With credits like his neo-noir crime drama Brick, sci-fi thriller Looper, and epic space opera Star Wars: The Last Jedi under his belt, writer/director Rian Johnson is a master filmmaker with a knack for breathing new life into classic genres of storytelling. Johnson’s latest film Knives Out, a modern “whodunit” murder mystery, hits theatres today, and we can’t wait to see what twists and turns Johnson has in store for us.
To celebrate today’s release, we’re looking back on our conversations with Johnson for some insider advice on storytelling across genres and revamping classic styles for a modern audience.
Here are five tips for mastering the craft from celebrated writer/director and past AFF panelist Rian Johnson:
- PULL FROM YOUR EXPERIENCES
For all the work that is necessary and good to do in terms of focusing on your craft, the real work is having something important to say to put into that craft and that only comes from getting out there…it comes from living.
- SUBVERT THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE GENRE
In any story, the dramatic turns are about surprise and that surprise very often happens in regard to what the expectations are of the genre that we’re in.
- DO WHAT FEELS RIGHT FOR YOUR STORY
I feel like I would trip myself up really quick if I started along the path of trying to think of something new and fresh. I think if you start to try and think of something true that feels right to you and feels real, you’re going to present it from your voice. Trust that where you’re going to tell that story from and the choices you’re going to make are going to be unique to you, and so they will be fresh in that regard.
- INVEST YOURSELF IN THE JOURNEY
Part of the joy is just the amount you invest yourself in it…they respond to the amount you invest yourself and they take their cues from that. That’s the key of having people come together as a family to make the movie—it all comes from the top in a way in terms of the attitude you bring to it.
- PUT YOUR WRITING FIRST
If you have a good movie, it’s because you had a good script…you can learn how to use a movie camera in two weeks, but it’s the stories that you have to tell that really make what you put up on screen.
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