Getting MAD over again

Posted: 31/05/2013 in Television


Writing is never easy.

It may be easy (for some) to think of brilliant ideas, but putting it on paper is a different thing.

It may be easy (for some) to put it on paper, but making it interesting is likewise difficult.

It may be easy (for some) to make it interesting, but translating everything to television, making the host say your written work out loud, and making it appeal to the television viewer is not an easy task.

I started my career on television in 1991 as a television writer. It was for Martin After Dark (on GMA 7) hosted by Martin Nievera. It was not easy for a fresh-from-school newcomer to write for such a seasoned host. He has a million wild ideas which can come out before a take, during the take and sometimes, yes it happens, after the take.

It was also not easy dealing with Martin who can talk fast and loud.  Sometimes, it pains me to follow what he was saying, but years of working together made it easy.  Not only is Martin fast and loud, he is also straight-forward, making me cringe every time he says something “not so good” about my scripts.  But through the years, we have become friends and we have learned to understand each other’s body language while he is on stage and me, on my knees (literally), writing cue points and bullet questions on the floor behind the camera.

In 2008, I decided to take a spin on my television career, from being in production, to a more challenging management position.  I was tasked to oversee local productions for some cable channels, which I did for more than a year, before I joined the Content Management and Development Group of ABS CBN in 2010.  During all those years (roughly 5 years), I was missing writing a lot… Dreaming of making it back, but time was not on my hands.

Early this year, the plan of ressurecting Martin’s talk show on air came on.  And I was asked to write for the show.  I was excited, really excited to do at least one script for the program.  And it happened.  Early April of this year, I was asked to write an episode for Lea Salonga’s guesting.

Whoa and double whoa!

Not only am I being asked to write for my favorite host, but to write about one of the celebrities I looked up to since I was in school.  Inspired, it was a breeze researching about her, reading her blogs, looking up news and magazine articles on my own, while waiting for the show’s researchers to submit what they have found out.  But before that research came, I was well on my way to finishing the episode script.

It was easy, because it was a good subject and I basically know how Martin talks and thinks (I think…).  It was also a very smooth taping, with very minor setbacks.  I was on my knees again, and I was surprised that it is not the usual practice now.  Writers have it easy on the floor. And it was finished, just like that.

It was on May 17 when the episode was aired and I was excited to watch it.  I was smiling from ear-to-ear during the entire airing.  Though I was not credited, it was nice hearing words that you wrote out of Martin’s mouth.

And that’s how I got MAD again.  Tonight will be the final episode of the program’s season. It was nice seeing it back on air.  It was nice to write again. It was a new experience to see my work on air again.  Kudos to Martin Late@Night.  It was a short stint, but it was memorable, for me, and hopefully, for the viewers and the host as well.

So when can I write again?

I just wanted a quick haircut so I opted to go to a barber shop, wanting a no-frills hair care. But I got more.

Headway Salon was the only barbershop in SM Bicutan, surrounded by hair salons and skincare centers. Seeing that the price is very affordable, I asked for haircut and color. Was assigned to a barber named James.

The haircut was fast. It took less than 15 minutes, then my hair was colored and wrapped in cellophane. What happened next was the surprise.

James switched on something in the chair and there was vibration on my lower back. A headrest was put and the chair was reclined to a full lying position. My feet were propped up on a removable foam and my eyes were covered with a white cloth.

There was a sprinkling on my chin and James started shaving off my stubbles. I was nervous at first because I have never had someone bring a blade close to my neck! But itnwas likewise fast, followed by a close shave of the stubbles around my mouth.

Then he put up the sleeves of my shirt and massaged both my arms and hands. It was great. After which, he brought out some hot towels and towelled off the lotion that he used.

After a few minutes, I was brought back to sitting position, and had a quick back massage. My hair was then shampooed and dried.

Now I know what I have been missing – a great barber experience. I think it’s a good change. Inexpensive, relaxing and quick.



Posted: 14/09/2012 in Uncategorized

I am angry, yet I have to be patient. I just have to write it less I lose it.

I sincerely pray that God gives you wisdom so that you will know how to give respect to people who deserves respect.

I also pray that God gives you humility so that you don’t go around treating other people the way you do. You can only brag about what you have accomplished, but not who you are associated with.

God bless you.

Changes… It’s all about changes…

I have been overwhelmed by what’s happening of late. I have never dreamt of being where I am now. I was a simple boy from a public high school trying to grasp at my dreams. People have said that I have always been a dreamer, and yes, I had big dreams. I was laughed at, for dreaming big. I was ridiculed for thinking that I can reach things which were beyond our family’s means.

I went through life just grabbing at all opportunities coming my way. Almost all of the time, I jumped in with my eyes closed, not knowing what to expect, not knowing what’s gonna come. I have trusted God that everything that comes my way are all opportunities being handed down to me by a Divine Being. I believed that even before I was born, the road which I have to walk on has already been paved, including all the loose bricks that have caused me to stumble a number of times. And yes, the road has been decorated with a lot of precious gems and stones.

