Ricky Lee is a Filipino writer.
He has written more than 150 film scripts since 1973, earning him more than 50 trophies from various award-giving bodies, including a 2003 Natatanging Gawad Urian Lifetime Achievement Award from the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (Filipino Film Critics) As a scriptwriter, he has worked with the best Filipino directors (Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Chito Rono, Joel Lamangan, Laurice Guillen, Gil Portes, Oliva Lamasan, Rory Quintos, and Mel Chionglo). Many of his films have been screened in the international film festival circuit in Cannes, Toronto, Berlin, among others.
Lee is also a fictionist, a journalist, and a playwright.
Lee grew up with his relatives in Daet, Camarines Norte. His mother died when he was 5 years old and only saw his father on few occasions. He studied primary and secondary school in the same town. It was said that Lee often sneaks into movie houses and bury himself in books at the school library, tearing away pages with striking images. An intelligent student, he consistently topped his class from grade school on to high school. His promising writing career took a first step when he won his first national literary award for a short story he wrote when he was still in high school. Driven by his passion to pursue dreams, he ran away from home and took a bus to Manila. He roamed the streets, taking on menial tasks as a waiter during the day and asking his town mates to accommodate him during the night until he collapsed one day in Avenida out of hunger.
He was accepted at University of the Philippines-Diliman as an AB English Major but never got his diploma from U.P. where, ironically enough, he later taught script writing at its College of Mass Communication. He became an activist during those politically turbulent times and was affiliated with Panulat para sa Kaunlaran ng Sambayanan (PAKSA, or Pen for People's Progress) along with Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera and Jose F. Lacaba. He lived as a fugitive during the Martial Law years and was later incarcerated. All these experiences would prove to be a wealthy source of inspiration from which to draw his stories and characters.
His body of works, which has spanned over forty years, include writing short stories, plays, essays, novels, teleplays, and screenplays. A rare achievement for a writer, two of his short stories won first prizes at the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature for two years in a row (1970 and 1971). Thereafter, he never joined any literary contest believing that writers should not compete with each other. His two stage plays Pitik-Bulag Sa Buwan ng Pebrero and DH (Domestic Helper) played to SRO crowds. DH, starring Nora Aunor, has toured the US and Europe in 1993. He has written more than 150 produced scripts, earning for him more than fifty trophies from all the award-giving bodies in the Philippine movie industry. He has never and will never write any literary work in English, a conviction he holds to this day, even if that would mean going hungry.
He was a staff writer of the Pilipino Free Press in the 70s. Throughout that turbulent decade until the 90s, he wrote features and interviews for the Asia-Philippines Leader, Metro Magazine, Expressweek, TV Times, Malaya Midday, The National Midweek, Veritas and Sunday Inquirer Magazine on topics as diverse as street children, vendors around Quiapo Church, an NPA commander, unsung workers in the film industry, a defunct Gala vaudeville-and-burlesque theater, film actors, an activist-martyr during a tragic peasant protest march, teenage prostitutes, Director Lino Brocka, among others.
He started writing fiction in the late 60s, gaining confidence with the publication of his first short story "Mayon" in the Philippine Free Press while he was still in high school. His early efforts won him several national awards in the Pilipino Free Press (Pagtatapos, Third Place-1969) and first prizes in consecutive years for the short story in the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature (Huwag, Huwag Mong Kukuwentuhan ang Batang si Weng Fung/1969 and Servando Magdamag/ 1970).
In 2000, he was one of the recipients of the Centennial Honors for the Arts from the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas for Tagalog fiction from the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas.
Among the books he has published are: Si Tatang at mga Himala ng Ating Panahon (an anthology of his fiction, reportage, behind-the-scene musings and the full screenplay of Himala), Pitik-Bulag Sa Buwan Ng Pebrero, Brutal/Salome (the first book of screenplays in the Philippines), Moral, Para Kay B and Bukas May Pangarap. His screenplay for Salome has been translated into English and published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the U.S. as a part of its textbook in film studies.
Ricky Lee has likewise published a screenplay manual, Trip to Quiapo, which is a required text in many college communications courses.
In November 2008, he launched his first novel entitled Para kay B (o kung paano dinevastate ng pag-ibig ang 4 out of 5 sa atin) at the University of the Philippines-Diliman Bahay ng Alumni. This was followed exactly three years later by Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata, which was launched at the SM North EDSA Skydome and was met similar public acclaim and support.
Since 1982, Lee has been conducting scriptwriting workshops for free at his home. He challenges his students to go to the edge, to explore the limits of their imaginations until they feel like drowning. In one of his workshops in Tagaytay, the participants were stuck in a concept that didn't seem to work. He refused to let the group eat until the concept was finished. Hunger, he says, does wonders to one's creativity: it makes you imagine things. To help them come up with three-dimensional characters he encourages his students to inhabit their characters by immersing themselves in the characters' world, either as observers, participants or by acting out the roles of these characters in their own milieu. Thus, the more intrepid students may opt to act as a beggar in Quiapo, or a bargirl in Ermita, or a squatter in Smokey Mountain, even for one day, with hilarious results. One leaves the exercise a bit shaken but full of life-sustaining insights.
On January 22, 2008, filmmaker Nick Deocampo, Director of the Mowelfund Film Institute(1989-2008) and Center for New Cinema (2008-present) announced the holding of a Ricardo Lee Film Festival from February 4 to 10, 2008 - the World Arts Festival under Mayor Tito Sarion, in Daet, Camarines Norte. Lee's scripts became Philippine cinema classics of Philippine cinema, which made the 2nd golden age of 1980 Filipino movies. Five films were shown in the festival: Gina Alajar's "Salome", "Anak", "Muro Ami", "Gumapang Ka sa Lusak", and "Memories of Old Manila".
Ricky Lee presently works as a Creative Manager at the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation.
He also established and heads the Philippine Writers Studio Foundation, which aims to provide support to new and struggling writers. In the works is the resumption of his free TV and film script writing workshop in 2012.
Metro Manila Film Festival
Best Screenplay (with Gil Portes)
Andrea, Paano Ba ang Maging Isang Ina?
Best Story (with Gil Portes)
Ang Totoong Buhay ni Pacita M.
Best Screenplay (with Jose Bartolone)
Takbo, Talon, Tili!
Muling Umawit ang Puso
Best Original Story
Best Screenplay (with Jun Lana and Peter Lim)
Best Original Story (with Jun Lana and Peter Lim)
Best Original Story (with Jun Lana and Marilou Diaz-Abaya)
Best Screenplay (with Jun Lana)