Chapter One: Ready, Set, Write


Sunday afternoon in the company of sunshine in my room, I sit there listening to different kinds of music from old to new, from classical to rock. I’ve got my pen and notebook on my lap. I let the music get into me, into my mind, heart and soul. Then I create a short story based on what I feel right then and there. This simple writing activity has been a routine for me since joining Sir Clodualdo Del Mundo’s script development and writing workshop organized by the Film Development Council in an attempt to nurture the talent of current and aspiring screenwriters.

Sir Doy, as what we call him, is a well-known Filipino screenwriter, director, and author. Some of his famous screenplays are the classics such as Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag, Itim, Kisapmata, and Batch ‘81.

We were required to send a resume for pre-selection of the participants and I swear to God I didn’t actually expect to be chosen. Up to 20 participants was the limit and I told myself there are a lot of good writers out there who already have more advanced experience than me, I’d probably be lucky enough if I even get in the top 50. I heard nothing from FDCP for ten days after I signed up but I kept waiting with a bit of desperate prayers. You just don’t give up your dream that easy. You just don’t.

And then there it was, 10 days before the workshop, I got that congratulatory email saying “You’ve been selected blah blah blah!” Imagine me jumping up and down on my bed!

Now fast forward to August 18, the first day of the two-day workshop, I pretty much entered Cinematheque Manila thinking if I should really be there. You know that self-doubt moments just before important events, well, that happens to me. A lot. Sure thing. But one thing I never do is back out when I’m already there.

Who will be my classmates? Will they be super good? Will I look pathetic? Will I be able to impress them? Is Sir Doy a good teacher? Is he too strict and hard to deal with?

These were the questions filling my mind while biting my lip and patiently waiting for the class to start because apparently, I was too early. Those were nonsense questions that I shouldn’t have bothered myself with because thank God, I realized they were actually nothing to worry about.

Listening to Sir Doy was like listening to my grandpa on the balcony telling old stories. I felt very comfortable learning from him. The first thing he taught us was to write stories that bring out humanity. Stories that affect people, move people, and make them counter things like the prevalent violence and killings everywhere in the world right now. He also pointed out that films should create and not destroy.

Right at that moment I missed being a student. Terribly. Everything felt the same. It’s just that my classmates were not of my age. There were different types of people in that class. A screenwriting professor, a news writer, a founder of a film camp, a television show writer, a simple girl who just writes stories in her bedroom, and many more who have the same writing passion as me. This was actually my first professional writing workshop and it felt surreal being in the same room with people who could understand that writing weirdness others may not.

I’ve always believed that if you have real passion, you don’t need much for other people to like you. That’s why I was already in awe of those people around me despite just meeting them for the first time. I was in awe to learn that screenwriting really has no definite format, you just need to make it easy for the people involved in the film to understand how the story should go, how it should look like and how it should feel like. I was in awe to learn the limitations of a writer; that sometimes you do not have to give too much detail; just let the cast and crew have the creative freedom to interpret the screenplay on their own. I was in awe to realize that you will write and put your heart and soul into every story but not all of them will be turned into film.

That’s okay.

That’s reality.

What’s important is that you are creating something you love and you never know, maybe the right time for it is just yet to come. Stories never grow old anyway.

On our second day, August 25, we read and discussed the short screenplays we developed during the workshop. There were different kinds of stories. There was drama. Comedy. Action. Experimental. Some were deep. Some were just above the surface. Mine was in between. It was the first time I allowed my screenplay to be projected on a white screen for people to read at the same time. I felt kind of naked for a while, but proud afterwards. It was nice to see people talk about your story, your characters, your made-up world and you. I thought it would hurt. But it did not. So you, who’s still afraid to let people see your masterpiece, stop keeping your greatness to yourself and go take the pleasure of learning from the praises and criticisms of your readers. Because why not.

It also helps to think you are great. It makes you open yourself to possibilities. And when your idea of greatness gets shattered afterwards, which has a hundred percent probability by the way, get back up. Find another view of greatness, or maybe, make people see another view of greatness. Writing takes a lot of twist and turns, but it’s very rewarding when you get there.

I’m still on the road and is not yet at my destination. As I get drained, an experience like this is a station stop to get me filled up again. What a nice fuel fill indeed.

Thank you FDCP for initiatives like this that nurture aspiring filmmakers like us. Lastly, thank you Sir Doy for your films, passion and experiences. Thank you for your writing. Thank you for sharing it. I hope to do it as well in time. Again. Thank you.


12 Practical Tips For TV Commercial Production Assistants

movie-film-video-production-ss-1920Hi reader! So you’re an aspiring film maker like me? And you are looking all over the web to know how to start off in this industry. Anywhere you go, it seems that everyone tells you that the best suggestion for this is always to get a job as a production assistant. It’s the famous starting point!

