Akiko Seyioshi

Speaking Time and Room No.: 2006-9-23 8:30-10:30 Room III

Speaker: Akiko Sueyoshi (Japan)


My experience of writing scripts for TV.

Children’s Books and the Multimedia Era

Akiko Sueyoshi, Writer (Japan)

Although I am principally a writer of children’s books, since 1996, I have been writing puppet shows for an educational television program on NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation.

Among my previous books, some were later revised for television dramas or animations based on the books.

For the NHK puppet plays, however, I write the scripts from scratch. Since this is my first experience, I have struggled with and learned many things.

This program has been successfully broadcast for 10 years for general audiences and has also been shown in Ethics classes for first grade students at elementary schools. Therefore, that pink dinosaur girl, the main character of the puppet show, is widely known among Japanese children.

The program is now broadcast in many other countries.

7 books and 5 illustrated children’s books were born out of the program so far. One of the most important things I learned is that different types ofmediaould not compete each other but coexist. They should utilize each other.

I would like to show a 15 minute video which is the English version of one of the stories of “Rockie and Her Friends.

” I would appreciate it if a VHS video player could be available.

Thank you for paying attention to the video.

I had expected that the job for the TV program would have finished in 1 year; however, unexpectedly, the TV program received great support from not only children but also parents and teachers. Actually, it’s been more than ten years since the first broadcast of the show.

I produce from 15 to 20 works every year. When I first received an offer from a TV director to write for a television puppet show, I felt that I would enjoy it. However, informed of the intention of the program, I found that the show was to be broadcast to homes and also used at elementary schools as teaching material in an Ethics class for first grade students.

On hearing the word, Ethics, I thought of turning down the offer. The content of the book series, which I’ve worked on, gained acceptance by children for a long time in its theme of liberating children’s minds and hearts. To me, the word, Ethics, has an implication of repressive power from parents and teachers, saying “Don’t do this” and “Do that.” With in state of my mind, I felt that this job for the TV program would not be my cup of tea.

However, when I gave it a second thought, I realized that the issue comes down to a way of communication. Therefore, the messages endowed in my children’s books can be compatible with the intention of the TV project. Moreover, what matters most is whether or not children would be fascinated with the story content. Without fascination, the 15 –minute story would fail to draw children’s attention. If children are half-forced to watch the program in a class, the story should be enjoyable.

Thus, I was determined to pour my energy into producing an amusing story. The process of creating a story for a book as well as TV is full of excitement. The story is set in forests barely left after humankind became extinct. Among creatures, such as lizard, frog and snake, a girl dinosaur is the main character of the story. Here, you may well wonder, “Why? The dinosaurs must have long died out.” Well, this dinosaur belongs to a new generation which survived after being brought back to life through a human technological feat.

The girl dinosaur has incredibly powerful strength. Yet, at the same time, she is a girl of a pure heart, and sometimes causes trouble to her mother. She also quarrels with her mother and her friends. I imbued her with the ordinary characteristics of a child who sometimes oversleeps and goes to school late. Such characteristics can be attributed to the high popularity of this TV show among children.

Prior to becoming a professional writer, I had long worked as an editor for children’s books. I found a substantial difference between the publishing and TV business. The minimum number of people required to produce one book is 3: a writer, a painter and an editor. However, in contrast, far more people are involved in making one TV program; especially, a TV puppet show. A director, first of all, then a writer, a puppet maker, a puppet manipulator, a voice actor, a composer, a musician, a theatrical designer and so on… This amounts to 70 to 80 people.

Furthermore, in the process of TV production, there are more restrictions on expression, as well as technical aspects, than in the production of a book. Sometimes, a script can be corrected. The parts in which I put my special effort are not necessarily used on TV. Even so, unlike the case of a single book, it is possible to receive the incomparable number of responses from a wider audience. This was a tremendously intriguing experience. Therefore, it was unexpected that people in the TV industry proposed that the story should be made into a book. Indeed, a TV program can reach a wider audience; however, it is out of sight upon completion. The driving force behind the suggestion was a desire that children could pass on the story from generation to generation in the form of book. This proposal, of course, filled me with much joy.

So far, based on the TV puppet show, 7 short-story books as well as 5 illustrated children’s book series have been published. Unlike TV programs, books require ability to concentrate and unfold imagination to read through. In other words, reading books can be a means to reinforce children’s these abilities. Against this background, I believe that TV shows and books now coexist interdependently.

Thank you for your listening.