Ricky Lee is not only known as an award-winning writer for film, TV, theater, and books, but also as a mentor for scriptwriters, both aspiring and established.
The screenwriter of classic movies such as Himala, Moral, and Gumapang Ka sa Lusak has been giving free scriptwriting workshops since the early 1980s.
Last July 7, 2019, he began teaching Batch 22 for a 12-session workshop held every Sunday at his Quezon City home.
Among his 30 students are mainstream actors Bea Alonzo, Herbert Bautista (also an ex-mayor of Quezon City), Candy Pangilinan, Vaness del Moral, Mikoy Morales, and Fifth Solomon, who also recently debuted as a filmmaker.
The others in the batch work in the entertainment industry as writers, directors, and producers, including PEP Troika member Noel Ferrer, while the rest of the participants pursue a career in other fields.
Ricky shared his thoughts with PEP.ph in an interview during the August 27 press conference of Himala: Isang Musikal, a theater piece based on the 1982 movie he wrote and directed by Ishmael Bernal.
“Natututo ako from 30 people na iba-iba ang pilosopiya, beliefs, istilo, background, edad,” he said.
“They stretch me to different directions—left, right, north, east, west, south. Nai-stretch ako.
"I grow a lot, so they all think that they’re learning from me, yet I’m learning more from all 30 of them.”
Among the things he’s learning come from the actors in the group.
"Nakita ko na maraming nabibigay na kontribusyon ng mga kagaya nila Bea na hindi nabibigay ng iba,” he pointed out.
"Halimbawa, I’m making sure na every batch, merong artista, maski isa, kasi naranasan ko no’ng panahon nila Bela Padilla, Meryll Soriano, Nicco Manalo, hanggang ngayon kay Bea, may iba silang pagtingin sa materyal, e.
"Kasi artista sila, binubuhay nila ’yong character, so may ibang perspective pag dating sa discussion.
“May kontribusyon ang artista, may kontribusyon ang editor, may kontribusyon ang literary writer, may kontribusyon ang baguhan, may kontribusyon ang datihan.
"Mini-mix ko lahat… so buhay na buhay ang salpukan.”
The actors turn out to be as serious and studious like any participant in the workshop.
“Like si Bea, nitong huli, nag-lunch kami,” he recalled. “Ininterview ko siya bago ko siya sinama sa workshop.
“Nag-pitch siya sa akin ng dalawang storyline niya sa akin. Ang linis-linis, ang linaw-linaw ng kuwento niya.
“So na-impress ako. I wanted her in the workshop. And she’s doing very well in the workshop. May dala-dalawa, tatlo-tatlo na yatang material na tinatrabaho.
“She attends not only the Sunday session. She also attends the weekday session na smaller group ’yon.”
Bea’s fellow Kapamilya star, Piolo Pascual, on the other hand, was supposed to join Batch 11 back in 2000.
“Si Piolo, no’ng di pa siya nagbibida,” Ricky recalled, “nag-apply sa workshop, nakapasa, nag-submit ng requirements.
“E, dumating ’yong break sa Lagarista, na ako ang writer, nagtuloy-tuloy na siya bilang bida. So hindi siya natuloy sa workshop.”
Piolo played the title role in the said movie. Lagaristas refer to the-now extinct group of bikers hired to transport film reels from one movie house to another. Years later, Piolo ended up producing movies through the company that he co-founded, Spring Films.
Ricky noted that many people in showbiz are now multi-hyphenates because they don’t do just one job but two or several, such as actors also writing, directing, and producing their own projects.
“Iba na ang panahon,” he pointed out. “I think it’s good na gano’n.
“So even if hindi sila maging scriptwriter,” he added, referring to his workshoppers, “they can become better actors.
“Sinasabi ko sa workshop, if you won’t become better writers, at least you’ll become better persons."