29 June 2009

Manila Times column for 28 June 2009: "The book first or the movie first?"

original post here.

kaya lang bakit ganun? biglang na-mark ng google ang manila times website na malware eklat??? labo. pero sa other computer ko, hindi naman. techies, help nga! labo nito.


By Libay Linsangan Cantor
The book first or the movie first?

Now that novels-turned-films are lined up to be shown in the next months, that question about what audiences should patronize first—the book or the film—crops up again in conversations.

I’m reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince now in anticipation of the sixth installment of the Harry Potter films. No, I don’t usually read the book version first before I see the film, but with Harry Potter, yes, I do that. But before the knowledge of it being made into films, I’ve always read this series since it first came out. I find JK Rowling’s situations and characters very entertaining. Imagine having a whole world of wizards and witches existing in modern times with unsuspecting people, living like us but in their own dimension, having conflicts and adventures just like the rest of us folks, but with magic and other sorts of revelry. Yes, the pitch got me.

I have a friend who doesn’t like reading the book first. He said he’d rather see the movie first, because if he already knew what will happen in the narrative, the film will cease to be exciting, and thus it will just bore him. I find that an unusual argument about the more simplistic and usual “the book is better than the film” argument, and it’s good to know that people have different takes on this issue or topic.

As a filmmaker, my take on it is different. Usually, I’d rather read the book first because I want to know how they will condense the story to fit it into a filmic narrative. I am also interested to see how the stories will be audio-visually imagined, and it’s always fun to compare the filmmakers’ visual interpretation of the book story with my own visual interpretation of it, even if it’s just in my head. That exercise always excites me as both a reader of the book and an audience of the film.

There are times that the film fares better than the book for me. For instance, I really couldn’t appreciate JRR Tolkien’s way of writing The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, but I read them both anyway in anticipation of the film. For me, director Peter Jackson did a better way of telling Frodo Baggins’ adventure than Tolkien. Don’t hate me, Tolkien fanatics; we just have different tastes, that’s all.

Of course, there are times that the book is indeed better than the film. While I love Jodie Foster’s interpretation of Ellie Arroway’s character in Contact, I find Carl Sagan’s book narrative much more engaging than Robert Zemeckis’ film.

Yes, in the end, we do have our own ways of liking a book or its film version or both. But knowing that people are still watching movies and still reading books is good enough for me.

Comments? Suggestions? E-mail libay.scribevibe@gmail.com. She is also at libaycantor.multiply.com.

21 June 2009

Manila Times column for 21 June 2009: "Focusing on children’s literature"

original post here.

yes, i'm attending this one.

By Libay Linsangan Cantor
Focusing on children’s literature

A national conference focusing on children’s literature will be held next month, and I urge people who are interested in the topic to attend it. It sounds like a promising event.

If you love children’s literature, especially if your work involves children and literature, then this conference is a must to attend. It’s called the Second National Conference on Children’s Literature and its official theme is “Panitikang Pambata sa Edukasyon” (or Children’s Literature in Education). Specifically, it will be held in two days, from July 16 to17, 2009, at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus (inside the Claro M. Recto Hall at the Faculty Center building). An association called the Pilandokan (or, officially, the National Research Society for Children’s Literature) is organizing this conference, with the support of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

If you haven’t been to a national conference such as this, be ready for the deluge of information and new knowledge that comes with it. Usually, there are speakers who present papers/researches about a certain topic, and there are some workshops taking place, too. Since the focus of this conference is partly about education, there will be a lot of scholarly discussions about certain aspects involving children’s literature. It might sound boring because of the “academic aspect” (the usual impression of non-academicians) but, believe me, it’s not.

According to UP professor and children’s literature writer Eugene Evasco, the conference will discuss topics like the Filipino concept of child and childhood, the state of Philippine children’s literature, national identity, book piracy, children in television, children’s media, children and the social problems, literacy program for urban poor children and the deaf, and the formation of childhood identity. Evasco serves as the conference director.

I’m particularly interested in children and the media, especially because half of my professional career now involves going back to writing a children’s TV show. I began my scriptwriting career on TV by being part of writers’ pools of children’s edutainment shows about 10 years ago, and it’s interesting and exciting to note the differences of writing for such shows then and now, a decade hence. With the advent of the computer technology and everything going digital, children’s sensibilities have been changing, and children’s literature is, of course, getting affected by leaps and bounds. I’m particularly interested in what the speakers would say about this. I’ll write about my reflections on the conference, too, once it’s over.

If you want more information, please e-mail their secretariat at pagongatmatsing@yahoo.com. I’ll see you there, OK?

Comments? Suggestions? E-mail libay.scribevibe@gmail.com. She is also at libaycantor.multiply.com.

14 June 2009

Manila Times column for 14 June 2009: "It’s raining lit!"

original post here.

basically, it's just about publicizing a lot of people's stuff hehe. notably, yung books na bago nina iwa at vlad. talaga lang nalimas pera ko sa powerbooks last weekend noh hehehe. pero masaya naman. daming good finds, and now i'm speed reading harry potter and the half-blood prince (eep! lapit na ipalabas!). baka di na rin ako pumunta sa book launch kasi nga binili ko na yung mga books (kasi may powercard discount card ako e hehe) pero bahala na...

to new readers and comebacking ones and those who decided to follow this blog, salamatz! :)

By Libay Linsangan Cantor
It’s raining lit!

