Monday, March 23, 2009

Mark Meily's Screenwriting Workshop

For the past four years I have been asked to give advice to screenwriters, consult on a lot of scripts and choose which ones deserve to win awards or get grants. All this time, I read a lot of wonderful scripts that I knew would become great films (100 by Cris Martinez, Jay by Francis Passion)-- and they did. Of course, there were also a lot of screenplays that could have been great if not for some pitfalls that could have been avoided.

Sayang. I have decided to make things more organized by organizing a screenwriting workshop! In this manner, I can share my knowledge in screenwriting and at the same time coach aspiring screenwriters to write more effectively and intuitively.

The syllabus of the workshop is a combination of different techniques from different writing teachers. It does not follow one strict school of writing. You as a writer should be able to choose which path to take after the workshop. I'm just here to show you some of the different roads to reach your destination.

After this workshop, I will continue to do consultations for screenplays and be a screenwriting coach. I want to help writers write better and eventually, either sell their screenplay to producers , get work as a screenwriter or turn their screenplays into films.

All of us have a story to tell and as Chef Gusteau of Ratatouille said- "Every one can cook", I want to say - "Everyone can write screenplays".

Mark Meily's Screenwriting Workshop
April 13,14,19,20 Four day workshop from 10 am to 5pm,
Alliance Française Annex- 209 Nicanor Garcia st.(formerly Reposo), Makati
Workshop fee is P7000
Reserve now at : 632-8994056 or 63918 9422553
Limited to 22 students only so register early.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

MMFF'07: Pulitika este Pelikula.

Mommy ko si Daddy did not make it at this years Metro Manila Film Festival. Yes ,I am sourgraping. I agree with Lav Diaz when he said that the selection committee of the MMFF are a bunch of idiots and imbeciles!I'm not saying,just agreeing. I believe we had a good story and a good cast but unfortunately Tony Gloria is neither Orly Ilacad nor Mother Lily.No offense to these two producers because I respect them .It is the MMFF selection committee who I want to question what qualifies them to be in that committee. Haber? Unitel doesn't have any political clout in the MMDA and Mommy ko si Daddy is neither a sequel nor a franchise. Kung puede ko lang i-title Mommy ko si Daddy:Enteng KabisoteV or Mommy ko si Daddy:Shake,Rasali,Rosolo XIII

A few months ago,there was a NCCA sponsored discussion were directors ,festival organizers,producers,FDCP etc. were invited to share their thoughts on how we can improve,uplift or solve problems of the Philippine Film Industry.Guess which group said in so many words that there is nothing wrong with our system (the film industry)? Yes, the MMDA people. So long as the MMFF provides lots and lots of money to its receipients (Mowelfund, OMB,FDCP) and the theaters, there's nothing that should be changed.If it ain't broke why Fix it?

Hoy Gising!

Mark Meily names ‘new Dolphy’ by Bayani SanDiego

PDI - Daunting, is how award-winning director Mark Meily describes his latest project, an update on the Lino Brocka classic, “Ang Tatay Kong Nanay.” After all, the 1978 movie by the world-famous Filipino filmmaker top-billed Comedy King Dolphy and Niño Muhlach, the child superstar at the time.

The landmark film was memorable to Meily.

He recounts: “I watched it at the Luneta Theater when I was 11. It was my first exposure to Brocka. I was too young to appreciate [his] ‘Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag’ or ‘Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang.’ I will never forget how Lino treated the separation scene between Dolphy and Niño. You had to be dead not to cry.”

Same concept

Now that he is a filmmaker himself, Meily is fascinated with “the idea that ‘Tatay’ was sold as a comedy when, in fact, it was a heartwarming drama.” His two previous works—“Crying Ladies” and “La Visa Loca”—followed that very concept as family dramas with equal servings of humor and pathos.

Meily scripted the “Tatay” update, which he entitled “Mommy Ko Si Daddy.” Like “Ladies” and “Loca,” “Daddy” will be produced by Unitel Pictures.

“Rather than remake a classic, we are using the same premise and applying it to a contemporary situation,” he explains. “The common thread is the story of a gay man taking care of a child, whom he grows to really love.”


But Meily has turned the Niño character into a girl, who is also the gay man’s biological child. “I have met children of openly gay parents. There is no more effort to hide [the parents’] sexuality.”

Meily asserts that his movie’s theme is “parenthood ... that gender is not what defines good parenting .. that being single or married is also a non-issue.” Of course, he adds, having two parents is ideal, “but that doesn’t automatically guarantee effective parenthood.”

Real people

Meily takes extra care not to present stereotypical, one-dimensional characters, gay or straight.

