Nowadays is certainly and without doubt not the best of times for many of you out there aspiring to be movie scriptwriters. With the dwindling number of local films being produced, script assignments have gone the way of the local film industry—mired in an alarming meltdown.
We have no intention to discourage the aspiring scriptwriters in our midst from pursuing what seems at present to be a lost cause.
It was a total reverse in the late seventies which saw an influx of literary writers who tried their hands and minds in the’more glamorous’ field of writing for movies.
Thus, short story writers, poets, dramatists, novelists, essayists writing in English and Pilipino barged into the movie scene armed with their portable typewriters and fertile minds. They included, among others, Pete Lacaba, Jorge Arago, Doy del Mundo, Nestor Torre, Rolando Tinio, Ricky Lee, Mao Gia. Samonte, Jun Cruz Reyes, Iskho Lopez, Raffy Guerrero, the brothers Abbo and Uro de la Cruz, Jose Dalisay, Rene Villanueva, Domingo Landicho, etc.
During that period, more producers were really churning out films after films and the scriptwriters had their hands overflowing with assignments. Scripting for a wide range of films—from the artistic to the commercial to the mediocre—was the order of the day.
We can only sigh and lament: Those were really the days.
Fast forward to the new millenium and we sadly scan an almost half-filled (or half-empty) short bond paper pegging the number of local films shown in 2004 at 52.For the first three months of this year, we could account for seven films already exhibited theatrically.
Rattling through all these, many will assume that we are advising you, aspiring scriptwriters, to look for greener pastures. But, believe me, this is not actually the case. Inspite of everything, do not give up on your dream to become a scriptwriter.
But as a precautionary measure, just make sure that scriptwriting will not be your only means of earning a living, your single source of income. It is still best to have something to fall back on if the going got rough, meaning script assignments became as rare as dialogues in a pantomime. Because if scriptwriting is really in your blood, you can’t just drain it out totally.
Now that we have established that we are hard-headed enough not to jettison or throw overboard our I’ll-be-a-famous-scriptwriter ambition, let us discuss some important pointers. Pointer number 1. Always believe that luck and talent go together. Being a good writer doesn’t ensure that you will make waves as a scriptwriter. There is that pesky component called luck. A scriptwriter with lesser writing credentials might outshine you because he’s lucky. Maybe the director who used his script has transformed his luckluster script into an award-winning masterpiece…because that first class director revised it.
Therefore, believe in the necessity of a good break. This is true in any kind of life’s endeavors. But you cannot get a good break if you will not write. Start your first ever script ASAP. You don’t have the luxury of waiting for the right mood. If you are deadly serious in writing a script, by all means, write one.
You will ask: After writing one, what will I do? Stop day-dreaming. Get real. Get out and chase the first available good luck that will appear in the horizon.
Take note. There’s no harm submitting your first ‘masterpiece’ to a scriptwriting contest. There are at least three to four such contests held annually. Aim high. You will lose nothing.
For your information, the Film Academy of the Philippines has just conducted its first scriptwriting/storyline contest. It received 105 complete scripts and 155 storylines. The turnout proves that a majority out there considers the FAP as a credible sponsor of such a contest. They probably believe that before anyone else, the FAP is capable of putting the award-winning scripts into production.
The board of judges has indicated that it will trim down the finalists to 10 for the complete scripts and 15 for the storyline entries.
The winning full-length scripts will each receive a P200,000 prize and five winning storylines will get P50,000 each.
Next pointer. If you have decided to try your luck, just don’t procrastinate. Sit down before your portable typewriter or computer to start fleshing out your screenplay. A helpful pointer is not to wait for any deadline. Finish your script at once. The more time you have for revision the better. We have the tendency to finish our last sequence an hour or less before the deadline for submission.
Now if you are not in urgent hurry to write a script and want a more prepared approach to everything, try enrolling in or attending a scriptwriting workshop or seminar. There are also many groups or institutions offering this.
In fact, the SGP has just formulated a policy to admit anyone who has written one full-length movie script or/and attended a scriptwriting workshop, as associate member of the guild.
As an associate member of the SGP, you will have a wider chance to hone your craft with the volunteered assistance of veteran scriptwriters who are willing to teach you the ropes, not to hang yourself with but to get the hang of honest-to-goodness scriptwriting. The other perk is that you can rub elbows with people who have the same fire in their bones as yours. That fire in the bones, to be precise, is their ardent love for scriptwriting.
Another pointer to bear in mind. Don’t limit yourself writing in Pilipino. You can still use English for the non-dialogue portions of your script. With the current trend in out-sourcing, Filipino writers can eventually be commissioned to write scripts (in English of course) for foreign-based producers. Because Filipinos are known to be proficient in English, it will not be far-fetched that we can get script assignments from abroad.
Most of you will howl: Enough of day-dreaming! But I am not pulling your legs. Think positive. And the first positive thing you can buckle down to is WRITE! NOW! Join scriptwriting contests! Attend workshops! Get in touch with the SGP (its office is at the Film Academy of the Philippines office, Octoarts Bldg., Panay Avenue, Q.C.).
Ready your sign-pens and a sheaf of yellow pads. Write about what you know in real life. Trust your writer’s instincts. Be honest. Be observant. Be inquisitive. Read a lot. Write until the letters are erased from your keyboard or typewriter keys.
But always make sure that this activity comprises just one-half of your waking life. You’ll ask what comprises the other half. The other half, mind you, is all about enjoying life…away, albeit temporarily, from your scripts and the stories you want to tell and translate into the silver screen.
I hope you are now finally convinced that you must decide once and for all if scriptwriting is really in your blood. Because if it is, it will be a herculean effort to dis-abuse your mindset about this. For we are all trapped in this delirious ‘craziness’ called scriptwriting. That’s because we are actually leading two lives, each and every one the world around us fondly call scriptwriters.
Enough said. Last pointer. Take the aforementioned advice with a grain of salt.