04 June 2009

i have a new show but i'm kinda hesitating to promote it...



...that's because i am no rene villanueva. that fact really scares me. to death. (sumalangit nawa si kuya rene. wala siyang katulad. isa siyang alamat.)

yes, after having directorial stints at the now concluded LOVELY DAY show on GMA-7, the show that's replacing it called HAPPY LAND will be aired
this saturday. and i am this show's "head writer" or narrative writer. but i'll discuss that later.

read the official PR first.

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HAPPY LAND PREMIERES JUNE 6
9:30-10AM GMA-7


Locally-produced educational children’s shows are so rare these days you can count them on the fingers of one hand. The era of childhood favorites Batibot, 5 and Up or Sineskwela airing on a daily basis has long since passed, replaced by foreign anime and cartoons with entertainment rather than education as their primary goal.

This lack of edifying children’s programs compounds the shortage of public early childhood care and development institutions in the Philippines. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ‘Education for All by 2015’ report states that pre-primary education in the Philippines is available on
ly to 41% of the total population, as most pre-schools are privately owned and concentrated in highly urbanized areas.

This overwhelming need challenged GMA’s award-winning News and Public Affairs Group to produce a definitive pre-school education program with the objective of shaping a whole new generation’s viewpoint.



The result: HAPPY LAND, a children’s program that inspires young viewers to discover happiness despite the bad things in life. In a poverty-stricken tenement, Anna and Buboy -- children of OFW parents -- discover a portal to Happy
Land, a fantasy world where knowledge thrives and problems are systematically solved. The show follows the lives and exploits of Anna and Buboy as they meet the different residents of the tenement -- including a Muslim and Visayan families -- and discover a fantasy world through a magical junk shop inside the compound.

Through Anna and Buboy’s story, the show intends to present reality
to child viewers -- discussing social issues with no pretense or sugarcoating. Happy Land also seeks to address the issue of OFW-ism by helping its main characters cope with OFW parents, and hopes to impart Filipino values and character education to both children and adult viewers.

Combining animation, digital technology, and live-action photography, Happy Land hopes to bring children to a new level of TV viewing. Aside from the narrative, the show will also teach basic pre-school subjects like Language and the Alphabet, Math, Science, and General Knowledge through independent segments.

Two adorable kids lead Happy Land’s cast of characters. Nine year- old Patricia Gayod plays Anna, Buboy’s loving sister who acts as a mother to Buboy while their Mama works as a domestic helper in Hongkong. Meanwhile, six-year-old Jermaine Ulgasan plays Buboy, a quick-witted kid who’s very dependent
on his older sister. True to real life, Jermaine is a son of an OFW parent. His father works as an engineer in Saudi.



Public Affairs host Love AƱover plays Ate Belle, the tenement’s friendly repairwoman who can mend everything from broken irons and refrigerators to broken hearts and dreams. Veteran theater and TV actress Joy Viado joins the cast as Tita Auring, Anna and Buboy’s strict but loving aunt. Completing the main cast is an animated creature: Mingming, the tenement’s resident black cat who will lead the children on their journey through Happy Land.

Kid viewers will also get the chance to meet “Bulatelino,” an intelligent, talking earthworm who will teach kids anything and everything about Science. Youngsters also get to learn more about geography as Popoy and Kokoy, Happy Land’s mice duo, bring them to all sorts of places through their segment “Mga Dagang Gala.”

Happy Land is directed by acclaimed film and television director, Bb. Joyce Bernal.

Discover happiness, learn new things, and have fun all at the same time as the newest addition to GMA News and Public Affairs’ roster of award-winning programs airs this June!

Happy Land's pilot episode airs Saturday, June 6, from 9:30 – 10:00AM. A week before this, on May 30 at the same timeslot, catch “The Way To Happy Land,” a primer on the conceptualization and production of Happy Land.

