People@Speed: Gerald Santos, filmmaker

Gerald Santos

Director

Kahel House Video Production, Inc.

 

Interview by Fidel Feria

Photos courtesy of Gerald Santos

 

 

In 1995, a young, wide-eyed creative embarked on a career in the production industry. He began, like countless other dreamers in his trade, as a production assistant. To maneuver his way up the rungs, he toiled away ceaselessly in various roles: producer, executive producer, and production head, among others. This persistence eventually earned him the title of production manager. By most indications, professional endeavors at this point were smooth sailing. Until the work stopped coming in.

 

“It came to a point where there were no more projects, no production manager jobs for me, completely nothing at all, as if there was no other path set out for me,” he recalls.

 

The period was a crucial test of his mettle. But it was dogged determination that set Gerald Santos apart from the rest. Unfazed by difficulty, he met with a colleague from another production outfit and asked, despite his inexperience, if he could put his editing chops to use for their team. To his surprise, the outfit reached out to him and offered him editing projects.

 

 

 

And yet again, it was a resolve to learn that charged Santos to deliver on his tasks with panache and proficiency.  

 

Santos later mustered the courage to fulfill a lifelong dream—become a director. In pursuit of this, he took apprentice work with various directors, studied basic lighting, and picked the brains of different cinematographers. “I learned that this was what I loved to do most and there is nothing else I’d rather spend my life doing,” Santos shares. 

 

And as though a reward for that unyielding spirit, opportunity came knocking: two gigs as a television commercial director. Santos knew immediately that this was his moment.  

 

But never one to rest on his laurels, Santos followed this feat with “what any man who had the courage and the dream” would do—put up his own production outfit. This vision has since come to life in the form of Kahel House Video Production Inc., a full service film and video production house for which Santos serves as director. “My [company’s] unique selling proposition is [that we] can work on any budget without sacrificing the quality of the materials,” he says.

 

These days, Santos reflects upon his career with fondness and a hint of incredulity.  

 

“I never expected that P100,000 loan from a friend would bring me and my family a fulfilling life,” he says. “A second-hand desktop that I got from HMR surplus, a cheap printer, and a wireless Bayantel telephone with dial-up internet so they could reach me even when I’m at home or driving—these helped me make a name for myself in the industry.”

 

You’d think, considering how grueling Santos’ line of work can be, he’d have little time for a hobby, much less an often costly passion outside of his profession. But in reality, Santos pays none of this any mind.

 

The 44-year-old father of three happens to be an avid film memorabilia collector. His trove runs the gamut of pop culture—nuggets from blockbuster films like Star Wars, Star Trek, and The Matrix, and everything else in between.

 

In an interview with Speed, Santos reflects candidly on his career, his passions, and the most prized piece in his collection.

 

 

Who are the people you look up to in your field? 

The first person that I looked up to was my brother. At a very young age, he was able to build his own house and his own production house and climb his way to the top. I learned so many things from him, [including] how to treat clients well.

 

Then there are all the directors that I have worked with. In terms of style, I was able to adopt them and make them better. There is this one director who became my very good friend and who really inspires me. He’s Cholo Hidalgo Laurel, very creative and very good in storytelling. He believed in me. He was one of the people who helped me to succeed and brought me to where I am right now.

 

What are the gadgets you use at work? 

I use Apple products for my editing and color grading. They are stable, durable, and powerful, although a little bit expensive. But it’s worth it to invest. I’ve been an Apple user since it was introduced to me and have been an avid fad of Apple for almost 12 years now. 

 

Tell us about how you were drawn to collecting.

I think I was drawn to collecting toys because during my younger years, I didn’t have any. My parents were thrifty, especially my mother. She would always buy me a small robot from the market in Pasig. It had a key that you’d need to turn so it would walk. Once, I cried so hard so I could get their sympathy and buy me an Atari.

 

I started collecting way back in 1998, despite the hard truth that I was not financially capable of collecting. But my interest has kept me going. From action figures it evolved to ¼ scale Premium Format Statues, I started collecting statues with no specific line; I just buy, unbox, and display. Marvel, DC, Aliens, Predators, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, anything. My toys make me feel good— they remove my stress. 

 

What were some of your first pieces?

My first pieces were action figures of The Spawn, Movie Maniacs, and The Matrix. I usually get my stuff at Shoppesville Plus in Greenhills. I go there to do toy hunting.

 

If it’s okay to disclose, how much have you spent on your collection?

We collectors usually don’t compute. Otherwise, we would be devastated with the outcome (laughs). But I will tell you my estimate: more or less P4 million. My Star Wars collection already cost me about P2.5 million. Since I am a completist who started collecting Star Wars Master Replicas two years ago, I got them at a very high price and they were all 1:1 scale. Most of them had been signed by the actors themselves.

 

What’s your most prized possession in your collection? 

My most prized possession is my Princess Leia Blaster made by Master Replicas. It has Carrie Fisher’s signature! I bought it for P45,000. 

 

Any favorites?

My Star Wars collections. I have life size statues of Darth Maul, Young Anakin, Watto, and Jar Jar Binks. My special collections are these 1:1 lightsabers by Master Replicas. I like them for their accuracy and the museum quality of every piece. They were all hard to find, especially the Mace Windu lightsaber signed by Samuel Jackson! 

 

What are your plans for your collections?

To keep them as long as I can. I use them to entertain my clients. Plus, they maintain the good vibe in my office. They’re a source of happiness. I love getting to work around my passion and my childhood all around me. Perhaps if I do retire, I could start converting them to cash.

 

How important is it for a creative like you to have pursuits outside of work?

It is important to have pursuits outside work to avoid burning out, to have a break once in a while so my mind stays fresh. Of course, a creative mind doesn’t stop from thinking, evaluating, criticizing, questioning, and learning. Creativity is everywhere. But what does take me away from stress is my family, that is why I always make sure that I have more time with my wife and kids. 

 

How do you see yourself in 10 years?

I’d probably stop directing and just manage the company. I would help my son to operate my company until I can let him go to continue the business. My daughter plans to study either law or psychology, which means I still need to push myself to work. However, my dream 10 years from now is to have a rest house with my entire collection there, and where I can look at the sunset while holding my wife’s hand and spend the rest of my life with her.

 

This story was originally published in Speed Magazine’s July 2019 issue.

 

Read more: PEOPLE@SPEED: Paola Mardo, Pinay podcaster in America

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