There have been a very few crossroads, and most of the time, the crossroads have always been easy. Now, another road waves at me. I see a long road, yet I don’t see where it leads. I am about to gather my courage, breathe in, sling onto my shoulder the gems I have picked up along the way.

I am off to another adventure, an exciting and challenging one. I know that this is where I was led, and as I ponder… I realize how all the things I have been through contribute to what I am now. Now I realize why I was able to dabble on to a lot of things, big and small. Experience has taught me a lot. And now, I know that even the smallest of lessons can come in handy at a certain point in our lives.

I am rambling, maybe because I can not fully divulge what is laid before me. But when it does happen, everyone will know what I mean.

Posted: 02/03/2011 in Uncategorized

Television and the big screen.

Posted: 29/05/2010 in Film
Tags: ,

Had the chance to watch the premiere of the new independently-produced movie “NOY” starring Coco Martin with Erich Gonzales, Joem Bascon, Baron Geisler, Vice Ganda, Cheska Billiones, Jhong Hilario and Cherry Pie Picache, directed by Dondon Santos.

Held at the Rockwell Cinema, it was the most well-attended premiere of an independent movie.  Who can contest the fact that President-Apparent NOY AQUINO himself was there with the entire Aquino family, plus the executives and stars of ABS CBN, headed by ABS CBN President Charo Santos-Concio.

It feels like a premiere of a television show, in more ways than one.  Aside from the fact that television personalities and staffers composed the majority of the audience, the film is the first venture of a television production team.  It also talks about life in television, as a journalist.

Coco Martin, as expected gave in a very strong performance as NOY, an undergraduate who pretended to be a communication arts graduate, just to be hired as a trainee journalist in a television network, so that he can find a decent job to put food on the table for his family who lives in a place with never-subsiding flood.  Joem Bascon and Cherry Pie Picache pitched in strong support too.

The story, penned by Rondel Lindayag, is really strong.  With his years of experience in writing drama, Rondel has proven to be one good storyteller. There was a good mix of all the elements, and it was wisely-thread.  One can easily relate to the story of a Filipino who will do anything and everything for his family.  It’s a story of triumph and failure, of beginnings and endings.

The two Noys of the movie (Coco Martin and the real Noy Aquino) crossed paths at contrasting stages in their lives, when one is about to begin and the other at its end.  The parallelism of what both can do for their own families and their sudden entry to a job they may not be necessarily prepared for, is, likewise a nice writing touch.

Congratulations are needed to be delivered to Cinemedia (on its initial venture), Deo Endrinal and Rondel Lindayag, the people behind this ambitious project.

With the good words done, let’s see the film as it should be seen.  With the Filipinos being well-exposed to the television genre, a lot of people will naturally like the movie, but there are certain areas of filmmaking which is lacking.  This can be attributed to the years of experience in television drama production, without the knowledge of film language.  Technically, the film was shot with the television aspect ratio in mind, thus when it was projected on a film screen, a lot of shots were compromised.  Some heads were chopped off, and uncomfortably, in the more dramatic sequences of Cherry Pie Picache.  The director may have forgotten about the difference between the television screen and the film screen.  Or someone should have reminded him.

Editing and cinematography was also done television style.  Thus, the fast cuts of the transition which could serve its best purpose on the small screen (where you can see a shot instantaneously) proves to be jarring and difficult to grasp in the wide screen (where your eyes tend to pan through the entire screen).  The importance of a single shot is not yet mastered by the director.  In film, a shot has a thousand meanings: where you place your camera, what elements are included in the shot, the direct relationship of the shot to the dialogue (if there is any).  Let’s take out the documentary parts (which was done with the right feel — the urgency and importance of the subject was rightfully felt).  But the drama parts make one feel like watching a television show.

A lot of opportunities were there for a cinematic experience: the expanse of the flooded village, which could have easily symbolized how the family is literally swamped by trouble or “drowned by sorrow”; the television network where Noy worked (felt like a small hotel room); the gazillions of people in each rally of the Aquinos (was discussed through dialogue but was not “seen” by the audience); fishing scenes of Joem Bascon (which could have symbolized the scarcity of opportunities); even the toilet of the house which is unsolvable; and most importantly, the finale of the movie which can have been a dramatic parallelism to the death of Ninoy.  The character who died (which I will not divulge so as not to preempt the excited audience) and Ninoy were both shot at the back while descending a staircase: a real nice opportunity for a cinematic experience.

The directing style, which I do not believe is intentional, of being cramped with tight shots on faces of actors, is more for television. Are you thinking it’s the “in-your-face” film style?  Maybe not, because the problems were not really pushed forward to the audience by the director.  Everything was pushed by the writer, in this movie’s case.

The movie is a writing triumph: a beautiful concept masterfully written, criss-crossed, paralleled, matched and mismatched.  As a whole, it’s a great story written for the big screen, but sadly, a vision not well-translated into film language.

