05 April 2009

Manila Times column for 05 April 2009: "So you really want to write a movie script, eh?"

original post here.

syempre plugging hehe.

By Libay Linsangan Cantor

So you really want to write a movie script, eh?

Everybody has entertained this notion at least once in their life: “I want to write a script for a movie.” Well, so how do you do that, exactly?

At the UP Film Institute where I teach scriptwriting, I get all kinds of queries from non-students interested to try the craft. They fear that they have to be knowledgeable in the technical side of filmmaking—how things are shot, edited, lighted and all that. Even if you have zero know­ledge about that side, it’s another side that matters—the imagination side.

I also get the same initial fears from students themselves, those who are enrolled in the film degree program of the state university. At the beginning of each class, I always get this comment whenever I ask them what they expect from the course: “I expect to learn how to create concepts for films and how to write them down, seeing that my weakness is writing.” I get various versions of that “writing is my weakness” blah far too often that I wonder why they are in the film program in the first place.

Filmmaking is all about storytelling; it just uses different tools to execute the story, that’s all. Writing for film is all about focusing on the story, not the tech. We see a story unfold in front of our eyes in a TV series or a stage play. We also see it surface from documentaries and even news reports. We also see stories emanate from our imaginations as words help us conjure them up when we read novels or fiction anthologies. Stories are everywhere.

But unlike reading stories, sounds and visuals help a film tell its story. Thus, what an aspiring scriptwriter ought to know is how to make her/his story unfold through an audiovisual medium. What s/he needs to learn is how stories are structured for the cinema. This is where the difference lies with the other storytelling avenues—the structure. You structure a film differently from a TV series, a novel, or even a short story. It’s all about structure, that’s all.

If you want to learn this by yourself, it helps if you could browse online for any tips on scriptwriting or buy books about the topic. Attend workshops if you like. But the essentials are still your interest and imagination. Ask yourself first: do you love watching films? Then you’re one step ahead. Try to analyze how a film’s story affected you; that will help you probe the basics of storytelling. If you have an imaginative mind, then you’re two steps ahead. Film is also about finding new ways to tell a story through audiovisual means. If you have new ideas, then start with those.

So after all these tips, do you still want to try scriptwriting, discover if it’s for you? Then why don’t you? As that adage goes, you’ll never know until you try.

The UPFI will offer basic and intermediate scriptwriting workshops this summer.

For queries, email upfi_workshops@yahoo.com.ph. Comments? Suggestions? E-mail libay.scribevibe@gmail.com

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