sense of self, there’s something refreshing about a genuine talent that remains humble despite the accolades.

Fredu knows the value of starting low. After all, he did not become a director overnight. Photo by Elian Jason Quilisadio
Fredu knows the value of starting low. After all, he did not become a director overnight. Photo by Elian Jason Quilisadio

Fredu is exactly that.

Maybe mainly because the young man knows the value of starting low.

Fredu, a second-year Communication student of the University of St. La Salle, did not become a director overnight. He started assistant videographer in the Silay Film Festival 2016 entry, Padayon directed by Lex Nillos, and then tried his hand in production design in Bakunawa Film Festival entry Paon directed by Ciana Flores.

One of the biggest breakthroughs was when he was tapped for the filming of Denli Chavez’s Suba sang Malogo about the legend of a sea monster lurking in Silay’s river, where his work on prosthesis really shone.

His talent apparently grew with continued practice, as he continues to break ground in his craft as well as unlearning presumptions he had harbored before he joined the industry.

“I thought,” he says, “that filmmaking is all about videography, acting, editing. I didn’t know (then) that there is a need for different angles the technicalities (of shooting).”

THE LEGEND OF KANLAON

His knowledge about filmmaking is put to test with Tabako, his entry to the MMFF. It is, according to Fredu, the story about the legend of Khan Laon, the deity residing at Mount Kanlaon, and his deal with the farmers on planting of tobacco in the mountaintops.

The poster for Tabako, one of the finalists in this year's MMFF.  Photo courtesy of Fredu Bayon-on
The poster for Tabako, one of the finalists in this year’s MMFF. Photo courtesy of Fredu Bayon-on

It’s a fantasy drama, Fredu explains, with a core message about promises: the farmers broke their promise not to plant tobacco within a certain area, and Khan Laon promised that he can allow the farmers to plant tobacco again only after he has smoked his own pile.

And up to now, he’s still smoking.

Film is set against the backdrop of hiker, Aaron (played by actor Kurt Soberano) who encountered the legendary Khan Laon who in turn tells the mortal of the story.

BTS of the film. Production members shoot the film about the legend of Khan Laon and why the mountain named after him is still smoking.
BTS of the film. Production members shoot the film about the legend of Khan Laon and why the mountain named after him is still smoking.

Stylistically, Fredu says, he is inspired by Pepe Diokno’s Above the Clouds, with the Ruru Madrid character mirroring Aaron.

Above the Clouds is not technically a fantasy drama, but like Tabako, it is set in a rural area, the mountains,” he says.

But, he says, his real influence are directors Erik Matti, and Peque Gallaga.

Fredu gives special mention to Gallaga’s Sonata, and Matti’s Seklusyon, and Cuaresma. Not surprising given that he is a fan of horror.

Actor Kurt Soberan plays Aaron, the hiker who encounters the legendary Khan Laon. Photo courtesy of Fredu Bayon-on.
Actor Kurt Soberan plays Aaron, the hiker who encounters the legendary Khan Laon. Photo courtesy of Fredu Bayon-on.

He said, however, that his idea of a pet project is neither fantasy nor horror. It’s comedy.

He wants to shoot real, slice-of-life stories, so his first project – if money is not a problem – is a rom-com set inside a jeepney. Another, he said, would be a love story ala Titanic this time set inside the doomed MV Don Juan.

THE FUTURE OF INDEPENDENT FILMS

With critics and industry practitioners now recognizing his skill, Fredu is not about to turn his back as an independent filmmaker.

And he is not about to transfer to greener pastures either.

Fredu is planning to stay in the city and practice his craft here, especially since the University he goes to is about to open its film-making program.

“Independent films are starting to gain support here,” he says, “up to a point that even high school students have a shot at film-making.”

Indeed, there is no telling where Fredu’s talents would lead him, especially somebody like him who is not only “passionate” about the craft (really a clichéd claim by artists at this point), but somebody who has real skills, somebody who is not afraid to learn.

And with the MMFF now just rounding the corner, more and more people would now recognize the artist known as Fredu.

And, we might add, that’s with with a darn good reason too.

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