It’s not how you get the knife in, it’s how you get the knife out.
It’s not easy to come up with movie ideas, but Rian Johnson got pretty good at it. He’s the creative mind behind such films as Knife out, brick, gripper, and The last Jedi. Johnson is known for his incredible characters, twists, and playing with the genre.
When it comes to learning about storytelling, I think it is very effective to listen to the greats talk about their process. Fortunately, Johnson included a new podcast Spark and fire This guides us through the way he comes up with his ideas and how he draws on experiences all his life to tell a story.
Try it out and let’s talk afterwards.
One of my favorite parts of this podcast was how it focuses on the first spark that inspired everything. I think a lot of us write because we love to entertain people, but I loved hearing Johnson’s palpable sense of wonder emanating from memories and magical feelings that make his vision sizzle on screen.
While not all of us may have a memory of We watched Agatha Christie films in our grandparents’ old house and we all grew up watching different events that shaped our lives and our view of the world. I loved seeing the mysterious structure embedded in Johnson’s brain in such a way that he could turn various things upside down to question the audience at any moment.
To do this, of course, a list of story beats had to be created first.
I also enjoyed hearing how Knife out lived in his head and became the story his subconscious demanded of him. But it still wasn’t that easy. Johnson had to go through the whole thing and build the characters. He knew it wasn’t easy to write a mystery.
His process starts with the germ of an idea and then writes down what works and what doesn’t within the genre. Knowing so well the expectations and tropes, he sat down and fabricated the plot in a way that was more suited to a movie. Then he added the mechanics of a thriller to make sure the audience is involved in the story but still gets the detective payoff in the end. The Thriller was allowed to hide under the thriller the whole time.
Like all of us, Johnson needed to get these ideas aside. So he left Los Angeles and went to a cabin. There he was able to crank out pages and complete a first draft, which he was able to perfect over time. Then it was just a matter of rewriting.
As a fun treat, Johnson likes to listen to music, but only music he’s heard before so he doesn’t have to focus on it. Shout out to you LCD sound system for carrying him through writing Knife out.
What was your favorite part of the podcast?
Let us know in the comments.