“Ricky [Lee] gave me P21,000 when I was starting,” seasoned TV and movie writer-director Benedict Mique recalled how he still couldn’t afford a desktop computer when he was fresh out of college. The award-winning veteran screenwriter who was then a head writer jumpstarted Benedict’s now flourishing career. “That’s when I started writing for Maalaala Mo Kaya (MMK), Tabing Ilog, and even for GMA,” Benedict shared. Before the financial assistance, he looked back at the time he submitted scripts handwritten on the classic yellow pad paper.

In an intimate group interview, the Lonewolf Films founder announced his pledge to give laptop computers and mentoring to five lucky enthusiasts. In the late ‘90s, Direk Benedict, as he is fondly called, received a life-changing act of kindness from National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts, Ricky Lee.

“Hunger for learning the craft more than ambition,” Benedict named what he is looking for in aspiring writer-filmmakers to train.

“From that P21,000, my career as a scriptwriter and filmmaker began,” Benedict enthused. “The P21,000 helped me provide for my family.” His words convey gratefulness and passion as he recalled his humble beginnings and expressed the desire to give back. “If there are filmmakers or writers today who cannot afford a computer, I am willing to give them one. I just need their names, life stories, and sample works. Whatever [potential] I’ll see in them, I will help develop it,” Benedict pledged. He also clarified, “No promises but who knows, they might be able to enter [the entertainment industry]. I’m not trying to give livelihood, I’m offering training.”

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In the last 20 years, Benedict has passed on the kindness and trained writers who now have successful writing careers as well.

Benedict thinks grit and passion are the main qualities potential writers and filmmakers should possess to make it in the industry. He makes himself credible in saying this as his journey to the success he’s currently enjoying entailed him to be a gritty and passionate individual. He has come a long way from being a kid fascinated by the late Fernando Poe, Jr.’s movies and would walk several blocks to cinemas with his grandfather.

“All I wanted was to see a film camera and how it works,” Benedict recalled his simple reason for getting practicum work at ABS-CBN’s teleserye Esperanza (top-billed by Judy Ann Santos) after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts from Colegio de San Juan de Letran.

While Benedict has always loved reading during childhood, it was only when a professor gave him a perfect score and words of encouragement for a script he wrote in class that he considered the writing profession. His life was a series of doors being opened by others and by himself. Aside from sheer talent, Benedict’s go-getting attitude led him from one opportunity to another.

“After my practicum, I went to ABS-CBN and inquired where I can join the team shooting for Star [Cinema],” Benedict shared. Direk Jerry [Lopez-Sineneng] took him to Baguio where he worked as a production assistant for the movie Labs Kita, Okey Ka Lang? The film starred phenomenal ‘90s artists Jolina Magdangal and Marvin Agustin.

“I was the first to wake up and last to sleep because my task was to wake Marvin Agustin and other cast members up,” Benedict happily recalled.

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He later went on to train under other industry icons like Rory Quintos and Olivia Lamasan.

Through the years, Benedict’s value for hard work, learning, and fairness has been key to his success. He puts a premium on spending time to hone and master a skill.

“I could have been a director ten years earlier but you know what they say, that it takes 10,000 hours to perfect [a craft],” Benedict explained why he chose to focus on scriptwriting first before diving into directing. In this age of instant content creation, he explained, our standard for quality work should never waver.

Over time, Benedict has developed turning random encounters, real-life stories, and actual experiences into TV and film concepts. He believes that his slow-but-steady journey led him to having concepts being sent to award-giving bodies abroad and having effective one-liners that make audiences worldwide cry buckets of tears.

Today and in recent years, Benedict continues to uphold the same high standards of evaluation and strictness he absorbed from his mentors. Giving feedback for his writers’ improvement is something he takes seriously, sometimes appearing as a terror leader. “I am strict. Others may think I am berating my writers but I want them to learn. I am being paid to comment,” Benedict said with conviction. “If you’re a creative consultant, everything you say about a material is being paid.”

Benedict feels strongly about and advocates for fair compensation and rights protection for creatives when it comes to concept pitching to film outfits, TV networks, and streaming platforms. He cited himself as an example to illustrate the value of creative license, “When I provide my concepts, those are like my children. When you’re getting me, you’re getting 24 years of TV and film experience.”

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Success is an ongoing process for the Mars Ravelo’s Darna unit director. He continues to add to his list of remarkable writing and directing projects (MMK, On The Wings of Love, Born For You, Till I Met You, ML, etc.). Benedict also adapts to new technology and changing media landscape. While he’s still busy being the wind that keeps Darna soaring, Benedict’s Lonewolf Films is cooking up projects with Viva Entertainment, Net25, and iWantTFC.

His journey and portfolio clearly show us that Benedict’s craftsmanship is more than creativity and art. It is an evolution from sustained efforts to genuine works of the heart.

For aspiring writers and filmmakers who wish to qualify for Direk Benedict Mique’s assistance and training, you may send your entries (name, short life story, and sample writing work) to [email protected]

Originally published in my column on Manila Standard