David Chester

David Chester



Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on September 2009


Where are you from and what brought you to Japan?
I’m originally from Los Angeles. I had a short contract as a musician in Tokyo in 1989, and while here I met a Japanese music producer. He chose one of my songs for ASAP, an American pop group that had become successful performing English versions of songs by J-pop star Yumi Matsutoya. The producer hired me to write for ten more pop albums; after that, it seemed a natural choice to move to Japan.

What kind of work do you do now?
I write, edit and critique screenplays, and I run “Screenwriters in Tokyo,” a group established to help aspiring screenwriters. I am also a singer/accompanist who performs throughout Japan, and I recently completed writing and publishing Freelancing in Tokyo: A Unique Guide to Achieving Financial Success in Japan’s Most Expensive City.

Tell us about your screenwriters workshop.
From November 7-11, Emmy-nominated producer/writer Ellen Sandler (Everybody Loves Raymond) will come to Tokyo for a workshop that recreates the environment of a Hollywood “writers room.” She’ll be guiding a group through the rewrite of a script for a current (American) TV show, then teach her secrets about story structure and how to create a storyline for an original episode under deadline. She’ll also teach a workshop for actors on auditioning for network TV. Ellen has worked at the highest level of American network TV—she’s an incredible coach!

What were some of your most memorable jobs?
I appeared as Shakespeare in a Tokyo Gas commercial, and the director actually let me rewrite the script! Another time, I appeared in a commercial as a mad scientist in clown makeup, with a trained (but nervous) monkey on my back.

What are your impressions of the Japanese entertainment industry?
It’s extremely closed off to anyone who isn’t Japanese or “Japanese-friendly.” In 15 years, I have never seen a foreign face on a single homu-dorama. I really wish they would stop being afraid and let us join the party, but instead we’ve been forced to create our own, which is their loss.

What is your biggest indulgence?
Renting a no-frills, no-internet workspace at my ward office—with a view!—for ¥600 for the afternoon and working on screenplays without any interruption whatsoever.

What’s your recipe for a perfect day in Tokyo?
I need space and nature, so I love going to Showa Memorial Park in Tachikawa, renting a bike, and riding for hours. It’s vast and one of the few places in Tokyo that I feel completely free.

For more information about the Writers Room workshop with Ellen Sandler, see their homepage. Freelancing in Tokyo is available through Amazon.com. http://davidchester.com