Monthly Archives: September 2012

Who I write for

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When we had the Moving Media Film School in Cebu last August, I was introduced and acquainted with Blake Snyder.

Snyder’s 15 beats of Screenplay Writing, explained in detail in his book “Save the Cat: the Last Book on Screenwriting you’ll ever need” really is interesting. The 15 beats, Snyder says, is something that most screenplay writers follow, whether they are aware of it or not. The beats are actually a framework – a pattern, if you will – that most screenplays follow. (Seriously, get the book.  You will never be able to not deconstruct any movie or film after reading it.)

I have to admit though, when it was first explained to me, my mind defaulted into “Critiquing Mode”. I couldn’t help it; it has become a natural reflex brought about by four years of media studies and deconstructing and whatnot. I hadn’t even realized it, but I was now doing naturally what my Media Studies professor had to constantly remind us: “Be negative. That’s the secret to critiquing media. Always. Be. Negative.”

And so I was. I was, until I realized how this mindset was preventing me from actually learning.

 

The Formula

The problem I had with the Beats is the idea of having to follow a formula.

But a formula works, doesn’t it?

Precisely. It works – for most of the public. That means having to homogenize your idea / concept, which means having to sacrifice, in some cases, “creativity”. This then implies that you want to please as much of the public as you possibly can. And who does that? Who pleases the public? Capitalist corporations who above all else are money machines.

Still, for whatever reason and intents these companies might have, it works. These stories work. Disney and Pixar make millions and billions because of their stories.

I had to concede to that.

After all, movies are almost never made just to entertain the public, or just “for the sake of art”, they are made for money. The existence of gatekeepers (individuals and institutions who filter and decide what content can be released to the public) mostly prevents this anyway. I say mostly, because there may be exceptions to this, such as advocacy filmmakers – filmmakers who make movies based solely on a theme, i.e. human rights.

 

Writing with a Purpose

What really won me over to the Beats was the reminder that we aremaking short films for a reason: to inculcate curiosity and interest which could open avenues and opportunities to start spiritual conversations, which could then eventually lead to gospel-sharing.

If I want to reach out to as many people as I can, if I adhere to this highest, noblest purpose, shouldn’t I then use something that works?

But what about creativity? The “formula” limits creativity!

Well, I grappled with that question until I realized how self-defeating it was.

I am only limited by what I allow will limit me. The existence of that “formula” still opens avenues for creativity. After all, while there are lots of 15-beat movies that suck, there also are 15-beat movies that rock.

 

Who are we Writing For?

I remember a scriptwriting class back in college. The instructor was going over the formulas commonly used for teleplays and screenplays. The discussion then turned to movie critics. The instructor then shared how difficult it is to please the critics and the masses.

Afterwards he concluded saying something to this effect: “Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’ve been programmed to reject anything that follows a ‘pattern’. True, these formulas may not please the critics. But who are you writing for? The critics, or the masses?”

Who am I writing for?

Perhaps we should always ask ourselves this question every time we start writing a story or even when we start thinking of writing one.

I must with the hopes of reaching and connecting with people. I must write with the intents of showing and surfacing truth and striking issues relevant to humans. I must write for the One.

Moving Media, Moving People to Christ

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How far can you take the gospel? How far are you willing to go?

Last August 19 to 26, seven PCCC staffs came together with an idea and a burning passion: to build spiritual movements with and through media and the arts.

And the Moving Media Film School was born.

We were able to train sixteen students in basic Screenplay / Story writing and basic Cinematography. At the beginning and throughout the start of the film school, emphasis was placed on Biblical principles, and our students were constantly reminded of the end goal — that is to create short films that could be effective in starting spiritual conversations.

Here’s a slideshow of our highlights after the jump:

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As a final requirement for the Film School, the students were to produce and create their own short films… and well, we (the teachers), couldn’t resist creating our own short film too.

In the end, Moving Media Film School was able to commission new film-makers of faith, and produce three short films!

You may watch them here: http://www.youtube.com/user/movingmediaorg?feature=results_main

 

Amazing Dream, Amazing Team

For me, this was the first step towards the fulfillment of a dream long-held.

That week was completely exhilarating! Moreover, it was integral to widening my horizons and cementing the vision God had given me since I first started working with Campus Crusade: reaching my country and the world with media and the arts.

I was also privileged to work with some of the most talented, passionate and creative CCC staffs. Getting to know and teaming up with them has been encouraging. I am not alone after all; indeed, far from alone!

 

It just keeps getting better!

The Moving Media team is committed to helping the students not only in honing their film-making craft, but also to be accountable to the students in maximizing the short films we were able to produce. We do this by maintaining contact with them through our Facebook group.

Just last week, one of the students posted this:

“I shared the short films last thursday to my non-christian friends and opened a spiritual conversation! I believe God touched their hearts… I showed them “Relentless”. Then I told them that we people are so blind because of our sins, yet God still pursues us. He never give up for us to see the truth through HIS LOVE.. and that love is Jesus Christ.”                          – Recelle Saraga

And already new ideas are pouring in this week:

“Why don’t we create short films based on our own salvation stories?… It would also be great if we could meet up again for prayer time and devotions.”                                                                                                                                                                                                -Philip Nigel Mier  

The excitement and enthusiasm of these students are simply contagious and causes me to keep rejoicing!

