Welcome new Writers’ Program instructor Koji Sakai! Koji is teaching an onsite section of Writing the First Screenplay I (Downtown LA, Reg# 366683) this Spring, and sat down with us to offer some insight into creative life and his upcoming course.
What sparks your creativity?
I am constantly inspired by life. I know that sounds cliché, but it is the truth. I can find a story in every person I speak to, in every article I read, my seven-year-old son, a song I hear on the radio, even when I check out my Facebook page! In fact, one of the projects I’m doing right now came because a friend posted an article on his social media feed.
What do you rely on for those times it’s difficult to find the time, energy, motivation and/or inspiration to write?
This is going to sound crazy, but I’ve never lacked energy, motivation, or inspiration to write. Why? Because I learned very early in my career to make writing into a job. In other words, the moment I open up my computer to write… I’m inspired, motivated and energized… the moment I close my computer… I cease to be inspired, motivated and energized. I always tell people the difference between a professional writer and a person doing it as a hobby is the professional writer writes every day while the hobbyist writes only when “inspired.”
What’s your favorite book and/or movie?
This is a tough question because there are just too many. But the first that comes to mind is the iconic Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet. I have spent much of my career rewriting it in different forms—a book and a few different screenplays version. To me, it’s the quintessential love story and maybe one of the most important stories in all of Western Civilization. On a personal note, I love it because it has meant different things to me at different times in my life. For example, as a teenager, I wanted that kind of love. Then in my bitter twenties, I thought I’d never find it. Then as I grew—and hopefully matured—I thought it was crazy that I ever wanted it in the first place. Now, as a parent, I find myself siding with the parents.
What’s your favorite quote about writing?
“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.” —Ray Bradbury
Who do you wish you could write like (or: Whose writing discipline do you wish you had)?
I’ve never thought of this before. Shakespeare? Because it’s been more than 500 years and we’re still talking about him!
What excites you most about teaching for the Writers’ Program?
The students, their stories, and most importantly their passion. I’ve had a bunch of friends that have gone through the program and they always tell me that about how passionate the students are. And it’s that passion is what drives me in my own teaching and writing.
What do you hope your students get from your course?
I hope my students are inspired to keep going and to continue to follow their dreams—whether that’s in screenwriting or not. If they go through my course, my promise is that I’ll give them the tools to help them get to there.
Since I’m teaching screenwriting, I should probably mention my favorite screenplay of all time. It’s easy, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. One of the most beautiful written scripts I have ever read.
Thank you to Koji for taking time to share with us. Look for more instructor interviews coming soon!