Producer Hideaki Tsukada Talks About the Scriptwriting World
Producer Tsukada goes in depth about the world of tokusatsu scriptwriting.
Hideaki Tsukada, a producer and scriptwriter for many tokusatsu shows, sits down and talks about the world of scriptwriting.
Can you tell us the details behind the employment screening of the scriptwriters from three years ago?
Last time, we employed 3 out of 499 applicants. They are Kaoru Kaneko and Ayumi Shimo (both are currently on the Mashin Sentai Kiramager staff), and Rei Yoshihara. Their three year contract has been completed as of 2020 and they will graduate this March.
It’s been eleven years since we employed screenwriters. The three-year trial period has showed us that we should continue to do this as fostering their skills as scriptwriters will ultimately tie-in to their skills as Producers.
That is the results we came to, which led us to how we recruited the applicants this time around.
We’ve had recruitments for screenwriters three times so far and they have all underwent a three-year contract period.
We’re often told that there must be a faster way. But there are so many things that we have to account for such as the time it takes to develop interpersonal relationships and professional networks.
With that said, I believe that three years is a good amount of time to hit those points. From a company standpoint, we need three years to create an independent scriptwriter.
How do they get into professional roles after entering the company?
Before, there was a short period where the three screenwriters underwent training with other producers. Then after that, they were each assigned a producer, and wrote and rewrote scripts for the shows of their producer. This was for a period of half a year.
Then they have the liberty to choose to enter work related to the producers. Toei’s strong point is the variety of shows they have which opens them up to many opportunities. This includes: TV-Asahi’s Wednesday 9 AM Drama, TV-Asahi’s Thursday 8 AM Drama, Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, and other productions.
When it comes to scriptwriting, what is the process like?
Firstly, Producers will tell Scriptwriters to create what’s called an “order,” basically a screenplay book.
How specific it needs to be all differ depending on the project however, in most cases, it all begins with a breathtaking idea and then from there it’s built upon.
Then once that plan is talked through at a meeting, we have the screenwriter create a plot outline.
This is then used as a base, then we get Directors involved, then we have a briefing session of how the plot is structured, and when it gets to a “this looks good,” then we have it become a first proof.
If the proof gets to the next stage, then we give it more feedback, revise it, and then turn it into a final manuscript.
At every level there’s some data collection and things that we have to look up. There are things that the Scriptwriter has to do themselves, or with Producers and Scriptwriters, it all varies depending on the project.
What do scriptwriters seek in the professional world?
Unexpectedly, they seek Communication Skills. People generally believe that scriptwriters like to finish scripts in solitude. But that’s different in the real world.
Compared to freeform assigned works, scriptwriting involves many meetings and staff members, despite it being written by a single person.
One has to go to meetings, listen to the opinions of the Director and Producer, and find out the actor(s) and filming location terms and conditions. From there, they have to write and rewrite the contents based on those.
Sometimes they’ll say “this is different from what I want to write” but just because they write what they want to write doesn’t mean things become set in stone.
In the professional world, we want people to write things that match the many terms and conditions. We need people to understand what the Producers want.
When we say scripts aren’t individual works, we mean that they are worked hard on as a team. It’s part of a script writers growth.
Those who have studied at scriptwriting schools, and also possess accolades and experience are most likely to get employed right?
In extreme cases, we also hire people who don’t really know much even if they can’t write. Generally speaking, if their Japanese language abilities are good, then after we hire them we make sure they know what makes a proper script.
Knowing some things about scriptwriting would be advantageous. But first time script writers can withstand the selection process as long as they read a scriptwriting book and work hard.
What are some things you look out for when reviewing scripts?
There’s many points to look out for when making scriptwriting. As for me, I look for many things such as “are your characters being written in an interesting fashion?” or “are the dialogues being written out?”
As for the story structure integrity, I’m able to follow the plot from a Producer standpoint to a degree but the scriptwriter must bring out the dialogue and character appeals.
