iris-yamashita.jpgIt’s not every screenwriter who gets to see his or her first brought to life by two of the most powerful names in Hollywood, but that’s what happened to Iris Yamashita, whose Letters From Iwo Jima opened in theaters on December 20.Yamashita’s path to writing one of the most anticipated movie events of the year was anything but direct. Born in Missouri to first-generation Japanese-American parents, Yamashita went on to study engineering at U.C. San Diego and Berkeley, and also spent a year at the University of Tokyo studying virtual reality. Nevertheless, Yamashita found herself drawn to fiction writing, and embarked on a career that landed her first place honors at the Big Bear Lake Screenwriting Competition. From there it was just a hop, skip and a jump to an agent and an introduction to Letters from Iwo Jima producer Paul Haggis, who recruited Yamashita to write the script for Clint Eastwood’s companion film to Flags of Our Fathers.

The two films, which recount the battle of Iwo Jima from American and Japanese perspectives, provide a unique look at what was a profound moment in the history of both nations and a tide-altering battle of the second World War. Says Yamashita: “Letters from Iwo Jima is an innovative project, part of a concept that has never been done before, and I hope I’ve been able to help create a memorial to the characters in a story that otherwise wouldn’t have been told.”

SOUND OFF QUESTION: Yamashita landed her coveted role as Letters from Iwo Jima scribe through the efforts of an agent. In your wildest dreams, would you rather be shopped out to work on a big-name picture like Eastwood’s or would you prefer to have your own screenplay “discovered?” Do you think it is easier to succeed in screenwriting if you are willing to tackle other people’s projects in addition to the stories you want to tell? Talk back in the comments section!