"When I see the whole arc of the story with the message, I start writing the first page"
Shunsuke Funakoshi is a Los Angeles based sci-fi screenwriter who recently won Best Screenplay Feature award at LAFA, for his screenplay "Money Man".
In the following interview, Funakoshi takes us on a journey, from his childhood in Japan and the decision to write his first screenplay, to the positive experience he had as a student at the City College of New York, and his latest achievements and inspiration as a screenwriter. Here's his story.
Shunsuke, congratulations on winning Best Screenplay Feature for your work on Money Man! You demonstrated very impressive writing skills. When did you begin writing screenplays? How did you get started?
During a very hard time in my life while in Japan, I wrote a screenplay to escape from everything. Naively, I sent a broken English treatment to American studios with a lot of expectation to change my life.
However, they really didn’t care and so I decided to come here and learn from the best.
Did you have any mentors that guided you?
I have met a lot of gifted people, at school and outside of film. If I had to choose one person in the film industry who pushed and encouraged me in my early writing career it’s Mickey Birnbaum. I met him when I took his screenwriting class at Santa Monica College. He taught me basic skills and habits to be a screenwriter. Beyond that, he always instilled great knowledge and wisdom in class.
Who are your favorite screenwriters / filmmakers and what do you admire about their work?
My favorite screenwriter/filmmaker is Charile Kaufman. He knows the meaning of power, and beauty of the words and story more than anyone else, and he always gives me fresh ideas that I have never seen. What I find interesting in his writing is the level of detaching his perception from his subjective view point. People sometimes advise others by saying you have to have an objective view point. Most people try to have it when they have difficulties and try to solve it, but their point of view is not far from their subjective one. However, Mr. Kaufman sees the world from an almost bird’s eye view like a god. Unique, fresh, entertainment as nature. Love it.
You hold a BFA in Film and Video from the City College of New York. Why New York, and how would you conclude your experience there? What was your main focus while you were studying there?
The life that I had in college was positive and that’s thanks to my experiences in New York with friends, professors, and classmates. I believe that your true power only comes from experience you actually have. Since I wanted to focus on my English skills and experience urban life in the United States, I’ve since moved from New York to LA. My experiences in New York led me to write Money Man which is based there.
Let’s discuss your creative writing process. Where does your inspiration come from, and how do you approach a new screenplay when there's a blank page in front of you?
Inspiration comes from several elements. I try to observe people, experience things, and read books. After I get inspired, I get an idea for a screenplay, I try to see the beginning and ending. Then, I put the milestone in between them. When I could see the whole arc of the story with the message, I start writing the first page.
How did you come up with the concept for Money Man? Why did you want to write this particular story?
I have been thinking that the infrastructure of society is making people focus only on money. In the screenplay, THE MONEY MAN COMPETITION, the players must wear visor glasses to play the game. This is the metaphor I use in the script for people’s minds being shaped or distorted by the idea of money. What would happen if we overcome the money game? That’s what I am trying to get across.
Stanley, Leonardo, Gary, Sarah, the relationships in Money Man- you've done a wonderful job developing your characters with depth. Did you derive these characters and their qualities and experiences from real people in your life?
In this particular work, I borrow the idea of characters from my friends. The portfolio of Stanley, the main character, comes from a close friend who has strong beliefs. He does not drink alcohol and does not do anything that stands against his integrity and morals. He keeps that promise to himself always. That strong will to be himself is what I borrowed for my main character. I’ve drawn inspiration for other characters as well with this kind of appreciation for qualities in the people I meet. Thank you to all the people I have met!
In your opinion, what are the ingredients of a good screenplay?
I just want to see the truth inside of the writer in their screenplays. I want to see the ego, dirty and distorted, against a positive one. When I find such a movie, I appreciate the work behind the message of the writer.
How do you deal with a writer's block?
Get a good night’s sleep, and start fresh in the morning.
What is next for you? Tell us about your current projects.
I am currently working on another Sci-Fi feature film screenplay. A writer is always thinking about his next project.
Is there anything you wish to add, or anyone you wish to thank?
The screenplay is a reflection of its writer. I wish to thank everyone I’ve met. If it wasn’t for them, I could not be here.