“The characters are based on real people,” he points out. “The gay hero is someone you know. He has a career and a healthy love life. He’s the modern gay. He doesn’t get insulted or beaten up for being gay. He knows his rights and his role in society.”

Meily has turned the Dolphy character from a parlorista (salon makeup artist) into a department store employee. But, like in the original, “I want to show a more human side to a gay character.”

Meily and Unitel have tapped child star Erika Oreta (of “Inang Yaya”) for the daughter character, but the bigger question seems to be: Who is taking over the Dolphy role?


For Meily, it’s a no-brainer.

“Michael V is the Dolphy of our generation in terms of wit, intellect and timing,” he says. “Interestingly, Michael wrote an almost exact story line like mine in 2004, except for the ending and a few details. So when he read the story line, he got very excited.”

The other crucial question is: How can a heterosexual family man like Meily make a gay character believable?

“It wasn’t difficult,” Meily insists. “I have a lot of gay friends, I work with them. They’ve invited me to their gimmicks and made me an honorary gay. Most of my kids’ godparents are gay. Lee’s (his wife, a cinematographer) term of endearment for me is vacla!”

He adds: “Of course, I can never completely acquire the psyche of a gay man,” he admits. “But as French actor Gerard Depardieu once said, ‘We are all gay, we just don’t know it!’”

Saturday, January 06, 2007

MMFF'06: Greed is Good?

“ In the early days my child, there used to be Filipino Movies. Really. We used to have a festival then called the Metro Manila Film Festival where for at least ten days beginning Christmas , the theaters were screening great Filipino movies and many people watched. Some people even watched all the entries and even made bets on who will win Best Picture. We had awards nights that were filled with glamour and controversies because there were so many good films then that people were debating on who really deserved to win best film. Until one day, the mayors who were organizing the festival thought ‘We need to earn more money. Producers should not focus on making good films , they should just focus on profit! Period. And the only way we can make that happen is to make this festival a contest on who makes the most money…and design a good float alongside for the parade. The movie that earns the most money will win Best Film. So the people making the movies made films that were mediocre to lower production cost, add gazillion of special effects from Bangkok and hoped that eventually it will make a lot of money. Now remember, these Filipino Films were not competing against Spiderman or Hollywood Pirate movies. They were competing… among themselves. They tried to outspend each other until the producers didn’t have money left and people got tired of watching their sequels. Eventually, they destroyed each other in the process until there were no more Filipino films left.”
- a future conversation between the author and his grandchild

Edu Manzano’s closing remarks as host of the recent Metro Manila Film Festival proclaimed that Philippine Cinema is now ready for the world! Perhaps , he was reading from a prompter then and when eyebrows were raised wondering why Enteng Kabisote won Best Picture, Manzano explained that one criterion was “ commercial viability” which accounts to 40% of the total score. With this year’s MMFF Best Picture standard, are we really ready for the world?

Let’s backtrack a few decades and see what’s the MMFF’s raison d’etre. The late Manila Mayor Antonio Villegas set-up the Manila Film Festival to showcase the best of Philippine cinema . It was made even bigger when in 1975 it changed its name to Metro Manila Film Festival and opened on December 25 and run till the New Year. By law, only these Filipino Films are allowed to be screened during this festival.

Through the years, the festival introduced great classics like Ganito Kami Noon Paano Kayo Ngayon, Himala ,Kisapmata,Bulaklak ng City Jail, Karnal, Jose Rizal ,etc. to the Filipinos and eventually-to the world.

In 2003, my first feature Crying Ladies won Best Film on that year’s MMFF. . The judges then included some of the Who’s Who in the field of Cinema and the academe. It was a competitive year . Jeffrey Jeturian’s Bridal Shower ,and Joel Lamangan’s Filipinas were all equally good films. The standards were high and I’m proud that we worked hard to reach that standard. As a result of that best picture award ,Crying Ladies was our country’s representative to the 2005 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Sadly, if we were to enter Crying Ladies to the recent MMFF , we would probably win nothing. I wonder which film will represent the Philippines to the next Oscars. This year’s MMFF Best Film ,perhaps?

Enteng Kabisote has already reaped its reward as a commercial film on the first day it opened. It has been rewarded every year in the box-office. It does not need another award. It’s like giving an award to Bill Gates for being the richest man again this year. Orly Ilacad’s (Enteng’s producer) statement that every producer believes that their film is the best film , and with the 2007’s MMFF criteria, they truly deserve all the awards that they got. Except that it’s the only award that they got. The Best Film of the festival did not win anything else. No acting ,story, social values or technical award.

