To end the year 2012 with a valuable and laudable activity, the Screenwriter’s Guild of the Philippines (SGP) gave a workshop/forum last December 15-16 at the Executive Building, Quezon City Hall. Invited writers were a mixture of new, young writers already in the film industry, and even retired writers, after all learning is a continuing process. We learned from the old, and we get inspired by the young. Like wine, the longer it stays, the sweeter it tastes. The old shares their wisdom, the young gives new lifeline. Film is always a collaborative effort.
Invited Facilitator was Prof. John Iremil E. Teodoro, a multi talented young professor of Mirriam College whose creativity, dynamism and sense of humor kept the whole activity alive and fun. We were transported back in time to our gregarious and happy memories of school and/or university life.
Day 1 gave us a review on the importance of Script in the Film production.
According to William Goldman, “if there is no Script, there is no Film” and our very own award winning writer, Clodualdo del Mundo reiterates that idea is the Film in the Screenwriter’s mind. Yes, I do myself believe this. Visualization happens first in the mind of the Scriptwriter. Liken to a building construction, the Scriptwriter is the Architect who lays down the foundation of the building. If the scripting is weak, so goes the entire film too.
In Hollywood, and in European countries, the Directors and the Scriptwriters are considered the “gods” of films, quite contrary to our country, which give more importance to actors and actresses. Movie producers and television station bigwigs choose stories that will suit their contracted stars. No wonder, our quality Scriptwriters opted for other job instead of pursuing their writing career. Our movie industry is little by little fading, but thanks to the brave, courageous, visionary Indie Film makers, we have sustained the lifeblood of Philippine moving pictures.
We also have discussed the importance of film language such as CU (close up), ECU (extreme close up), ES (establishing shots) … and so on, and so forth. What are these initials? Technicalities? Of course they are not in the Script as a decorative function. To the Cinematographers and Directors, these give them a cue as to what the Writer wants to project, although, of course, we know, it is the Director’s mind that guides the whole film making journey.
We were also reminded that as Scriptwriters, creating film characters are of utmost importance. According to Syd Field, “Character/s is the essential foundation of the Script.” It is the cornerstone of story telling in moving pictures. We must truly know our characters, even the minor characters. From their physical qualities to their inner mind and self to their weaknesses and fears. This is important to the production staff (particularly those in-charge of the Wardrobe). What time/period is the setting of our story. It must be clear, who’s story is it? What motivates the character? As Scriptwriters, we are reminded to always build Character Arc. The characters should not be flat, but moving, changing, growing characters that give dynamism to the story. This must be clear to the actors/actresses. It helps them give more life and justice to the role they are portraying in the story.
The unfolding of film story is similar to a stage drama, the Plot has its beginning, middle and end. Borrowing from the Aristotleian concept of Greek drama, present in the film plot must be the establishing sequences where characterization begins, followed by the exposition where problems or conflict of the characters/story are unfolding … little by little drawing to its climax, until its denouement, the resolution and ending of the story. Learning the elements of drama can be a great help to Scriptwriters. From the characters, plot/action, theme, language, music and spectacle (film grandeur) are always connected to each other, and we must not forget that Film is a collaborative effort, not a one-man show.
One great Filipino film maker, Eddie Romero encouraged his students to be voracious readers. Film writers must read … read … and read more. He said, “that while witnessing outside, so also inside.” I agree to this. I do believe that everything starts in the mind … even with just a single idea. What our mind can conceive, we can create. Visualization happened first in the mind of the Scriptwriter. It is also very important for Scriptwriters to have open ears. Be a good listener. Learn to “eavesdrop”. From here, we learn how people talk naturally. This is important in writing the dialogues.
Another important element of the Film is Music. According to Miles Forman, unless necessary, “there should be less discussions in the film. Music communicates the philosophy of the scene than words”. When I watched the European Film Festival last September, I was truly stricken in awe and brought my spirit to heights with the musical scoring. There were only the moving visuals on screen and the background music, but how it mesmerized the audience.
The 6-hours of our Day 1 was not long enough for the many topics discussed, but it seemed a quarter in school, with all the knowledge we have learned, and the discussions we have shared. We ended with an individual exercise of creating a Character, develop it into a full story and share the following day.
Our Day 2 started with story sharing. It’s amazing to listen to the different stories the workshoppers have concocted in their minds. Prof. John was direct in giving his evaluation, but always encouraging. He also shared how to improve more, and gave some list of books we can read to learn more or improve our scripts. He is one of the Film Workshop Facilitators that I have come across who is selfless in sharing what he learned and encouraged his “students” to excel in film writing, by dedication in their craft and keep learning, keep joining Scriptwriting Contest.