Well as you may and may not know, production assistants are not exclusive to film productions. These all around workers exist in film, television, commercial or any video production. Once you get a PA job in any of these video productions, it would not be that difficult to jump to any of the other types of production. There will be just some differences in the way you do things in each type but the skills you need are always the same.

In this article however, I shall discuss to you some really important tips that people may not tell you when you are a production assistant in a manner more specific to the process of TV or DIGITAL COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION. So here we go:

  1. Your phone is the most important thing in your life now

Always keep it around and always never go out of load! You would not want to experience an urgent matter at midnight where you have to contact people and not be able to find your phone or discover you do not have any load. Well lucky for you if you’re on a post-paid plan. If so, make sure to keep it that way. As a production assistant you’ll be responsible on relaying messages to almost everyone involved in the shoot; members of the production team, bosses, producers, admin staff, suppliers, caterers or any food establishment, and even service drivers! Be extra patient with service drivers, contacting them can really be a headache at times! Going to war without a gun is deadly, so take extra note of this!

  1. Taking down notes should be your hobby

Unless you’re a genius who remembers every single detail or information you receive then go ahead and don’t mind this tip but if you’re not, this is a must! Clients, the ad agency people and the producer all have different ideas and most of them quickly change their minds so if you won’t be able to take note of every changes then your preparations would be in ruins.

  1. It’s time to be a food lover

This may sound exciting because, well, to be honest there’s an abundance of food in this line of work. However, you’ll be the one to order and prepare everything. You should know the perfect food establishments or food providers where you can order for all kinds of meetings, for the shoot, for offline or online presentations and such. Know what your client and other bosses want to eat. Know the menu, services and prices of the food provider. Believe me, in this industry, if you serve good food, everyone will like you!

  1. Keep a document bag around

Don’t think you won’t deal with papers with this kind of job. Storyboards, pre-production agreements, call slip, attendance sheet, service request forms, requisition slips, liquidation sheets, and cash vouchers are just few of the papers you’d have to deal with. Dude, you’ve been warned!

  1. Liquidation sheet is the key to your pay slip

Unless you’re finish liquidating all your expenses, your full pay slip will be crawling its way to you so always make it a point to finish liquidating as early as you can. As I talk about expenses here, you should also budget the money of the project wisely. Remember, it’s not your money, so return whatever is left and better be extra careful and honest in the way you handle it.

  1. Save every contact

Every person you meet in this industry could help you with your future endeavors so always make it a point to save their contact numbers, emails or office addresses. Expanding your contacts will give you more options in choosing the people that could be best to work with in the future.

  1. Be a coffee-lover

Or if you can’t, take some Berocca during sleepless days. It’s like a vitamin tablet and you can get it in drugstores nearby. Trust me, coffee and Berocca could save you or if not, just steal some nap for goodness sake!

  1. Camera, Lights, Action!

Before the director could say that, of course you’d need cameras and lights, therefore, you need to book for those because it’s part of your job. Know the camera types and specs that you would need for the shoot. Be familiar with Arri Alexa cameras, Phantom, Weiss, Blackmagic, Red and the others. For lights, start getting to know Arrisun, CMC, Kino Lights, Xenon 1K-7K and such. Knowing these things will help you book/rent the right equipment and if the best option is not available, then you would always know some good alternatives as well. Anyway, DOPs and directors would also have their preferred equipment.

  1. Tick tock tick tock, mind the time!

Getting the job done on schedule is one of the best work attitude you could have. This is an extremely fast paced job so you would not want to be left behind. Be time conscious all the time, people are depending on it!

  1. Be a talk show host if you must

You don’t need to take this tip seriously if you’re not the type to but dude I’m telling you, being a good conversant will open doors for you. Of course, don’t do this during serious work hours. Find the right time to talk to people. It may be a client, an ad agency member, your producer or even the service drivers or caterers! Learn from people through this and also try to impart something to them. This will help you work easily with them and will be like building good relationships that could help your future in this career.

  1. Think ahead

You should always be ahead of everyone. Think whatever it is that you will need before people ask for it. During shoots, you should already be setting up the next scene even before everyone finishes shooting the current one. This will save a lot of time I swear.

  1. Take a dose of patience

Why buy water or make coffee for anyone? Why should I be opening doors for people? Why do I have to clean stuffs? These questions would often times cross your mind and will eventually make you pity yourself. Let’s be honest here, you will really experience these things as a PA but if this is really the career you want to pursue, be patient my friend, someday it will all just be funny memories!

Do you also have any experience as a PA? I want to hear it. Let me know by commenting there below! Thank you!

