December 12, 2019

You Can Learn A Lot From J.J. Abrams' Star Wars Movies

J.J. Abrams has become one of the biggest names in Hollywood, especially when it comes to genre films. What can we learn from his time in the Star Wars universe?

In a Dec. 15 article in The New York Times, the cast of the latest Star Wars trilogy gathered to discuss the final installment, The Rise of Skywalker, which comes out Dec. 20.

The article is a great look back on the trilogy as a whole and how writer/director J.J. Abrams semi-reluctantly got involved in the franchise. It also offers a glimpse into Abrams' creative thought processes, which can teach us some simple but vital advice about working in the entertainment industry.

Here's what we can learn from his experience!

You can say no... but can also change your mind

Abrams tells The New York Times that he initially turned down the first movie in the trilogy, The Force Awakens, thinking it would be too much of a challenge and could pollute his love for Star Wars. But persistent producer Kathleen Kennedy got him to sit down and reconsider, convincing him to come on.

There is, of course, power in saying "no," and sometimes you have to walk away from projects that are not meshing with your style or vision. The Star Wars franchise (and Disney) has famously parted ways with several directors. Remember what happened to Lord and Miller on that Han Solo film?

But sometimes it's also okay to let yourself accept a challenge, like Abrams eventually did on The Force Awakens. Taking opportunities that scare you can lead to learning experiences and other exciting opportunities.

Abrams also apparently brought this flexibility to the set of The Force Awakens, where nothing was set in stone. He and his team were constantly rewriting and trying out new ideas.

“As we did on Force Awakens, while we’re shooting, we’re reconsidering things, changing some significant story points, going back to ideas that we had loved but put away," Abrams told the New York Times. "That process never stopped.”

The Rise of Skywalker
Credit: Disney

Of course, Abrams did not direct The Last Jedi, the trilogy's second installment. Rian Johnson did. Colin Trevorrow was initially supposed to helm the third film, but Abrams was brought on (again, reluctantly) to close out the trilogy.

When asked about his opinion on Johnson's film, the director gave a response that many fans and Film Twitter regarded as throwing Johnson and his polarizing film under the bus. (Even though Abrams reportedly said, in December 2015, that the Last Jedi script was so good, "I wish I were making it.") 

At first, Abrams told the Times he praised the movie for its "subversion" and surprising choices.

But, he went on to say the film is a bit too "meta" and not what Star Wars fans probably wanted. It's a polite dunk, but a dunk nonetheless.

It may seem like a no-brainer, but this is a tip I also learned in development and something I still use when giving notes -- to this day. Always try to say something nice first before you start pointing out what you don't like in someone else's work.

Rise of Skywalker
Credit: Disney

What's next? Learn more from J.J. Abrams

Do you hate writing endings? So does Abrams, who says they're extremely difficult. He also talks more about getting out of his comfort zone. He's got advice for fixing problems in post, too. Finally, Abrams says you should quit your job and make your passion project.

Will you be seeing Rise of Skywalker? Do you think Abrams can end the trilogy on a high note? Let us know in the comments!     

Your Comment

2 Comments

JJ Abrams is overhyped GARBAGE for fucking up the trilogy since the beginning along with Cubtly Kennady, Bob Iger and Ruin Johnson. What I did learn from this is that if you have more imagination and vision you can be a filmmaker and you should use these trashy people/movies along with marvel to motivate you.

December 12, 2019 at 1:16PM

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JJ Abrams is a technically brilliant director, but also one who makes soulless work. In other words, he's a "great professional director", but NOT a "visionary director". Not to mention that he single handedly destroyed both Star Wars and Star Trek. I have nothing to learn from him, except flares.

December 12, 2019 at 8:26PM, Edited December 12, 8:27PM

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Eugenia Loli
Filmmaker, illustrator, collage artist
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