June is already here, signifying not only the start of the school year but the “official” start of the rainy season. But besides rains, we also have a deluge of literary stuff pouring this month, which began last month and continues to the next.

It’s exciting to know that there are a lot of new books out in the market penned by local authors. A couple of weeks back, scriptwriter extraordinaire Ricky Lee re-launched his old book entitled Si Tatang at Mga Himala ng Ating Panahon which contains a hodgepodge of his writings, notably some short stories, reportage, essays, and even the script of his famous film Himala. This volume gets an updated look but most of its contents remain essentially the same. This was first published in 1988, so imagine it reaching a new generation of audiences this 2009.

On June 15, Mag:Net Katipunan in Quezon City will be the venue of the regularly scheduled Happy Mondays poetry sessions. But that date marks more than the usual literary gathering of friends and literary lovers as it is also the launch date of three new titles from three very diverse authors: Vladimeir Gonzales comes out with his latest book entitled A-Side/B-Side: Ang Mga Piso sa Jukebox ng Buhay Mo which is a collection of essays written in Filipino while Carljoe Javier launches his book entitled And The Geek Shall Inherit The Earth. Both titles are published by Milflores Publishing Inc. Completing the trio is Norman Wilwayco’s launching of his latest novel entitled Gerilyera. This novel was the top winner in the Filipino novel category at the 2008 Carlos Palanca Awards. Congrats Vlad and Iwa!

By the fourth week of June, a book compilation of plays will be launched at the opening of the annual Virgin Labfest at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on June 23. The yearly festival of new plays penned by members of the Writers Bloc Inc. will, once again, showcase edgy new material from contemporary playwrights. The anthology, edited by Rody Vera, will feature about four years’ worth of plays from the four years that the Virgin Labfest has been staged. Now that’s a collection worth having. Call the CCP box office for details.

These are just some of the new titles I encountered lately. But browsing through the collection in bookstores these days, it’s exciting to see that there are more Filipino-penned titles offered and featured by the stores. Those who want to buy a lot of these titles should visit Powerbooks branches as they are having a month-long sale of Philippine publications. Now you know where my money went last weekend. But buying local titles is always worth it, believe me.

So many books, so many plays, so many literary happenings to watch out for and attend. Who says Philippine literature is dead? Long live the word!

Comments? Suggestions? E-mail libay.scribevibe@gmail.com. She is also at libaycantor.multiply.com.

09 June 2009

Manila Times column for 07 June 2009: "To be read and watched by (almost) all"

original post here.

plugging. for more!

dapat last week of may column ko ito pero nagkaroon nga ng tech glitch sila sa newsroom. so...

By Libay Linsangan Cantor
To be read and watched by (almost) all

Ideally, writers would really want their books to be read by a lot of people, their screenplays or stage plays to be made into films or plays that will be watched by many. But by “a lot,” does that mean almost everybody in the planet or the country? That might be a hard feat to achieve no matter what type of writing you do.

Creative writers usually include universal themes in their writings, such as falling in love, heartbreak, betrayal, and all those things that have been used over and over in literature, film and TV melodramas. But in essence, writers ideally have a target audience to begin with when they write; it makes crafting the plot easier, and it is also challenging to discover what kind of story development/details will excite a particular audience.

This is the reason why I chose to decline writing for a TV show before called Lovely Day, which I eventually directed when the producers decided to remake it from a plain newsmagazine type to a hybrid of narrative fantasy-newsmagazine. The executive producer (or EP) proposed that since I was already directing the show, I should also try my hand at writing the main narrative script since it might be easier for me to direct what I wrote. I mulled over it and asked who the primary target audience of the show was. Her answer startled me: anyone from age 2 to 92. Wow, that’s a large scope to please in thirty minutes, nationwide! I don’t think a single narrative storyline will captivate that wide an age range at any given time. Nothing is that universal, not even love (or Pacquiao’s boxing matches). I mean, could a 5-year-old fathom love like how a 60-year-old would? I don’t think so. So as much as I wanted to go back to writing children’s or family-oriented TV shows, I declined.

Last month, I was offered to be the scriptwriter of a new show. Since the focus is clearer this time (with the EP clearly labeling it as a “children’s show”), I accepted. This time, the audience is clearer, as it is going to be aimed at preschool viewers, grade school students and everyone in between that age range. Of course it helps if parents and other relatives from other age ranges would watch it, but that’s just an added bonus. The show, called Happy Land, replaces Lovely Day in its Saturday morning time slot of 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at GMA7; it premiered yesterday.

The show is primarily educational in nature but with a mix of fantasy and reality narrative storylines in it. Let’s see just how wide an audience it will reach this time.

Comments? Suggestions? E-mail libay.scribevibe@gmail.com. She is also at libaycantor.multiply.com.

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.


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.


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.