A few weeks ago, I was invited by the school I teach at if I wanted to attend a free-of-charge TV writing workshop by one of the writers and producers of US television shows Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) New York, Friday Night Lights and Numb3rs Aaron Thomas. As soon as I saw the phrase “CSI writer” and of course the word, “free” I immediately said yes!
I don’t have photos of the 2-day workshop but it was a really small group, maybe around 30 people max and was held at Ateneo de Manila in Rockwell (funny story: I was dead set in going to Ateneo Katipunan. Good thing I checked my email again and found out it was in Makati. Toinks.) Some of the attendees were people I met/ worked with back when I was with ABS-CBN. There were a lot of directors like Lino Cayetano, head writers, executives and theater personalities such as Mae Paner who plays the colorful character of Juana Change (check out her videos and my favorite one, Fixer). One of the participants whom I look up to not only because of his skill but also because of his down-to-earth personality was Ricky Lee. I was half tempted to tell him that I use his book, Trip to Quiapo, as reference for my class. Fan mode on. Hehe.
I’m no CSI fan but anyone who worked in that set or in any set in Hollywood has got to be good. And I was right. I was really impressed with the way Aaron handled the workshop even though some of the attendees clearly weren’t listening to him. He was very concise, clear and straight forward. First, he gave a general overview of the TV writing industry in the US, then we watched a few episodes of CSI which he wrote then went through the script page-by-page. It was so cool reading the script in our hands and seeing them being translated to video with our own eyes. His script was so simple in the sense that not everything was ‘said’ by the characters but at the same time it was complicated because of all the conflicts within the episode. Their style was subtle. Brilliant. Later on, the whole group tried to “break” our own story; that is, we came up with our own Manila version of a CSI episode.
Anyway, I can’t share all of the details of the workshop but I will share a few interesting points I took note of.
1. It costs 1-3M US dollars to produce 1 episode of CSI – That’s like 5++ movies already in the Philippines!
2. Each episode is written for roughly 1 month – which is why I think their shows are always so ‘flawless’ and well-thought of; unlike here, most writers need to come up with a script in less than a week.
3. They have more than 10 people working on an episode, all of whom bring something to the table. Even getting in as an intern in their team is so competitive and not for the faint of heart.
I can’t blame our own industry for, well, for lack of better adjectives, unimpressive, full of nonsense and dumbing-down-the-audience shows but I still hope a new generation of entertainers will rise up soon. I do believe we still have a lot of talented writers and directors. I dont have a fave teleserye but do the films Rizal, One More Chance, Bluemoon and A Love Story ring a bell? More brilliant Pinoy masterpieces please!