Aug 15
SCRIPTWRITING USING A MONOMYTH by Isabel Sebullen  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Mon, Aug 15, 2011

I was introduced to scriptwriting using the monomyth last May 7 -8, 2011 when I attended (together with Erlana Tolentino) a scriptwriting seminar—Story Tour Asia—under Karel Seger , a screenwriting instructor from Australia.

The lecture was an update of the method of scriptwriting using the monomyth. The Story Department, of Australia worked in tandem with Wigile Group international, NCCA and ABS-CBN and the workshop was offered here in Metro Manila, Cebu and Bacolod. Although the workshop was well –publicized, it did not attract screenplay enthusiasts in Metro Manila as we were less than 40 participants.

The seminar offered a comprehensive full English immersion film and television story writing classes which help screenwriters in the Philippines to learn scriptwriting from the West. One of the purposes of the local partners was to resuscitate the dying movie industry by giving a scriptwriting method that was successful in penetrating the global market. The Story Tour Asia seminar helped participants to identify the missing box office appeal which so and so movies lack.

Karel Seger used the Campbell theory of the Hero with the Thousand Faces, which is being used by most screenwriters all over the world. Among them was George Lucas who used The Hero with a thousand Faces formula to make his very successful films like Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005) In 1992 Lucas received a special Oscar, the Irving G. Thalberg Award for Lifetime Achievement for his numerous blockbuster movies.

Using examples from Star Wars, Seger showed how the twelve -stage method of the Hero’s Journey can apply to and enrich the traditional Three-Act Structure of drama. This empowers the screenwriter to use the tools that made storytellers great and their tales immortal.

The Monomyth
According to Campbell, there are 17 stages in the monomyth or The Hero’s Journey. Although some writers do not follow the 17 stages but only some part, the monomyth is a structure that is easy to follow. There are three sections: (1) Departure (sometimes called Separation), (2) Initiation, and (3) Return .

I. The Departure

1.1.The Call to Adventure. In a monomyth, the central character may be experiencing a dilemma of what he will do in life. He may be presented a chance to have an adventure. One example of this is the adventure of Julio, the lead character in a film, Maynila, sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag. He left their place in search of his girlfriend Ligaya.

1.2.Refusal of a Call… In this stage, the hero may feel a certain inadequacy that he is reluctant to follow his call for adventure. When one refuses a call, disintegration in his life may follow, that there is a need for someone to save him.

1.3. Supernatural Aid. Just like in John Lloyd and Sarah Geronimo’s movie, A Very Special Love. The Central character meets the savior who will encourage him to fight back, thus saving him from an ultimate failure.

1.4. The Crossing of the First Threshold. In A Very Special Love, when Miggy accepted the challenge of proving himself as worthy son of his dad, that was the time when he, the hero actually crosses the field of adventure.

1.5. The Belly of the Whale. In this stage of the Hero’s Journey, the hero will be experiencing hardship as he is actually separated from his original world. This experience will shape the hero’s character as gains new insights.


2.1 The Road of Trials. The hero will be experiencing trials or ordeals to start his transformation. The hero in this stage may fail several times, and need help to get out of the ordeal.

2.2. The Meeting with the Goddess. In this stage, the hero meets the person who will show him ultimate love, thus making him stronger to meet more obstacles. In this stage, the hero may experience other forms of higher love (not necessarily with a woman). This may be a friend with whom he can share his negative thoughts or an elder to whom he can confide his problems.

2.3. Woman as Temptress. Many temptations will come to the hero that will make abandon or stray from his ultimate goal. It may also come from his attitude, but presented in a metaphorical form – a woman.

2.4. Atonement with the Father. This part is the center point of a journey. All the previous stages havs been drawing him to this place, and all that follow will move out from it. The Hero must confront and face whatever challenges he meets, male entity or someone very strong. The main character moves to a different realm.

2.5. Apotheosis, The hero dies physically but assumes a spiritual form and moves beyond the ordinary self. It is a period of rest for the hero.

2.6 The Ultimate Boon. At this point, the person or the hero achieves what he aims to achieve in the beginning of the journey. All events purify the person. It is transcending into the elixir of life itself, be immortalized

3. Return

3.1. Refusal of the return. When everything is achieved, the hero must return to his ordinary life.

3.2. Return to Origin. The norm of the monomyth is to require the hero to return to his place of origin, bringing along with his success in doing the task.

3.3. Rescue from Without. The hero needs more strength to set out of the quest, to return to his original place. Returning is difficult since the hero may be limping from previous experiences, that’s why his return is also difficult.

3.4. The Crossing of the Return Threshold. This is a difficult part, as the hero once more integrates the wisdom into human form.

3.5. Master of Two Worlds. The hero receives a balance between material and spiritual. The person is now at peace with himself and the outside world.

3.6. Freedom to live. When the hero becomes a master of his fate, he feels liberated from fear and the unknown. It is now his turn to live a life.

The Hero’s Journey can be used in depicting several epics like the Bicol Epic Poetry: The Ibalon which made the regions Aslon and Ibalon (now Camarines, Sorsogon, Catanduanes and Albay) famous.

Another Visayan Epic Poetry: The Maragtas Chronicles of Panay, the Haraya, also from the Visayas, Mindanao Epic Poetry known as Darangan, Igorot Epic Poetry: Aliguyon, and, Ilokano Epic Poetry: Lam-ang.

These mystical stories can use the 3 stages of the monomyth, or a writer may infuse a different format, to make the story visually interesting.

The Philippines has yet to make a lot of innovations in filming to make the industry competitive. Unlike televisions, the movie industry needs fresh ideas and stories which can be marketed locally and abroad. So far, the only screenplay patterned after the monomyth and had made it to the box office was A Very Special Love, written by a very young writer Raz de la Torre.

Maybe the late Lino Brocka need to resurrect only to give a “breath of life” to the dying movie industry or we need to kill this colonial mentality by watching locally-made films.

The Film Academy’s project Pelikulang Pampanikan may serve as an anti-dote to this ailing industry, but the question is: Is there someone up there in Malacanang willing to fund the project?

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Novato, California: New World Library, 2008 ISBN 978-1-57731-5933

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