If we’ll look at all the film festivals’ rules on judging the Best Film ,you will never see a criterion called Commercial Viability (add Global Appeal to that ) ,not even in the Oscars.

It gets even more bizarre when MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando defends the criteria by saying that this film festival is for commercial films and if the filmmakers want to make art films they should enter their films in festivals abroad. Abroad? Why then does the MMFF still aspire for the world? Are they dreaming of Philippines being the next Korea in world cinema? Korean cinema grew because it made good films not because it made commercial films.

Again, the MMFF organizers will say that the criteria for Best Film is stated in the MMFF Guidelines when the producers applied to be considered in the Magic 8 (or 9? Or 10? These numbers too change annually). However, when a producer applies to the MMFF , all that he or she dreams is to be considered in the list. It is difficult enough to be considered- what more if they question the fine print rules in the guidelines. It’s painful to be told -Kung ayaw mo, di huwag kang sumali!

One veteran master director once told me that the MMFF is a festival run by politicians and its objective is to raise money for the local government. According to him , we filmmakers, should learn to accept this and keep our hopes low if we join . The MMDA create the rules in their own game.

What is the point of having awards then? Let’s make something like a newspaper drive where the class that collects the most newspapers gets a cheap plaque. Let us not strive anymore to make good films .And like prostitutes, lets just work our asses hard to get the most customers by doing tricks.

Ironically, the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB) ,the government agency that encourages filmmakers to make better films by giving tax incentives to high graded films ,becomes inutile during Metro Manila Festival . A-graded films still need to pay the amusement tax in full. This tax (30%) is the local government’s keep. The more a film earns ,the more the MMDA profits. And rather than giving the top-grosser a tax incentive , they just give them a trophy instead . If box-office gross equates to a good film (or Best Film), I dare the MMDA give the 2006 Best Film a tax break.

Each MMFF ends with its share of controversies and predictions of the film industry’s demise. This year is , however, we can be more accurate when Philippine Cinema will die. The MMFF has already pulled the plug. Greed is good, perhaps , but greed kills.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Morrocan TVC made in Manila via NY

When most Filipino advertising agencies look out for foreign directors to shoot their next hair commercial ,Young &Rubicam New York did the opposite. They chose me to direct their next Palmolive spot for North Africa.

Realizing that hair commercials is an art and science in Asia , Y&R New York's top creative Josephine Maggiore and producer Heidi Baltzer chose shoot in Manila! After looking at several shampoo reels from Asian directors, and through the recommendations of Y&R's Global Creative director Jacques Borres and Global executive Producer Olivier Gauriat , they've chosen Manila as the location, Unitel as the production house and Mark Meily (...that's me) as director to work with for a Shampoo commercial for Colgate-Palmolive Morocco.

The story takes place in a traditional Moroccan gathering place called where three women chatting suddenly stop when they see a woman with the most beautiful hair. Butch Garcia, the production designer researched on how traditonal Moroccan gathering places look like as well as the wardrobe used in and out of these places.

It was the United Nations in Unitel's Studio C and Museo ng Maynila's driveway as literally 5 languages were spoken on the set. English of course was working language with the agency as I gave my directions to the Moroccan talents in French who in turn spoke Arabic in story's dialogue. Khun Sopa ,the hairstylist, and Khun Thom, the cinematographer conversed in Thai.Unfortunately, Pricilla Mereilles (Ms.Earth-Brazil) was the lone Portuguese speaker in the house while everyone else spoke Philippin.

It was a fun shoot for two days and a great experience teleconferencing at midnight to sync with New York time.Next stop- Hong Kong for the final post production.


Avatar of Mark

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Why are TV Commercials are More Expensive?

A location that cost $400 per day in the movies cost $600 in commercials. A location manager that has been looking for locations for 20 years in feature films charges double on a TV commercial. An extra in the Philippines cost $5. He walks in at a TV Commercial set and he gets $30. Same amount of work. Same location. Why the difference? For some reason ,location owners, PMs ,etc. all say-Well, commercials have bigger budgets. Bigger budgets?

Nothing has changed but the cost is more. In my experience ,advertising people are more picky but also more organized. They carefully choose who will be part of the cast, which location the shoot will be held at. They shoot at a place and leave making sure that everything is left exactly how it was found ,even cleaner- but why is everyone charging more once they know it's a TV commercial?

