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Judy Thorburn

Jason Reitman Addresses Filmmakers at NAB

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Judy Thorburn

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Academy Award nominated writer/director Jason Reitman was the featured speaker at the 48th Hour Film Project's Filmapalooza on Monday, April 12 in conjunction with NAB (National Association of Broadcasters), the world's largest electronic media show. This year marked the eighth installment of Filmapalooza, but it was first time that the event took place in conjunction with NAB.
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Jason Reitman
Photo credit: Judy Thorburn
Filmapalooza is the grand finale of the 48 Hour Film Project’s yearly tour in which over 30,000 people from 80 cities participate in a filmmaking contest by making a short film in a tight deadline of one weekend. Filmapalooza, which draws winning 48 Hour Film Project filmmakers from around the world, concluded with the awarding of the tour’s “Best Film” award, “Nict nur de Himmel ist blau by Sharktankcleaners from Berlin.


Jason Reitman, the son of acclaimed director Ivan Reitman, made the jump from independent films to feature films with his directorial debut on Thank You For Not Smoking. His second film was the indie hit JUNO, starring Ellen Page and Michael Cera for which he was nominated for best director. Reitman’s latest film, UP IN THE AIR, was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. He was also the producer of the horror comedy film JENNIFER’S BODY for FOX and was executive producer of Atom Egoyan’s CHLOE, starring Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore.

"We could not have found a better representative of fresh, independent filmmaking and we are thrilled that Mr. Reitman will be here to share his experience with our filmmakers," said Liz Langston, Co- Producer of 48HFP. "The opportunity for our filmmakers to learn from a filmmaker who is an established professional with original ideas is priceless” said Co-Producer Mark Ruppert.


Below are some highlights from Reitman's informal speech to fledgling filmmakers who are hoping for a successful career in the motion picture industry.

“It will never be good as is is right now. There is something exciting about this moment when you are willing to to try anything. The only limit is your imagination. Right now there are no rules. Follow that.”

He then went on to discuss his rise to fame including what it was like growing up as the son of a famous director.

“The first rule (he said laughing) is be a son of a famous director. I started as a pre med student. I wanted to be a director but was scared people would compare me with my father and think I was just a spoiled brat from Beverly Hills. My dad originally wanted to open up a sandwich shop. But my grandfather told my father, “You need to find something that has magic in it.”

“My biggest fear was that noone would take me seriously because I was my father's son. I started making short films. My first was about kidney stealing. I entered film festivals and that led to directing...than I got my hands on Thank Your For Not Smoking, the book, and told my agent I wanted to make this movie. Mel Gibson owned the rights and wanted to star in it. The studio wanted to turn it into a broad comedy and the project went dead. I wrote the first thirty pages of the script and they (the studio) liked it. Even Mel liked it. Five years went by. Noone wanted to make it. It was discouraging and I went into directing commercials, like the one that was a mix of Outback Steakhouse and Nascar in one, which was terrible!”

“I turned down Dude Where's My Car, a real movie with real actors; everything I dreamed of. But in my heart, I said no. I wanted to make Thank You for Smoking. At the time I read Up in the Air. The former owner of Pay Pal had money and wanted to make movies. David Sacks, my “white knight”, wrote a check for $6 million. Oddly, nepotism failed me. I though the studios would help me because my father is a famous director. An internet millionaire from San Francisco, ultimately, got me to make my first movie Thank You for Smoking”, which was bought by Fox Searchlight and released it. Then, I wrote Up in The Air. (during that time) I was sent the Juno script.”

“I generally want to direct scripts I write. I must feel desperate for a script. How bad? Like someone else f---ked my wife! Juno was made for $7 million and grossed $230 million. Amazing! Unusual experience. The I wrote Up in the Air. When I wrote it I was single. After, I was married and had as child. (the story) reflected the economy with people losing their jobs, unemployed. It was brought up to date. The film received nominations for a bunch of actors and (he said with a laugh)and lost them all. I just finished writing a screenplay for my latest movie. (He didn't divulge the name).”

Regarding his filmmaking technique:

“When I first started I just wanted to emulate directors. It was an experimental time for me to find out who I was... finding my own voice...what my storytelling was.

Reitman then offered some advice to the crowd by saying, “Embrace this time. Use this time to figure out who you are as a storyteller. Directing is like trying to write poetry in a circus. You have to work with people you love. Find out who you can click with.”

“I can shoot, but I don't know light. It doesn't make sense to me. I depend on my DP. The job of director is the search for truth. My dad gave me this advice: “Don't worry about it if it's funny. Your barometer is not very good, but your barometer for truth is right on. I won't know if it is funny until its in front of an audience.”

“Is it real? Do people really talk like this? These are questions you should ask yourself when filming. Does it feel real? The ability to make decisions gets better over the course time. You must be surrounded by people you trust who keep you honest.”

When asked about working with a cast and crew he responded, “Your job as director is manipulator; to tell them to do what you want. Don't over direct actors. Lead them from one direction (in a scene) to another.”

What's the difference between making short films and major films?

“Making movies is making movies. It is exhausting. I got the shingles the first time I made a movie. The stamina to make a feature film takes so much out of you. Actors in shorts are basically props. Learning to work with movie stars is different. The approach is as collaborator and with respect.”

When the session concluded, it was obvious from the reactions of everyone in the room that they were inspired and learned a thing or two about working towards their goal.

So what's next for the young director? Reitman is set to executive produce Max Winkler's directing debut, Ceremonyand is developing a feature film based on the cult children’s television show Yo Gabba Gabba.
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