Naruhisa Arakawa, whom I worked with for a long time with for on Kiramager and past Super Sentai series, is great at character depiction and dialogue. We often work together because I can rely on him for those points.
Riku Sanjo is great at story structure and story ideas. Of course his character depiction is great, but as a Producer, I’m very thankful that he’s able to plot out the integrity of the story like “this happens here, which will lead to here.”
With the increasing amount of online streaming, do you believe there is also more opportunity for scriptwriters to flourish?
Long ago, those with aspirations to become scriptwriters underwent a teaching under a famous scriptwriter, learn what makes a script, and then find employment. But nowadays, there’s more opportunities available.
The circumstances now compared to before are different, with the increase in online shows, new scriptwriters have a bigger chance of getting their foot into the door.
Please tell us some things that new scriptwriters who are aiming to become professionals should keep in mind.
First “ambition” and “concepts,” and the “willpower” to write a script until the very end. And then “visualizing people.”
Drama is about depicting humans; how people interact with others is a very important point to keep in mind.
If you’re able to continue as a Professional very long, it’s important to be rich with “curiosity.”
What I mean by this is, people will no longer have whatever subjects they want to write about after their second series.
You’ll create something you want to write with excitement in one series, and then the things you couldn’t try out in that one series will be applied to your second series.
Then it’s basically over. Which is why the process of continuing to find things that are of interest to you and find fun in it is important if you want to continue to be a scriptwriter for long.
I want applicants to have their antennas up in every possible direction, have a strong sense of curiosity, experience many things, feel, and have fun.
Can you tell us about the show you’re producing, Mashin Sentai Kiramager? The story is finally approaching its climax. COVID affected the shows filming after episode 10 aired. Can you tell us your thoughts regarding the film’s schedule change?
A lot of things regarding filming were affected due to the coronavirus. And just like that, society as a whole reached a dark depression. But because of that, we made sure to really make use of the motif of the show, which is to shine and sparkle.
We wanted viewers to feel positive after watching the weekly broadcast by breathing fun into each episode.
When filming stopped due to the state of emergency in Japan, we created Kira Talk, a show similar to a talk-show.
In Episode 25, Yodonna became the New Leader in the Yodon Army. For the first time in a long time in the Super Sentai series, a newcomer actress. Nashiko Momotsuki, plays a major villain who is popular thanks to her performance. Was this all planned from the start?
A year is a long time, so from the very start we had planned to create a change in dynamic on the enemy side. Nashiko Momotsuki was set to play the character at her audition, but she gave the character a charm.
We hid the fact that she would become a major villain in the previews, and people were unexpectedly surprised at her reveal in episode 25, since her appearance seemed to be more like a cute shrine maiden guest character.
The Kiramager staff includes Naruhisa Arakawa, Ayumi Shimo, Riku Sanjo, Tete Inoue, Kaori Kaneko, and Michiko Yokote, the story and characters seem to have a lot of their own unique quirks.
For this show, the Producers actually controlled a big portion of the script. We controlled the the new mechs and the powers up, and many other things were the responsibility of the scriptwriters.
We also had a lot of meetings regarding how we can realize a fun script, in the midst of an episode completion.
Tomohiko Tokunaga (Scriptwriter for Tokusou9 and Aibou) created the script for episode 40. He’s never written any tokusatsu shows before, but with nothing to lose I asked him and he wrote one out.
He had a very clear vision of what he wanted to write, and we the staff applied those ideas into the Kiramager world. It’ll probably be the most unique feature of the show.
Looking back at the past year, can you give us your thoughts about Kiramager?
I told the main six actors to “shine” for a year so I believe that everyone had it tough (laughs).
However, Yume Shinjo (Sena/Kiramai Green) said “I was more of an in-door person before, but playing Sena, who is so forward-thinking in her actions, has inspired me, and I’m becoming to become more dynamic as well.”
Playing someone in a bright and shining light has allowed them to find the sparkle in themselves.
It’s made me so happy.
A lot of things happened this past year, but we sure left a shiny impression.