I wonder.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Drunk from Sake-The Fukuoka Diaries

Japan is as fascinating as the first time I visited Tokyo in 1991. The reason for my visit is the Focus on Asia -Fukuoka International Film Festival. This time it's a stay at Japan's gateway to Asia- Fukuoka. Traditional known as Hakata, Fukuoka is Tokyo without the stress. My top ten memories of the place are:
10. My impromptu stand-up comedy performance at the Directors' Dinner hosted by the Festival Director Tadao Sato.It was a fun and also tearful evening as the Satos announced formally their retirement to the festival. I only met them there but I feel as if they are my parents.
9. A visit at the Fukuoka Film Archives and a screening of Ozu's the Late Spring.Eat your heart out, Nolan Estacio.
8. The Signal No. 3 storm on my second day where in the hope of shopping, I braved the winds and the subway only to be told that all the malls are closed. Ngeeh!
7.My dinners with Rory Quintos and Tita Yoko- the director of the Tokyo Women's Film Festival.- The most authentic and flavorful Japanese meal I've had.Bar None.
6. The screening of Mr. Housewife- a Korean comedy na na-iyak much. I think it is, in a way,my story?
5. Shopping at Incube and Tenjin Core.Kiko and Bika will love this place.
4. Being given by an audience an Origami after asking for my autograph after La Visa Loca's screening.
3.Aoyama Book shop,Maruzen, Junkudo,Bagel&Bagel ,Iwataya Food Shop.
2. Cheap Miso Ramen with Riri Riza and his wife from Indonesia and Royston Tan of Singapore.
1.My High Tech Toilet Bowl where the seats have temp. control, push button bidet etc. (sabi ni leo Abaya para daw siyang ...mmm.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

'Di ako bakla,babakla bakla...everybody now! Ha akala n'yo lang 'yon

from People's Journal May 26 2006

DID Joel Lamangan steal the project ZsaZsa Zaturnnah from Mark Meily?

It was earlier announced that Mark (Crying Ladies) will meg it, but it’s now Joel who’s directing it.

“Hoy, hindi ko siya sinulot,” Joel says. “Ask Mother Lily [Monteverde] what happened.”

“I asked Joel to direct it initially but he was busy shooting two films, Manay Po and Pacquiao, so he begged off,” says Mother Lily. “We got Mark Meily but something happened. Hindi kami nagkasundo sa budget. So, ngayong tapos na ni Joel ang two movies niya, sa kanya rin napunta ang ZsaZsa Zaturnnah. People tell me dapat bakla naman talaga ang magdirek nito dahil bading ‘yung bida. Si Mark, hindi naman bakla.”

-Well, I have been knighted by Marlon Rivera ,Jay Lozada and Melvin Lee 3 years ago as Honorary Gay,so do I qualify, Mother? Kung sa bagay, ang honorary degree is not really a degree di ba?

According to Carlo Vergara, he wrote Zsazsa daw for a straight audience...

Am I sorry I quit Zsazsa? A little. Sayang yung potential ng material. After Batman Returns, X-men,O-men (super hero din ba sila?) and next week-Superman Returns, I feel na sobrang laki ang expectations ng mga tao for our own super hero movie, kahit na gaano ka-camp. My peg for the look of the film is Kung Fu Hustle and Charlie's Angels. Siguro spoiled kaming mga taga- advertising kaya mahal yung budget requirements. As I have said it is the state of the industry (taxation ,etc.)that's keeping the producers from spending more for better quality. Honestly, I felt Mother's budget is too low for what I imagined (Animé style animation, 3D graphics, rigs and SFX, Dolby Digital Sound). But I understand where she 's coming from. Joel Lamangan is resourceful,innovative and find's ways for a film to work and succeed. I wish him luck.

On that note, wala kaming samaan ng loob ni Mother Lily. In fact she called me up three days ago.I was in a mall:
Mother Lily- Hello, Mark! How are you?
Mark-Hi Mother, I'm good! How are you? I miss you na.
Mother Lily- Eto.I'm okay! I miss you na.
Mark-Aah,...I miss you too, Mother.
Mother Lily-Hindi na tayo nagkikita, Mark. I miss you na talaga.
Mark- Oo nga eh.sige dadalaw ako sa office nyo one of these days.
Mother Lily- Talaga? Promise?
Mark- Of course.
Mother Lily- Mark, itatanong ko lang kung kailan kayo aalis sa LVN (studios)?
Mark- Ah,...LVN?
Mother Lily- LVN. Di ba, lilipat na kayo sa Pasig ba yun?
Mark- Aaah, Mother, si Mark Meily ho ba yung tinatawagan ninyo?
Mother Lily-Mark Meily? Ay..ay naku sorry. Akala ko si Marc Ambat. Sorry, sorry...but I miss you also, Mark Meily!

I love you, Mother!