10 Things I Learned from Watching Studio Ghibli Films

I have been watching a lot of Studio Ghibli films these past few days and there’s nothing that makes me happy and inspired right now but these works of art. If only I could make a time machine right now, I would go back to when I was younger and I would watch all these amazing films just in time of its release and not now in my early 20’s and when Ghibli already announced that they won’t make any feature films anymore (temporarily maybe). This halt in production was much influenced by the retirement of the legendary filmmaker and animator, Hayao Miyazaki who created the studio with Isao Takahata in 1985. Miyazaki is considered as the main driving force in the excellence of most Ghibli films and as an aspiring filmmaker myself, he’s creating a lot of influence on me right now. I may be late for a few years but Ghibli films are timeless and the beauty of the message of their films shall inspire the generations to come. So far, here’s what I’ve learned from watching these films.

1. Go beyond what’s ordinary

I think there’s no other film studio that has consistently proven to apply this statement better than Studio Ghibli (Yes I’m quite snobbing Disney, Pixar and other western studios here). They have always created something that people have never seen before. The name of their studio even supports this for Ghibli is an Italian noun that means a “new wind” and Miyazaki adopted this with the thought of “blowing a new wind to the anime industry.”

Unique creations on Ghibli films are best seen with their characters and story setting. They created creatures like No-Face and Soot Sprites in Spirited Away that definitely helped evoke emotion from the female protagonist, Chihiro. More examples are Catbus, a part cat and a part bus being in My Neighbour Totoro, and Robot Soldier from Castle in the Sky which is a mechanized robot of death and destruction that chose instead to be a guardian and a gardener of a floating city.

Moreover they created worlds that weren’t seen or explored much before like the kingdom of cats in the Cat Returns and the Spirit World where Chihiro’s parents were turned into pigs in Spirited Away. More than these creatures and worlds that Ghibli has created, they also established new trends in the cinema and animation industry that definitely broke stereotypes and these will be evident in everything I will write from here onwards. In going beyond what’s ordinary, Ghibli definitely introduced new perspectives to people.

2. A villain is not a requirement in films

Most Studio Ghibli films lack hero versus villain thing going on with their storylines. It’s more on the troubles of the protagonists with themselves, their environment, and yeah more on really the characters’ desires, nothing more. Miyazaki was actually quoted saying, “Making an evil creature that really has an empty space or a hole in his heart is very tragic and depressing and sad to draw, so I don’t like drawing them.” There you go. No to evil characters!

3. ‘Animation’ is not synonymous to ‘children’

Clearly, Studio Ghibli has made animated films for everyone and not for children only. Their films like Only Yesterday, The Wind Rises and Porco Rosso specifically target adults more than children and I would say they are of no less than the ones made for children. They are grounded with adult reality but at the same time there’s a magical feeling to it which makes the studio well-loved by all ages.

4. Hushed moments are often the best parts

Animated films in the western world are always known for their action-packed scenes and this is where Ghibli films are far different. Ghibli films invest on the silent interludes in which the characters are simply thinking or waiting and or just doing the ordinary small things that people actually do in real life. The scenes in which Jiro is just sitting and smoking a cigarette in The Wind Rises and or that peaceful scene where Chihiro is riding a train across the surface of a glassy lake and that other one in which Satsuki and Mei are just patiently waiting at a bus stop for their father in My Neighbour Totoro are scenes where the characters and the audience can just reflect on everything.  These are honestly the most beautiful scenes more on because we could relate on doing it ourselves on a regular basis.

5. Real love is way more than being touchy

Most of these films involve romance. Though more often it’s not the main or only focus of the film. But yes love here is shown more on the things you do for the person and less on the things you do with the person on a physical level. The simple things like Seiji reading all the books in the library for Shizuku in Whisper of the Heart and Jiro flying paper airplanes for Naoko in The Wind Rises or that moment in the Secret World of Arriety in which Shawn replaced Arriety’s kitchen with a new one are the scenes driven by deep affections. No unnecessary hugging or kissing but when the characters do, it surely is magical!

My favourite couples are Howl and Sophie along with Seiji and Shizuku!

6. Children take out all the emotions from you

The Guardian quoted Miyazaki saying “Well, yes. I believe that children’s souls are the inheritors of historical memory from previous generations. It’s just that as they grow older and experience the everyday world that memory sinks lower and lower. I feel I need to make a film that reaches down to that level. If I could do that I would die happy.”

Everyone has a soft spot for children and that’s what Ghibli films have proven with most of their protagonists being considered as generally young. They have the most heartfelt emotions, when they cry, we cry; when they laugh, we laugh; and when they love, it feels so real. They are also projected as a very important part of the society because they inherit the past while they live on to become the future. It’s a great wonder for me why the Philippine cinema don’t give much attention and importance to films about children. We need to explore more I guess.

