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'Looper' Writer/Director Rian Johnson: Budget Doesn't Affect the Fundamentals of Making Movies

Rian Johnson is one of the more fascinating filmmakers to listen to not only because he is a film geek and loves movies, but because he took a very traditional and then non-traditional path to success. After attending film school at the University of Southern California, he spent most of his 20s floating around Hollywood until he finally made his first feature, Brick. His third feature, Looper, is now in theaters, but last year he sat down with MakingOf to talk about screenwriting and directing, and some of the ways he approaches his work. Below is another interview with Johnson and his long-time friend and leading man Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Thanks to Scott Myers at Go Into The Story for posting this one:

Sending out the script to anyone and everyone is not an approach that most people take, but since the manager/agent thing didn’t work for him, he had to find a different way to get himself in front of people. He does make a great point, though, that you never know who someone else might know. Anyone can literally know anyone, and it’s impossible to predict who might like your script or where you script might get in front of. Most people seem to be worried about their script ideas being stolen, but I guess when no one wants to make the movie as-is anyway, it’s probably less of a concern.

One of the more interesting parts of the interview is that he talks about how the process of making films is relatively unchanged regardless of budget. This is something I’ve heard over and over again, and while I can’t confirm it as complete fact since I haven’t directed a movie costing millions upon millions of dollars, a lot of what goes into movies is about organization. Since scripts are broken down and scenes are shot in manageable parts, the actual process of filmmaking all comes down to how well your crew is working together. With a bigger film, the mistakes matter a lot less, however, since there is more money to throw at problems, but it’s interesting that he mentions that same idea in both of these interviews.

I think his approach to script breakdowns is also interesting, as he draws what he sees in his head, regardless of the quality. It’s important to have a good working relationship with your crew, and there’s no question that’s why he’s continued working with the same people over and over again. His humbleness is certainly appreciated, and his ideas about finding your voice are very important for anyone who wants to make a career out of filmmaking. Knowing what you want to do and what drives you can help sustain you creatively.

The DP/30 interview from David Poland has less practical knowledge, but still has some interesting moments:

As Rian says, he is very accessible, and there is a very active forum on his website. You can find that link as well as the other links below.



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Description image 13 COMMENTS

  • john jeffreys on 09.30.12 @ 7:38PM

    I saw looper the other day. Cinematography was beautiful- pretty anamorphic flares everywhere, and the lighting in the farm kitchen scenes was really well done. plot was functional, nothing special though. had rising action/falling action and everything was in check with typical hollywood structure. The one thing that bugged me was the set design- some of the cars were sick and futuristic and then some of them were just painted over toyotas or subarus. Same with the fashion, some characters had cool future outfits and then some of them wore normal 00′s clothing- that felt awkward, I mean, do people dress like the 20′s regularly today?

    • Chad Hustlington on 09.30.12 @ 10:18PM

      All the beaten-up contemporary cars had solar panels and fuel adapters on them – to tie in with the rampant poverty and income gap Johnson created for his version of 2044. I did find the lack of innovation in fashion to be slightly strange though – maybe they’re going through a 2000′s retro revival in the future? :P

      Personally, I really enjoyed the film. Johnson’s one of the more capable concept-driven film directors working in the West. Brick is one of my favorite films – the off-camera fight shot from the basement is pure genius.

      • john jeffreys on 10.1.12 @ 12:01AM

        Yeah brick has a special place in my heart, and I saw this film because my dp friend advertised it to me as “jgl and rian johnson! the same actor/director duo from brick! in anamorphic! it has to be good!”

        It was alright. They should have let the boy leave on the train (like in joseph’s sepia toned vision) and then maybe made a sequel called “the rainmaker” and its all about the kid destroying the world

      • So what do you guys think, still worth seeing? The trailers got me excited but I am a sucker for time travel movies, but I haven’t been to see it yet.

  • I was reminded of a JCVD Movie – Nowhere to Run – which had its own charm and was better. Trying to avoid giving away anything. I thought it was predictable, boring; a few scenes were so bad they surprised me, and the ending was unconvincing – I didn’t buy it. There were some ok moments, the cinematography was generally decent, though there were lots of soft focus shots, and the acting was ok – although, I thought the little kid was excellent. My girl thought it was boring and predicatable, and she really couldn’t get into the story. Pretty much standard Hollywood fare.

  • That’s right, budget has nothing to do with making movies if you choose to do so. My award-winning, no-budget web TV series’ first season is about 4 hours long in total (from all 10 episodes) and people have compared us to The Hunger Games. Here’s our latest:×07-phoenix

  • Why do filmmakers allow themselves to be filmed/ interviewed by people who have no idea how to shoot and interview.. what stupid composition, stupid zooms in /out !!! Amazing

  • of course budget is an issue . . of course it is. easy to say with a couple cinema features under your belt inclusive of Bruce Willis as lead actor i’m sure.

    i understand his sentiment in that statement but it’s just not true. wish it was obviously, but hey.

  • Thank you, good interview. And Yes, young Pierce Gagnon was AMAZING !

  • Andile Nebulane on 04.2.13 @ 5:32PM

    Much love and respect …bow down..