With the power of the Holy Spirit, blessing from the Father and our image in Jesus Christ, we can move media, and we will be able to create media that would move people towards a relationship with Christ.

Support Serendipity

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It’s a pet peeve I have as a missionary with Campus Crusade, but I, too, enjoy doing it.

It is the bane of my existence, and also the best and sun-kissed of my blessings.

I hate it, and I love it.

What is? Raising support.

It’s not about the money, money, money…
Oh, who am I kidding? To some extent, it IS about the money.

DON”T get me wrong.

Like I said, I enjoy doing it (most of the time) and I’m okay with it. It’s a prerequisite to joining staff: you must wholeheartedly agree to it and be mentally prepared to do it.

Really, when I joined staff, I was prepared, or so I thought. I had all kinds of expectations and I won’t deny it — the first several months were torture.

And yet…

I’ve also had my most memorable and humbling moments doing it, and the amazing people I have met as a result of raising support have blown me over and over and over again.

But, let’s not kid ourselves. There are bad days: days when everything seems disappearing faster than the next paycheck… and right in the busiest and most crucial time of the ministry year! There are days when I’m rendered helpless, completely helpless. Days when I wonder what in the world will happen next, all the while cursing myself for my utter lack of belief in God’s faithfulness.

Then again, these days, these seasons, could easily be attributed to seasons of disciplining and/or who knows what season God intends for you — and again, of course, that is most likely the case.

But I’ve discovered something.

When these things happen, when these “seasons” befall me, I become expectant. Because as every avid movie-watcher and novel-reader knows, the best things always happen when all seems impossibly lost.

It’s an undeniable concept: after the worst of things, only something good could follow, a rainbow follows the rain, the night is darkest before the dawn, and only the sun could possibly follow…

…as if serendipity is programmed to follow after the most humbling of situations.

Granted, of course, that you’ve learned your lesson.

Yes, it happened to me. Again.

And I am utterly humbled.

Just a Volunteer

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[Recently, the volunteer staffs of Philippine Campus Crusade for Christ were given survey questions to answer. These were given, I believe, to aid the organizing committee in forming the programs and such. But the questions were so good and reflection-inducing, and my answers got long… long enough for a blog post.]

 

My staff supervisor once asked me, “Did you ever get the feeling na volunteer ka LANG?” (Did you ever get the feeling that you are JUST a volunteer?)

And I remember answering, “No. Never.”

Of course, what ate Crista, my supervisor, was really asking was: Did I, in any way, feel inferior in the team? Did I, at any time, feel that my ideas and contribution were never valued? Did I ever feel out of place in the team?

I said, “Never.”

In a way it’s true.

I am blessed with a Team Leader who is fun and cool in a way that I can only say promotes team “spirit”, and values everyone’s ideas. I have teammates who are very supportive and encouraging. I have learned a lot and enjoyed most of my time working with these amazing people.

Yep, it is true.

2011 Christmas Team Picture. Team Leader kuya Alex at the front row, middle. Aren’t we fun?

But not entirely.

 

Newbie Problems

When I was first initiated to the Staff Team, I decided to bide my time in learning the ropes, so to speak, of “volunteer-ing”.

Over time, I struggled with my role in the team and what I should do. Every meeting we had and every time I spoke, I held myself in check, wondering if what I was saying made any sense, and if these people really wanted to hear what I had to say. Oh yes, I had insecurity issues. So I clamped up. I decided to speak only when spoken to, and do what they wanted me to do.

My supervisor confronted me about it one day, insisting that they do value my ideas and to speak up.

Which of course, was relieving in so many ways.

 

Not Entirely Belonging

I am a volunteer staff. I work with an amazing team, but I am not full time. This arrangement automatically puts me in the lowest rung in the team. And however way I wished it was another way, I never really fully belonged.

And it’s OKAY.

It is simply a natural occurrence brought about by the circumstances and yes, age and generational gap. Such factors, however nobly we try to transcend them, always create blocks and hindrances.

My Team Leader insists that I share my ideas to the team, and I appreciate that. Personally, I think I’ve come a long way from that rather timid volunteer feeling her way through the team. Still, there are conventions and power-distance relationships that hinder me from being more straightforward than I want to be.

It doesn’t mean we don’t try. Oh, we do. In fact, as a result of trying, I have gained much from the wisdom of and relationship with my older teammates. And most of the time, the gaps actually seem non-existent.

But there will always be something.

Something overlooked, some generational thing perhaps, or whatever.

And I think it’s okay.

We try to bridge such gaps, but these gaps are proof of our differences. And you know, “differences” is just another word for “uniqueness”.

But it’s more than just a celebration of our God-orchestrated uniqueness. It’s a matter of calling and of identity.

I am just a volunteer, and I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m proud of it.