7. Women can be badass film protagonists

Even before female leads became a trend now in the west, Ghibli has been long celebrating the power of women to kickass and generally just carry the whole film. The best example for this is Princess Mononoke in the same titled film. Besides, Ghibli’s female leads are far more complex than Disney princesses. They are three dimensional characters and they have goals far bigger than finding true love.  Shizuku dreams to be a writer. Arriety wants to find a home where her family can finally live safely, peacefully and with the ‘little people’ like them. San wants to save the forest spirits from the humans.


8. It introduced you to all things different in Japan

When I say Japan all I ever think before were the television animes and the mangas it was based from and of course their big contribution to the deaths in World War II. But Ghibli showed me a different way in looking at these things through their films. Now I know that anime can be different from animation. I really can’t explain it but you know it is animation when it’s Ghibli. The expressions of the characters are also different for in anime it’s more exaggerated while in Ghibli’s animation it’s much closer to what is in real life. In Grave of the Fireflies and partly in The Wind Rises, I was also enlightened about my view of the Japanese people during the World War II. I always thought that Japanese then was so evil and blinded. I failed to recognize that more than any other nation, they are (if not the most) one of the most that suffered. The atomic bombing was just really painful for them. And their children….. Oh God Grave of the Fireflies was just so painful to watch with children like Seita and Setsuko suffering from American air bombs.

9. Emotion as a principle is always better than logic

I watched an interview of Miyazaki where he said that as a child he would go with his father and watch western films and he remembered as he comes of out of the cinema he would always express that he did not understood what he just watched, but somehow it has always struck him when he can’t explain something. That thought is what provoked him to do The Wind Rises because at first he thought that some people especially children may not understand or appreciate aeronautics anymore but eventually he remembered himself as a child and eventually went to go with it. Ghibli films have always created and explored creatures and things that are new to us and we cannot understand but sometimes like Miyazaki, what we can’t explain interests us. Besides with these unique creations, Studio Ghibli have always invested more on evoking feelings from us rather than making us understand and this proves very effective with their box office successes.

With this argument, I remembered filmmakers in the Philippines complaining that big studios here won’t accept their concepts because they would say, “The Filipinos won’t get that.” I always hated this statement because first, they underestimate the capability of the Filipinos to understand and second is simply me thinking that Filipino films like what the Japanese do, should focus more on the emotional aspect rather than the logic.

10. It’s never too late to go back

I know that these films were not part of my childhood but somehow it always felt like it had. Something seems so familiar. Ghibli films are not for children only, it is very much for adult too for it makes us remember our childhood, how we have changed and how we can never feel the same happiness ever again. Yet, when we watch these Ghibli films, somehow, we are able to go back. It’s amazing what Ghibli does to us.

That’s it! Hope I didn’t bore you to death right there. If you love Studio Ghibli like me comment your thoughts below!

21 Problems with Me

There are moments when you realize the big and tiny problems with yourself that results to why your life is the way it is right now, and to me, this is one of those moments.
It’s totally okay…..actually no…..AWESOME, for you to admit your flaws. That is why, I want to share the things I find wrong with myself cause maybe you can find my problems the same as yours. If you do, please tell me about it.
“The problems with me are……”

1. I ask questions though the answer is obvious already.

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2. I often avoid long conversations.

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3. I don’t tell when I’m angry or mad. I don’t tell the problem at all!

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4. I don’t like being too emotionally attached with people. I keep my distance.

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5. Sometimes, I like keeping things to myself, like my grand ideas and thoughts.

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6. I work best when I work alone.

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7. I don’t take risks often. Comfort-zone always.

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8. What people may say is always a big deal for me.

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9. I don’t know how to react sometimes.

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10. I’m too lazy to interact with people at times. Specifically, lazy to talk.

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11. I have a difficulty in describing.

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12. There are times when I lack care for things.

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13. I badly wish that all the magical or fictional stuffs I read in novels are true.

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14. I over-think.

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15. I’m so picky/choosy when it comes to men. I may grow old single forever.

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16. I don’t like crowded places (but there are very few exceptions).

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17. I always tend to have leftovers when I eat. Mom is nagging again!

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18. I’ve always said that I’ll start writing a novel, but I haven’t started anything yet.

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19. I always forget to unzip zippers! Especially when it comes to bags.

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20. I can be so forgetful! Sorry if I forget your birthday or something. 🙂

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21. When everyone wouldn’t do it or if I’m the only one who would want to do it, tendency is, I wouldn’t do it even if I really WANT to and even if I think it’s the right thing to do. But it’s a different case already when the situation is “I really NEED to do it.”  ( Well I’m working hard with this one, and I think I’m much better now)

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I’m not pitying myself or something with this post. It’s just a reminder of my flaws. Flaws I have to work on so I can become a better person.

I hope you’ll look onto your flaws too. List them down one by one and aim to change it.