By Rica Arevalo
There’s a relatively “new” screenwriter on the block. Meet Erlito “Lilit” Reyes, one of the screenwriters of Changing Partners, an entry to the Cinema One Originals Film Festival 2017. He might be a late bloomer but he knows he is on the right track after previously winning the 2015 Quezon City International Film Festival (QCinema) Best Screenplay for Water Lemon.
Lilit studied BS Chemistry and Clothing Technology at UP Diliman. His first job was as a menial video shopkeeper in his village in the late 1980s. “I would order the movie titles and I would lend them out. I read about a Ricky Lee writing scholarship in Tempo,” he recalls. “Out of a thousand, I got accepted (Batch 7). Lahat dun may job placement agad. Nilagay kami sa Flor de Luna team. Tapos hindi kami binabayaran (We were all given a job after the workshop. I was put in the Flor de Luna team, but we were not paid). The producer backed out after three months, so I asked the production manager if there was any creative work that would get paid well. He said advertising.”
For more than two decades, Lilit rose from copywriter to executive creative director. He was the brains behind the McDonald’s “Kita Kits” campaign and Tolits Tide series. In 2005, he won first prize in the 55th Palanca Awards for his screenplay, Hubog ng Langit.
After working at Leo Burnett Singapore in 2012, he came home jobless. “Wala akong mahanap na advertising job (I couldn’t find any job),” he recounts. “I did freelancing, any writing job.”
His perseverance paid off as he was the lone scriptwriter during the initial Cinema One original series, Single/Single and he also wrote Pepe Diokno’s Kapatiran.
How did he adapt the Vincent de Jesus musical play Changing Partners into film? “The magic of the material is its emotional and painful decline from falling in love to falling out of love,” he admits. “That was the first decision, to keep that cathartic path to a breakup.”
A “Millennial” flavor was also added. “The play didn’t utilize cellphones, Internet, or apps. The movie script mixed these elements in and enhanced the tension, longing, and sometimes humor,” says Lilit.
What was part of the material that revealed the real Lilit? “I was involved in a May-December affair, too. Watching the play, I finally understood and heard ‘December,’” he said. “It had a healing effect on me.”
Changing Partners, directed by Dan Villegas, displays love and pain in all types of romantic relationships and diverse genders.
Why would people come and see this film at the ongoing C1 Originals Festival 2017? “Love. We are love. And truthfully so, that’s what our movie is all about as well as falling out of it regardless of gender,” says the College of Saint-Benilde professor. “And the songs. We got music. It came from a musical play.”
His advice for late bloomers like him: “Never too late to write. The older you are, the better, because you’ve been through life.”
C1 Originals Festival 2017 is ongoing until Nov. 28 in selected cinemas.