Jason Reitman interviews Rian Johnson for “Speaking of Movies” series

By Abbie Neufeld

Academy Award-nominated director Jason Reitman ’95 engaged in a dialogue with fellow director Rian Johnson in front of an audience of students, parents and alumni this past Wednesday night in Ahmanson lecture hall as part of Reitman’s ongoing series “Speaking of Movies,”  now in its fourth year. The event was hosted by the Video Art department in conjunction with the Harvard-Westlake Entertainment network.

Johnson has directed “Brick,” for which he won the Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005, and “The Brothers Bloom.” Johnson has also just finished directing his third feature film “Looper,” a sci-fi film starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Emily Blunt and Paul Dano, which will be released in September 2012.

The evening began with an introduction by Visual Arts department chair Cheri Gaulke who lauded Reitman for his work and his continuing series for which he manages to bring all these “cool” people in the film industry.

Reitman began the conversation by asking Johnson when he first knew he wanted to be a director. Johnson said it was when he was a kid using one of his dad’s cameras and trying to recreate a shot from a Star Wars movie. The conversation then moved from topics such as Johnson’s childhood, to film school, to starting out in the film business, and also to the question of shooting on film or shooting digitally.

At the end of the night Reitman then opened it up to questions from the audience. One man asked both of them which Academy Award Best Picture nominee they would have wanted to direct. “Was “Beginners” nominated,” Reitman asked. A few shouts of “no” were heard in the audience, though Reitman still said this film would have been his choice. Johnson’s response was Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” citing its emphasis on “what you’re supposed to be feeling” instead of focusing on chronology.