1989 – “Another good year. This year, my show M. A. D. (Martin After Dark), on GMA 7, is born. My show with Pops, Martin & Pops Twogether, lasts for only a year on Channel 2. It sort of replaces Penthouse Live which folded up the year before.”
“Our family was having a wonderful time in Hawaii when I get a call from GMA 7 which is asking me to do another TV show. ‘What kind?’ I ask. We think of doing a Johnny Carson type of show. And M. A. D. comes up. The acronym M. A. D. is the idea of my sister Gina — you know, M. A. D. like the magazine. My pool of writers includes the likes of Deo Endrinal, Enrico Santos and Jillmer Dy who, only a few years later, will become big names at ABS-CBN. “
-Martin Nievera
Martin Nievera, my most favorite host of all time said this in an interview which I found on the net (–the-lows/artikulo/124486/).  It could have been an article for one of his anniversaries in entertainment.   This article could have been a decade old actually but when someone sent me the link, my spine shivered. To be remembered by who the entire country (and all the Filipinos in the world) recognize as the only Concert King, is something that is flattering me no end.  And to be lined-up with such big names in the industry as Deo Endrinal and Enrico Santos humbles me.

I remember the days of MAD actually, where I first started as a writer.  I vividly remember my first day at work, November 8, 1991.  I went to the Broadway Centrum where the show went on live every Saturday night.  I asked for Enrico Santos, the name which was posted on the bulletin board of UPCMC that time.  I was asked to wait… for a very long time… but waiting proved to be the start of my career on television.  One of the writers, Mark Yanga, asked me to do cue cards for his interview.  I was in a corner, doing the cue cards when someone walked to my corner.  I just saw a pair of very very nice shoes. I didn’t look up until the voice of the owner of the shoes said, “Hi! I’m Martin Nievera, I’m the host of this show.  And you must be one of our new writers?”  I was dumbfounded.  The real reason why I wanted to apply was because I have been a fan of the program and this host.  And here he is, introducing himself to me?
“Of course, who wouldn’t know who you are? You are Martin Nievera!” I exclaimed, and introduced myself.
It would flatter me no end everytime he tells me that I was his favorite writer.  He would sign his CD’s that way everytime he would give out copies to the staff.  He even misspelled it one time “To my favorate writer”.  I would always show the signed CD to my family and friends and be so proud about it.  And even now, when we pass by each other on the corridor, he will always say the same.
It’s as if he never forgets about me, so how will I ever  forget THE Martin Nievera?

Leaving Cannes.

Posted: 26/05/2010 in Event, Film, Television

It was still dark at 5am when I walked out the door of the apartment, which was my home for the past two weeks.  Lugging my suitcase, which I felt weighed a ton, a backpack and a shoulder-slung bag, my new friend Tigran (the journalist from Armenia) walked me to where the taxi service will pick me up.

I didn’t have a wink of a sleep.  I edited our final report on the winners of the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and had a final dinner with the CFI staff.  They are all talking about doing the same project next year.  I thought that would be swell, and more people will learn the same things that I learned in less than a month.

“You are one of the best directors I have ever worked with,  and I am so proud to have met you,” said our editor-in-chief Yvan.  I was flattered, of course, since I have yet to bag a dream project, one which will people will remember.  Don’t we all feel that way?  Don’t we all fear leaving this world, without anything to remember one by?

“Thanks,” I said.  But it did not end there.  Max, our technical director; and Sonia, one of the team leaders pitched in their thoughts about it too.  And when Yvan said that they actually need someone like me in their television station, I was literally dumbfounded.  But of course, I could not leave my present job that easily.  But hearing those words made me feel very important.  They think that the way I did the reports technically, were at par with international standards.

“So we will see you next year?” was dropped on the table.  I could not say anything but “let’s see”.

“I think we should do this an annual thing.  And we can make the team bigger, with live reports for your television station.  Maybe we can plan a little earlier unlike how we planned it now.”  I just nodded.

I went back to the apartment with a very light feeling.  I felt really proud of myself.  I had to pack my things with barely 5 hours before the taxi service would pick me up.  Arman (the cameraman from Armenia) stayed up with me through the time that I was packing my things.  After two stressful hours of picking things to throw away and packing my things, I went out of the bedroom.  Arman popped open a bottle of red wine, a gift from the Filipinos in Nice, France.  We sipped wine as we exchanged more stories and plans.  I can see that Arman is really trying his best to stay up, and I told him that he had to sleep.

An hour before I left, Tigran woke up and Arman went to bed.  They switched places because they said they did not like the idea that I will be going without anyone seeing me go.  I fell asleep on the couch while waiting for the 5am taxi.  It was almost 5am when Tigran woke me up.  We promised to keep in touch.

Sitting in the airport lounge, I see the sun rising, shining brightly on all the passengers flying out of France to Amsterdam.  And it brought me thinking, as everyone of us here moves out of Nice, everyone is looking for a new day, a new adventure… maybe back to the lives we used to live, but still, something new. And the sun is telling me just that.