Demand for TV Screen Writers Increasing

Article excerpt

JUST A THOUGHT: Yesterday is but today's memory, and tomorrow is today's dream. - Khalil Gibran

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MANILA, Philippines - WRITER AS SUPERSTAR: Filipino screenwriters have never had it so good since the rise, popularity and eventual takeover of teleseryes on primetime TV.

These days, one hears of TV scriptwriters landing hefty contracts, or being signed to exclusive contracts by any of three competing networks 2, 5 and 7. Exclusivity clauses used to be dangled by networks to tie down prized actors only.

For more than 10 years now, teleseryes have dominated primetime TV, starting at 6 p.m. week nights, all the way to 11 p.m. That means roughly five hours nightly of unending tales of woes, joys, and sorrows as soap operas in this country and also abroad are known for.

First to be signed up by a network is veteran screenwriter Ricky Lee, who has been with ABS-CBN for at least two decades. The multi-awarded Lee, who has published books on scriptwriting and a couple of novels as well, serves as creative manager for some of the network's drama serials.

His counterpart at GMA is Jun Lana, who wrote the film, "Jose Rizal," and who has also ventured in movie directing.

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WRITERS' RATES: Like most creative workers in the movie and television industries, screenwriters used to work on a freelance basis.

At best, they work on a per project contract.

At the peak of the movie industry in the 1970s and '80s, a screenwriter would be happy with a contract pegged at 50,000 pesos per script. The pay would be handed out in installments, following a 50 percent down payment, according to veteran screenwriter Iskho Lopez.

With the movies out of frame and television taking over, writers shifted to the boob tube where the on-going rates, according to teleserye writer Dinno Erece vary depending on the airing time of programs. Soap operas aired in the evening, the so-called primetime, enjoy higher budgets compared to those aired in the daytime. The rates run across the board.

Erece, who also dabbles in entertainment writing in tabloids, says today's scriptwriters are paid around the vicinity of 40 thousand pesos per week if his program airs in the afternoon, and 52 thousand pesos or more if the program beams on primetime.

Note that teleseryes normally air five days a week.

Edlyn Abuel, a production manager at TV5, says networks are currently devising a plan to employ screenwriters on a monthly basis just like ordinary employees. …