Writering / February 1, 2018 Smart Person Interview: Jiro Okada (Part 2)

When last we spoke, the industrious young story editor, Jiro Okada, was explaining to me how he would totally greenlight my True and the Rainbow Kingdom / Stranger Things mashup series.

In the meantime, please consider the second half of our interview…

 

What’s one writing tip you wish every screenwriter knew?

Don’t be afraid to present pitches at a very rough stage. Remember that writing is a process. My personal preference as a Story Editor is to work with writers from the very early stages of an idea. Don’t kill yourself trying to figuring everything out in one shot. Keep things loose and malleable. If you have a strong enough backbone for a story, we can flesh out the smaller details after we’ve worked out the bigger questions. This is especially important if you’re pitching on an established show beyond the first season. Those shows have already gone through LOTS of pitches, which means it’ll be even harder to craft fresh stories.

Story summits: yay or nay?

Hell to the YAY! If I had it my way, I’d do a weekend getaway to a nice cottage where we could relax and sit around an open fire, hold hands and sing kumba– ok, I’ll draw the line there. But seriously, the best thing about summits or ‘writers rooms’ is getting to know everyone’s personalities and for writers to feel comfortable enough to come out of their shell. (because we are such a fragile breed) I’ve been fortunate enough to be in summits where we get so comfortable that by day two, we’re sharing very personal stories and relating them to our characters. If your broadcasters or exec producers are also there, you’ll get to hear (and see!) first-hand what excites them, and what doesn’t. It’s SO hard to discern that from short-hand notes that were typed on a smartphone during a cab ride or, God forbid, in the middle of a red-eye flight. Let’s face it– that’s the reality for very busy execs!

If writers want to make your Story Editing life easier, what should they do?

I really enjoy working with writers who focus on collaboration. A writer’s job is to craft stories, not just to deliver a script that happens to be so-and-so pages long by a certain due date. So let’s have conversations about the notes and bat around ideas together. After sending notes, I don’t expect a response that simply says, “Got it, thx. Will deliver on time. BYEE!” In fact, that would actually make me anxious. It leaves me thinking, “How are you going to address that staging issue the director flagged? Or the broadcaster’s comment about the gag on line 133 not being funny enough?” I don’t expect to discuss every single note, but there are bound to be some big ones and I want to hear your thought process. Chances are, there are things about the show that you wouldn’t know about, just because as a freelance writer you wouldn’t have been part of the hundreds of conversations that happen between all of the other players.

Yes, story editors are usually swamped/stressed/sleep deprived (usually all of the above) but I’d rather respond to questions along the way or hop on the phone or (gasp!) meet in person to hash out problems.

True and Zee engage in a tickle fight; first one to laugh, wins. Who would come out on top?

Zee doesn’t do fights. He only engages in regulated introspective respiration followed by a non-confrontational exchange of mindful discourse. (Can I trademark that?)

 

A big thank you to Jiro for putting up with my silliness. Next time I’m in Toronto, I will buy you ramen.

 

ABOUT JIRO OKADA

Jiro has forged a diversified career path during his eight-year tenure with award winning Guru Animation Studio in Toronto. He was an integral part of Guru’s production and creative teams as he juggled responsibilities as Executive Story Editor, Producer and Writer on various productions including JUSTIN TIME (Netflix, Family Jr.), PAW PATROL (Nick Jr., TVO), DINOPAWS (Treehouse, Cbeebies, CBBC) and TRUE AND THE RAINBOW KINGDOM (Netflix).

Jiro’s work on JUSTIN TIME GO! (Netflix, Family Jr.) as Head Writer/Story Editor garnered a 2017 Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing in a Preschool Animated Program.

Prior to Guru, Jiro worked at Ocean Productions Inc. in Vancouver, his hometown, where he produced the English adaptation of popular Japanese anime titles including DEATH NOTE (Viz Media), GHOST IN THE SHELL (Bandai Entertainment), BLACK LAGOON (Geneon Entertainment), KUROZUKA (Sony Pictures Entertainment) and GALAXY EXPRESS 999 (Toei Animation).