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so yan. di ba it looks promising, exciting and fun? siyempre it has to be that, kasi nga happy land siya e.

but the source of my hesitation is the show's referencing of BATIBOT. when the GMA peeps talked to me and asked if i am willing to be the head writer, i thought i was just going to head some writers nga. kaya lang iba kasi ang sistema ng ganitong klaseng show, na hindi na halos News and Public Affairs ang approach kundi may pagka-entertainment na.

let me tell you about tv first.

there are always 2 divisions at work there: the News and Public Affairs (or Current Affairs sa ABSCBN ito) and the Entertainment Division (sa ABSCBN, dati ang tawag dito ay Production pero ewan na ngayon kung yun pa rin ang tawag). we film majors always end up working at the production/entertainment side kasi nga we are more of narrative-oriented filmmakers, and we are not news-oriented. public affairs division is a halfway road for us between prod/entertainment and news. we also populate that sometimes.

when i was in the writing pool of ABSCBN Foundation's children's shows about a decade ago, the execs handling the shows were not exactly from current affairs or entertainment. they were a totally different batch of people (they're nicer than the usual abs peeps hahahaha!) so iba ang atake sa shows. shows like the one mentioned sa pr above, SINESKWELA. i was part of the pool of HIRAYAMANAWARI (where i trained in writing for children's tv shows) and EPOL/APPLE (where i opted to write because it taught english to viewers, mas trip ko kesa math o science hehe, at wala pa yung philippine lit show kasi nun na PAHINA). as writers, we had a head writer giving us guidelines on what lessons to include, the sequence of the storylines etc. there was also a creative panel making chukchak to each and every draft of each and every script coming out of each and every writer. kaya tag-gutom din ang writers doon dati actually, dahil sa tagal ng panahong ma-approve ang script mo at ang actual date ng pag-ere, hindi regular ang kita ng pera. like in print publications, writers are only paid when the episodes we wrote were actualy filmed and aired na. of course wala nang panibagong bayad kapag nag-replay ang show, but that's another issue. kaya minsan, sa isang buwan, isang script mo lang ang eere, at yun lang ang bayad sa iyo.

pero with HAPPY LAND, it is both nerve-wracking and exciting for me at the same time. there's no creative panel to please with nth drafts of scripts, only the main execs (two to be exact) to please with the weekly storyline. there are no definitive lessons to write in because those are taken cared of by segment producers who have their own lesson segments to write (think SESAME STREET where there are separate segments that feature other character mainstays that teach actual lessons e.g. the spanish word lessons, the math calculations, stuff like that). remember the main storyline where the people in the neighborhood of sesame street are? parang sa batibot, kung nasaan lagi sina ate sienna at kuya bodjie. that's the one i write. it's basically like 2/3 of the show. kinda like LOVELY DAY before, where i direct the narrative storyline there, which is also 2/3 of the show. ngayon, i write that 2/3 every week. it's scary. but in fairness, there show's execs and i sat down before beginning this and brainstormed on how the show will run around certain themes presented per ep, what social issues to tackle and all. and we started from there. pero walang monitoring masyado sa main narrative, although there is another UP prof from family and child dev't dept something sa College of Home Econ na consultant sa segment lessons, but i don't think she could comment heavily on the lessons sa narratives only after she has seen it. iba kasi ang training niya e. but iher comments would be/are helpful nonetheless.

so again, why is this scary? because the burden of the lesson-molding incorporated in the narrative is mostly on my shoulders. the execs just tinker with it here and there, but basically, since they are more public affairs-oriented and not narrative/entertainment-oriented, kaunti lang din ang naibibigay na feedback regarding storylines. but you know, this is actually okay because less pressure for the writer ito, unlike before sa foundation where there was a person in the panel checking the production feasibility of our scripts (what's doable and not according to budget), a person monitoring the show's narrative logic, and the head writer who makes sure each ep ties with the others, kasi nga each writer is given a separate ep to write, and only the head writer sees all eps. kebs naming writers sa sinusulat ng others.

so there, bago umere ang ep mo, katakut-takot na pinagdaanan na. dito sa HAPPY LAND, konti lang ang pinagdadaanan, pero pag may sumablay lang ng kaunti, siyempre hind naman si direk joyce bernal ang titignang may "mali" doon (for so many reasons, of course, you know how it is in showbiz), kundi ang writer. e ako yun. kaya ngyarrrrr.

