Seymour Barros Sanchez, Contributor
March 6, 2003
Since acclaimed writer Ricky Lee started holding free scriptwriting workshops to selected individuals more than 20 years ago, he has successfully helped several aspiring writers enter the competitive world of cinema and television with the scripts they had subsequently completed.
Last February 22, Lee’s 14th batch of workshop attendees received their certificates of graduation from their mentor at the Lean Alejandro Hall in UP Diliman. Coordinators Jerry Siapoc and Ben Cho assisted him in handing out the certificates as guest writers from previous batches and other institutions witnessed the affair.
“I hope you would continue writing more scripts and storylines even after the end of our workshop,” said the head writer of ABS-CBN’s “Maalaala Mo Kaya” and “Bituin.” Lee, who also wrote Filipino film classics such as “Moral,” “Salome,” and “Himala” and contemporary films like “Mila,” “Anak,” and “Rizal,” vowed to support those who are immediately interested in starting their scriptwriting career as he did for some past workshop attendees who are now working regularly as writers for film and TV.
This early, the latest batch of workshop graduates has already produced a winning scriptwriter in the person of Agustin Sugatan, Jr. who bagged third place in the Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature screenplay category last year. An independent filmmaker by profession, he gained more confidence in his writing after his work “Fish Crackers” was recognized by the said award-giving body.
Sugatan attributes his victory to his batch’s weekly evaluation of their written works even after the workshop has ended. “We would usually meet after office hours to critique each other’s script,” he said. Fellow Batch 14 member Leilanie Villanueva, who also serves as the deputy executive director of the Policy Review and Editorial Services, Inc. (PRESS), would often volunteer her office as venue for their meetings.
Aside from Sugatan, others have also made significant contributions to their batch’s list of achievements. Nestor De Guzman, a UP Press staff member, and Lovely Barba, now working in a Makati-based advertising agency, were part of the successful Cinemanila film festival held last year. Pamela Ann Miras, winner of the 13th Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video short film feature category and the Gawad URIAN best short film award three years ago for her entry “Reyna ng Kadiliman,” also had another short, “Bongga: Best in Wedding Gown” screened at the said filmfest along with Sugatan’s “Supot.”
Other members are also slowly carving their niche in the industry in one way or another. At present, Jake Bacud is pitching his ideas as a co-writer for an upcoming film remake. Rod Divinagracia is now strutting his wares as a writer at ABS-CBN after being a part of the “Eat Bulaga” creative group last year. Seymour Sanchez regularly contributes film reviews and related articles to online and print media. Carol Solis-Da Silva is a translator and dubber for Tagalized series and cartoons.
Poet Jose Jason Chancoco had his recent works published in literary sections of several magazines. Alvin Campos and Yugel Losorata works for the Manila Bulletin. Mario Banzon is currently employed at the Manila Standard. Adin Abillar works in the news department of PTV-4. Christian Lacuesta, the batch’s recognized film authority, is currently in Zambales finishing his short stories.
Actress Princess Punzalan, who is seen regularly on GMA-7’s soap opera “Kung Mawawala Ka,” is also a part of the same batch. After writing her own storyline, sequence treatment, and script like the others, she admitted that the workshop helped her understand the motives of a scriptwriter in doing a film. “I’ve developed a good appreciation of films with a tightly written script and how it results into a relatively better movie,” she revealed.
Anna Isabelle Matutina, an AVID editor for ABS-CBN soap operas, and John Anthony Wong, a former 102.7 STAR FM DJ and newscaster, are more inclined on video/film editing but they also make it a point to write their own scripts when the need arises. Wong, who has decided to put up his own company Elemental Revolution, is currently working on a 3D-animation about a legendary Pinoy action hero.
Understandably, the artistically inclined have also managed to squeeze out their creative juices in order to finish their scripts. Krispin Ontong is a web design and computer programming instructor at the AMA Computer University. Bernadette Reyes is expected to finish her fine arts course at the College of Holy Spirit after a recent group exhibit at SM Megamall. Richard Legaspi is a computer graphic artist for a packaging company. Elbert Or, still an undergraduate student at Ateneo, works part-time as a storyboard artist and comics illustrator.
Or, the youngest in the batch, said that the workshop has influenced him to write more visually. “I have learned to follow the conventions of a film, the beats and rhythms of writing, thus making my dialogues more concise now,” he explained.
Apart from Barba, Pia Roxas and Peegy Yparraguirre are also involved in advertising. Roxas, who has just completed her film as a requirement for another workshop at CCP, is a copywriter for Ogilvy & Mather while Yparraguirre is currently with the New Zealand Milk company after working for Leo Burnett.
Meanwhile, four have marketing-related jobs for various companies. Mary Grace Gayoso, a former writer for a morning TV show, is now handling group sales and marketing for Philamlife corporate accounts. Imee Lumbab does marketing for the Philippine Airlines head office and can usually be found hanging out at Greenbelt when a filmfest is being held there. Annie Maureen Tamayo-Uy is a marketing assistant for Banco de Oro and Jessie James Abastillas worked for Wyeth Philippines and Globe before he joined the workshop.
Mary Angelica Reginaldo, a newspaper distributor, is hoping that she will gain her much-awaited break in the TV industry this year. Christopher Belmonte is a research specialist at the DOST-Philippine Textile Research Institute. Young businesswoman Richarest Velasco still keeps in touch with the group through email, as her job often requires her to travel to different places. Lenin De Guzman, a talent manager for Star Records, has worked with Bacud before on a music-related endeavor. Xedric Luna-Pison is a law student who has offered her services in several film-related projects before.
Grace Orbon, a former writer and director for campus stage plays, is in charge of coordinating the group’s activities through the help of egroup moderator Sanchez, Legaspi, Barba and Reyes. During their graduation, the batch also deemed it fit to form the writers group Katorse and vowed to pool their resources as they intend to join more writing contests this year.
“We really believe that each member of the group can maximize his or her full potential with the help of our other batchmates. Despite our differences, we can still achieve our goals if we’ll continue to support one another even after the workshop,” Orbon stressed.
“This is just a fitting tribute to Sir Ricky who believes that competition should not get in the way of a writer’s success. Siguro magandang birthday gift na rin namin ito sa kanya,” said Legaspi. Lee will turn 55 on March 19.
In an industry characterized by endless bickering and senseless intrigues, bonding together in the attainment of a common objective can become their greatest weapon in the near future.