Because making movies now has declined, and the present active producers have the monopoly of producing only films that suit their contracted stars, and they kept their own pool of writers they can dictate what to write, prioritizing in mind the commercial value of the film, dedicated film writers has no room in our present existing industry.
The awards receive does not only compensate being rejected in the prevailing system of our movie producers, but also place the ignored quality Scriptwriters in the pedestal of credibility and integrity.
No wonder why most good film graduates now, even from the prestigious universities like UP Diliman, Ateneo and La Salle work instead in the Advertising Company, or go abroad. Film industry in the Philippines is like its politics with its political dynasty. And the viewing public suffered, just like how the whole Filipinos suffered. The telenovelas and the big screen compete with the same formula of heavy sad stories, poverty stricken life, glorifying the life of criminals, gay prostitutions and many more depressing situations. No wonder why we remain in the third world.
Whatever we feed in the minds of our viewers, whether in television or the big screen, is what is being manifested in our country. I also believe typecasting Gays in prostitution roles or hungry-for-love roles, is a big insult to the Gay gender. I have lots of Gay friends, and these human beings are very enterprising, productive, creative, smart and in control of their emotions. They are loving friends so they are loved in return not hungry for love, and some of them are gifted with genius intelligence. Even Indie Film should stop typecasting them.
We tackle in our second day, film criticism and some of our local film critics. What do they expect in films? Why do we watch films? Well known film critic/writer, Horace says for its dulce et utile purposes (it’s sweetness and use or relevance), as catharsis ( purgation ex. release for pent up emotions.)
Founder of Urian, Bienvenido Lumbrera, wrote that Film must not only entertain but also a school to learn. Film must show the truth, history as shown from the lens of the camera. How does the film relate to its viewers?
To the Young Critics Circle, films must show the realities of life, the various changes that society might undergo. All its elements harmonizing to create progressive art.
As Scriptwriter, we were also advised to always analyze what we are writing. Can we clearly see in our mind the film we are writing? Are we using the right symbolism? Are our characterizations just and clear? Are our structures well defined,and what we want to convey clear?
We have cited and discussed some of the films produced by Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal, two great Filipino film makers, also known internationally. Their films served as a recorder of their time, what was prevalent in the country. It was an eye opener even to the so-called elites who care not about the plight of the masa. Lino Brocka’s “Tinimbang ka ngunit kulang” shows many compelling scenes, you can almost feel you are part of the characters pathetic life.
Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala” can be considered a very advance film for that time. I am always a great fan of Ishmael Bernal. Like Bernardo Bertolucci, another great Italian Director, Ishmael’s big scenes are so spectacular, each facets are clear. I have watched the recovered version lately, as if the film was just done today, and for this time. We see the underplay of the prevailing political issues then in our country to the folk religiosity which was central in the story. Each character were well motivated, sub-plots well executed. Nora Aunor’s subdued acting from the beginning to its highly emotional climax towards the ending of the story showed a perfectly crafted acting, scripting and visualizations, a perfect collaboration of writer and director (writer Ricky Lee and Director Ishmael Bernal).
Can Philippine Cinema still produce Films today such as the likes of Brocka and Bernal? How can we empower our Scriptwriters, the architect of every Film, and our Directors to refrain from making pito-pito films which hinder their creativity?
This year ender activity of SGP can be a channel to help achieve what relevant Film Artists have always been praying for. It can be the bridge towards a promising 2013 and onwards. We salute this initiative of Dr. Isabel D. Sebullen, present President of SGP and Director Jose Carreon for his untiring effort and support to SGP.
I think NOW is the time for a new breed of Scriptwriters and Film makers to write and produce films that inspire people, that show our authentic Filipino culture, and the true values that each person must embrace.
NOW is the time for those people who have so much in life, to support the movie industry. Many people are saying, we cannot and must not depend on those traditional politicians, then so also must we, with our movie industry.
We need new producers to transcend our film industry. Filipinos are gifted people, creative, visionary …
What our good writers need are quality producers that will help our film artist people (writers, directors, editors, cinematographers, musical scorer, production people, performers …) see and believe in them as Film Artists of our land and help them with the long awaited BREAK they need. Filipino Films can be potent tools that can help shape the world become a better place to celebrate life.
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