- Ken Miyamoto is a security guard at Sony who rose to become the studio’s story analyst.
- A self-taught screenwriter, Miyamoto was later offered a development contract at Lionsgate.
- Even though he lived in Wisconsin, he was able to keep a paid job as a screenwriter after the recession.
This candid essay is based on an interview with Belleville, Wisconsin-based screenwriter Ken Miyamoto. Edited for length and clarity.
I learned all about screenwriting Burns and NobleI read every screenplay book I could – some good and some bad – along with some published scripts that were available.
This was in the mid-to-late 1990s, before the Internet was ubiquitous.
In 1996, I took one writing class at the University of Wisconsin, and that was the extent of my writing education. Beyond that, I’m self-taught.
In late 1999, he and his wife moved from Wisconsin to California to pursue a career as a screenwriter. While she was busy with grad school, I did everything I could to get on the Hollywood set. I wanted to understand how movies were made, and at the time the easiest way to do it was to become a movie extra, so I signed a background actor agency.
i loved the extras Even though I was only making $50 a day.It was also included in the final cut of Steven Soderberghof”traffic“I stood in for one of the FBI agents (later in the background for the pool scene).
I spent 12 hours in a hotel suite with Soderbergh. Benicio Del ToroDel Toro was in character throughout and Soderbergh was totally hands-on. He was the cameraman, cinematographer and director for these scenes. It was amazing to have them both in the same room.
All the time I worked as an extra, I was writing and polishing scripts.
Then in 2002, he and his wife moved to Culver City. We picked an apartment online and made an appointment to see it, but soon after arriving we found out that it was across the street from Sony Pictures Studios – in the old MGM lot.
The apartment was much more expensive and much smaller than others we had seen, but we signed the lease that day. I knew it would be the best opportunity.
We moved in soon after and jogged around the studio and peeped through the gates almost every day.
After months of trying to find a job at Sony, I was frustrated. He gave me the number of the security company’s headquarters. He called and went to the recruiting office and was hired right away. Two weeks later, I became a security guard for Sony.
That’s not how security works glamorousMost guards don’t want to be there. However, when I first joined Sony, I sat at my post doing nothing and was responsible for detailing side gates. I hated. But one day, as I sat at my post, an expensive sports car was spinning behind me. I turned around and saw Harrison Ford.
He was filming what would eventually be titled “Hollywood Murder” on a nearby stage, and was having a coffee break between camera setups. His breath smelled of coffee. We chatted and he went off to work with that crooked smile on his face. It was impressive that he had just met one of his childhood idols, Han Solo. Indiana Jones. Jack Ryan.
It won’t be your last encounter with a Hollywood icon.I spoke my way to a promotional position working at his VIP Gate, and every day I met and conversed with icons like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce WillisWhen Stan Lee, just to name a few.We also welcomed the head of the studio at the time. Amy Pascal Every morning.
I’ve been promoted from Security Guard to Story Analyst at Sony
The new VIP Gate post allowed us to extend our reach across the studio. I now had my own golf cart to drive around the studio grounds, and I now have a free Sony Athletic Club membership.
I had the opportunity to meet with many studio and production company executives. One day, I was creating studio ID cards for incoming development executives. we had a good relationship.
I took a chance and told him. It turns out he was looking for new readers. It was Kismet. He asked for some sample script coverage (script summaries that executives often use to save time reading the entire script). I sent him an article I did in a previous internship, and he hired me as his lead scripter and story analyst for Sony Pictures.
That job was my biggest education in script writing. Reading scripts and writing coverage of them was a great way to learn what worked and what didn’t.
I became a stay-at-home mom to focus on writing — and it paid off
In 2005, she gave birth to her first son. His wife encouraged him to stay home with her to focus on her script. It was a great opportunity to write and be with her son, but I left my story analyst job part-time.
At this point, I knew I needed to create a marquee script. This is a high concept and something that will grab people’s attention. I started developing concepts that had the highest breakthrough potential.
I ended up with a script titled ‘The Doomsday Order’ that went around Hollywood and got a manager. Sony, Universal, Warner. After years of struggle, I finally had a lot of momentum in my writing career.
Around this time, my family and I went on vacation to our hometown of Wisconsin. I realized that this is where we should be as a family. I told her wife and we decided we wanted to leave Los Angeles and go back to Wisconsin.
I told my manager about it. He had said he didn’t have to be in Los Angeles to write as long as he could come back for meetings. It wasn’t the ideal situation for a fast-moving screenwriter, but we wanted to raise our kids close to our families.
