By Manny Rodriguez
Screenwriters’ Guild of the Philippines
Appreciation and criticism are the focal points of the ongoing seminar-worskhop of the Screenwriters’ Guild of the Philippines . On its fourth day tomorrow, Saturday (October 22), the seminar-workshop follows a 12-Saturday schedule which will end on December 17, 2005 .
One or two films are previewed every session, covering all genres of films. On the first day, the film The Purple Rose of Cairo , directed by Woody Allen—known as a modern day Charlie Chaplin—was shown.
Two films were screened on the second Saturday— Alamat ng Lawin , starred and directed by the late Fernando Poe Jr. and Hiram na Mukha , starring Nanette Medved and Christopher de Leon, directed by Joel Lamangan.
Two more films were shown on the third seminar session. These were Chicago and Magnifico , the grand slam best picture winner of 2004, which was directed by Maryo J. de los Reyes.
Participants of the seminar-workshop are composed mostly of new aspiring screenwriters and some seasoned ones who are still in circulation inspite of their decade after decade in the film industry. But the participation of the veteran scriptwriters will indeed encourage the budding writers to pursue a career in writing stories for the movies.
The impromptu discussions and exchanges of ideas after viewing the film made the seminar more interesting, worthwhile and enjoyable. The different crafts and arts which contribute to the making of a film are thoroughly discussed. What is a good script? Effective direction? Pertinent production design? Vibrant cinematography? Fast-paced editing?
What are the various qualities of a good film? Is there really an excellent film? These are the questions the seminar participants want answered. This is why the SGP officials decided to focus on film appreciation and criticism for this particular seminar-workshop. We intend to confront the presumption that good movie scripts might suffer in the hands of an incompetent director or, vice-versa, that a good director can coax a good movie from unimaginative script.
Somehow, producing a movie is like erecting a building. By getting the per square meter cost to build you can more or less have a knowledge of the cost up to a certain degree.
But who are those people erecting the building as envisioned by the architect? In the making of a film, is the architect the scriptwriter? Is the director, the engineer? Are the carpenters, masons and other workers the crew and cast of the film?
My point is that the cinema was invented not by an artist but by technicians. Furthermore, cinema is heavily-shaped by its intended audience who comprise the simple and ordinary masses.
As we observed, new and state-of-the-art equipment and innovations are changing the ways to make movies. The era of digital filmmaking has dawned on us and there are fresh talents and young directors and writers who now move in this virgin territory of filmmaking. But I think that making films will still boil down to its basic premises and realities. The movies made today have been done before, except for innovative optical magic. Films are still categorized into the genres which have been in existence since the first silent movies were churned out by the pioneer filmmakers—fantasy, biopics, war, comedy, melodrama, horror, science-fiction, and what have you.
What is the bottom line of all these? What is still the basic origin of movies or films? It is still the script. Good or bad or worst scripts, they are still the first stage in making a film. Without a script, there will be no movie.
And the aspect of film appreciation, what are we looking for in movies and trying to derive from them. Film appreciation, to my mind, must radiate positivism or positive values. We can criticize, of course, but discrediting films or movies will not rub a film or movie of its power to entertain.
Appreciating and criticizing a film is, after all, just an individual opinion of the individual who watches in the dark corners of a theater.