hindi naman sa takot ako sa "responsibilidad." in fact, i see this as a challenge, like i always do sa lahat ng endeavors na ginagawa ko sa life. naninibago lang siguro ako sa bilis ng mga bagay-bagay ngayon, unlike before na uber-bagal. ngayon, pagkasulat ko ng first draft, minsan di na babalik sa akin for revisions dahil ang exec producer (EP) na lang mismo ang kakalikot (mag-e-edit) dahil ishu-shoot na ito agad-agad. exciting siya kasi unlike film, nakikita mo agad ang results ng sinulat mo. like umeere na agad at may visualizations na agad ang mga ideya lang sa kompyuter ko dati. nabuhay baga. when i first saw the snippets of the first 2 eps, natuwa ako dahil they actually shot/followed what i wrote! (well, at least 70-85% of what i wrote, but that's already big ha!) and that's something worth treasuring. kasi ang maganda dito sa set-up ngayon, unlike eons ago, ay may respeto ang production team sa sinusulat ng writer. maybe it's also joyce's training as a mainstream filmmaker, and sana may tinge of training niya as a film major like me. hindi tulad dati na sasabihin nung creative panel na "sabi ni direk, dapat sulat niyo na rin dito ang chenes, chenes chenes..." na para bang wala nang gagawin si direk kundi i-execute na lang ang sinulat namin para di na siya gaanong nag-iisip. labo.

it also helps that the head honcho in-charge of the show is another film major, si sir tops brugada. like joyce, he knows the scheme of things needed at may respeto sa materyal. bibihira kasi akong makakilala ng mainstream people who listen to us "lowly scriptwriters" but i think the proliferation of film majors in the networks today, especially sa siyete, is changing that landscape. like with sina neil gumban before, na briefly naging head honcho (program manager or PM) ng lovely day, ay film major, ka-batch ni roehl jamon na colleague ko sa upfi. tapos si tops nga, na ka-batch pala ni patrick campos na colleague din sa upfi. and it also helps that there's another cmc alumnus sa grupo, ang EP na si ate shao masula, na broadcomm major naman (super-younger batch nga lang sa amin nina tops) na malaki rin ang tiwala sa writer, dahil siya dati ang writer ng lovely day narratives na dapat din e ako ang susulat noon-noon pa, but that's another story...

so there's my two cent's worth about the show. i guess what i'm just saying is that i'm afraid people would invoke batibot when they see happy land, and will then invoke rene villanueva alongside of it, and then scrutinize na "sinech ba itey na writerlalu ng happy land at feelingera echos na rene-like daw?" well, i wasn't the one who said this show was like reminiscent of batibot anyway, pero siyempre, people will compare and contrast, always.

but i see this as another show, of course, as this is another time, another place, another kind of creativity. what clinched the show for me is the fact i highlighted sa pr above, yung no sugarcoating of real issues sa isang children's show. kumbaga, this is so in line with what i've been learning in my MA classes na writing for children and writing for young adults, na you do not gloss over "serious issues" when dealing with children. that was the deal-maker for me, that's why i took on the challenge. the advocate in me wanted this to happen!

and now, it is.

so sige nga, gagawin ko na ring practical lesson-learning ang scriptwriting for this show as it airs. this might help future scriptwriters and my students also who want to learn more about this aspect of production, be it tv or film, basta narrative storytelling through audiovisual means. parang as it unfolds like a work-in-progress, i'll try to blog about it as a lesson-in-progress type of thingie.

so sige na nga, panoorin niyo na lang! pagkahaba-haba man ng sinabi ko, yun din ang ending hahahahaha! but i would really appreciate the comments regarding the show's story and all. the directing and prod part, labas na ako doon, ha?

o siya sige. sabado na. kitakits sa HAPPY LAND.

at sa mga fellow kapuso, break a leg sa ating lahat! hehe.

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