That said, quitting my job at Sony was tough. The night before I left Los Angeles for the cross-country drive to Wisconsin, I spent another night in the Sony parking lot, driving around in the golf cart after hours.
After that, I get in my car, turn on Green Day’s “Time of Your Life,” drive past the security hut that I’ve known so many years ago, wave to the guards, and, like a baby, I ran away crying.
The stigma of being a stay-at-home mom was tough at times
After moving, I found myself sitting with my baby son at home in Wisconsin. The momentum had waned and it was far from Hollywood.
i was proud stay at home dad, but it came with a lot of baggage and anxiety. My wife has supported us in her successful career. The stigma of being a stay-at-home mom was difficult at times because I wasn’t earning money for my daily needs.
I used late nights to work on the next script to send to my manager and within a few months I had another marquee script written for an action thriller called “One Shot to Kill.” The pitch is basically “top gunMy manager sent it to studios and production companies and the response was great. Hollywood players were talking about my script.
It was then learned that Lionsgate wanted to provide optional development funding for the script. I was very happy It was a great feeling when I found out that I had finally had my first offer to tell a cinematic story that I had always dreamed of making a living from.And it happened after traveling 2,000 miles over there Originally from Hollywood.
Most screenwriters see deals and read about multi-million dollar deals for spec scripts. This doesn’t happen very often and is usually for established writers. My Lionsgate deal wasn’t a lot of money, but it was definitely worth it.
The deal fell through, but opened the door to more paid screenwriting work
Sadly, the contract expired before the film went into production. In 2007 and 2008, the one-two punch of economic catastrophe and the Writers Guild strike struck. It shocked the entire industry. The results are still felt today. Transactions are everywhere and mine is that he is one.
In 2010, I was approached by a Hollywood producer and executive with connections in Wisconsin. He grew up just an hour away from where I lived. I was the president of a local screenwriters group. I took the opportunity to market some of my work.
He read “Doomsday Order” and “One Shot One Kill” and liked my writing. He wanted to hire me to write a miniseries titled “Blackout.” The catch was they needed to write it quickly.
I signed the contract and wrote it in two and a half weeks. they loved it. It was the most I’ve ever made as a professional screenwriter at that point.
Big names have joined the project — like the latter Anne HecheJames Brolin, Hayley DuffI even had the chance to return to Los Angeles to be on set. Watching my words come to life was a dream come true.
today i found success write the thriller of a lifetimeThey’re formulaic and designed for their intended audience and their expectations, but they’re a lot of fun to write. Love those movies. And it really helps me hone my craft.
I’m making more money than ever as a screenwriter
Lifetime’s projects can go into production quickly, so I’ve learned a lot about writing on the fly and setting crazy deadlines. , which usually takes several months. They’re actually making those movies, so it’s cool to see a quicker, streamlined process.
How it works is that I pitch my view on the project, which goes through the Executive Producer to Lifetime for notes and approval. I write scripts very fast. The first draft usually takes 3-4 weeks, followed by a few days of rewriting. It takes only a few months on average to go into pre-production, and a little longer before it’s actually released.
There’s no doubt that it will eventually jump to studio work. I have a sample to introduce my writing. But I love regular gigs, outstanding collaborations, and seeing my words come to life exactly as they’re written.
Here’s what I’ve learned to succeed in the industry as a screenwriter
- Don’t put too much effort into getting representatives. Focus on writing great scripts — stack 3-5 outstanding scripts in your deck. Don’t rush to find expressions in the first or second script. Generally speaking, they are the worst scripts. You haven’t perfected your technique. you are still learning
- Once you have a stack of good scripts, after that You have to go out and try to find a representative. Managers want writers with good work, not just one or two novice scripts. When you start marketing to reps, don’t try to get agents. Agents don’t actually come until they see a hot script that sells. Managers are dependable.
- Then make your own luck. You can sell the script independently. Visit IMDBPro to find similar movies. Find out who made them. Don’t pitch to the studios that distribute them — pitch to the production companies listed. Send a quick, short query email with a logline. I have represented myself for over ten years. It is possible. I negotiate contracts and sign contracts myself, but that was after being in the business for 20 years.
- Finally, don’t write for free. Feel free to make a draft of the manager here and there. But don’t fall into the industry trap of writing endless drafts for free. Don’t be afraid to justify your time by getting paid. Too many novice screenwriters fall for it. It’s worthless and often leads nowhere.
My first deal with Lionsgate justified my dream. Since then, every assignment contract has offered me the chance to get paid to do what I love.
How many people in the world can say that? There are certainly many, but not the majority.