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May 23
SCRIPTWRITING REVISITED by Jose N. Carreon  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Fri, May 23, 2008

Once a scriptwriter…always a scriptwriter.

I have been one for thirty years now. And I have been a scriptwriter-director for almost 20 years.

The late nineteen seventies 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.

In a way, that seemed to have revolutionized scriptwriting in local films and eventually elevated the screenplay as a literary form—much like the five-act play.

But what seemed to have triggered this nostalgia. It was simply seeing the calendar of schedules for the ongoing MOWELFUND intensive workshop on filmmaking. It started last May 12 and the first topic for discussion was scriptwriting.

It struck me that the workshop planners might have placed such importance on scriptwriting to start things off with this subject.

Yes, the film script is still the master plan, the genesis of a film, the starting point, the first tentative step or vigorous jump. In a sense, it is the guiding hand because It is indeed indispensable. Without the script, there will be no film. That is the scriptwriter’s hubris in a nutshell.

But nowadays is certainly and without doubt not the best of times for those aspiring to be movie scriptwriters—even those already plying this particular trade. 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.

We were lucky we lived during those times when local film 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 mid-2008 and we sadly scan an almost half-filled short bond paper pegging the number of local films shown in 2007 at 50.

Rattling through all these, many will assume that aspiring scriptwriters are hereby being advised to look for greener pastures. But, believe me, this is not actually the case. Inspite of everything, would-be scriptwriters must not give up on their dreams.

But as a precautionary measure, they must make sure that scriptwriting will not be their only means of earning a living, his or her single source of income. It is still best to have something to fall back on if the going gets rough, meaning script assignments became as rare as dialogues in a pantomime. Because if scriptwriting is really in one’s blood, he or she can’t just drain it out totally.

In the spirit of a seminar-workshop, let me posit several points that might just prove and establish that scriptwriters are hard-headed enough not to jettison or throw overboard his or her I’ll-be-a-famous-scriptwriter ambition. How about sharing some thoughts…again, in the spirit of a workshop’s hands-on internship.

Pointer number 1. Aspiring scriptwriters must always believe that luck and talent go together. Being a good writer doesn’t ensure that one will make waves as a scriptwriter. There is that pesky component called luck. A scriptwriter with lesser writing credentials might outshine everybody 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, everybody must believe in the necessity of a good break. This is true in any kind of life’s endeavors. But one cannot get a good break if he or she will not write. He or she must start his or her first ever script ASAP. One doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for the right mood. If one is deadly serious in writing a script, by all means, he or she must write one.

But after writing one, what? One doesn’t have the luxury (again!) to day-dream. If at all, one must get real. One must get out and chase the first available good luck that will appear in the horizon.

There’s no harm submitting a first ‘masterpiece’ to a scriptwriting contest. There are at least three to four such contests held annually. Aim high. There is nothing to lose but one’s time and efforts.

Next pointer. If one has decided to try his or her luck, one must not procrastinate. One must sit down before his or her portable typewriter or computer to start fleshing out a screenplay. A helpful pointer is not to wait for any deadline. The script must be finished at once. The more time there is for revision, the better. Now if a budding scriptwriter is not in urgent hurry to write a script and want a more prepared approach to everything, he or she may try enrolling in or attending a scriptwriting workshop or seminar.

In fact, the Screenwriters’ Guild of the Philippines has 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, one will have a wider chance to hone one’s 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 everyone can rub elbows with people who have the same fire in their bones as theirs. That fire in the bones, to be precise, is their ardent love for scriptwriting.

Another pointer to bear in mind. One must never limit oneself writing in Pilipino. English can still be used for the non-dialogue portions of the 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 our readers might howl: Enough of day-dreaming! I assure you I am not pulling anyone’s legs. All I’m driving at is this: Think positive! And the first positive thing one 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.).

Pens and sheaves of yellow pads must always be ready..on stand by. The computer-literate among us must have his finger a second away from flicking on his computer. Then one must just keep this in mind: 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 one must make sure that this activity comprises just one-half of one’s waking life. The other half is all about enjoying life…away, albeit temporarily, from one’s scripts and the stories one wants to tell and translate into the silver screen.

After all this, one must now be finally convinced that scriptwriting is really in one’s blood. Because if it is, it will be a herculean effort to disabuse anyone’s mindset about this. All of us 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.

Once a scriptwriter…always a scriptwriter.

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