Behind The Scenes of the FilmStruck Podcast: Rian Johnson

The first time I met director Rian Johnson, he took a photo of me. This is not unusual for Rian, who documents his work life in a series of single snaps, including the press waiting to talk to him at Comic-Con in 2012. Actually I think, because I have no shame, I said to him, “Are you going to take a photo of me?” And then posed, ready for my moment.

To look at the photo now, I see a girl who was trying to find her place, wanting to fit in. I didn’t grow up reading comic books, I’ve never been a super fan of superhero films, preferring to spend my hours with black and white movies. And yet, there I am, wearing a Batman t-shirt. I remember hastily buying it at Urban Outfitters the day before I drove down to San Diego, thinking it looked like the kind of thing one should wear to Comic-Con. I added a spiky necklace to jazz it up, and prepared myself for a big day.

The press lines at Comic-Con are exciting, but they are a marathon of interviews. Journalists stand inside a cavernous hotel conference room for hours on end, as multiple stars from different movies walk down a line to talk to one journalist after another. Sometimes, there are five films doing press all at once, and you have to ask the actor to clarify which movie they are in. Back in 2012, I was working for Australian television, and had to do a lot of preparation for each of the stars I may possibly talk to. 

Rian Johnson was the only one I didn’t need to research. I had seen his first film ‘Brick’ and noted who the director was. This was a film noir set inside a high school, and I could tell straight away that the person who made it loved classic movies. Rian was at Comic-Con to talk about his time travel sci-fi film, ‘Looper’, and as the movie neared its release, I did many more interviews with him. He is a genuinely nice man. Rian is one of the few people I’ve interviewed who is genuinely interested in the journalist he is talking to. He wants to know where we are from, what out story is. And he takes a photo to capture the moment. It feels nice to be seen.

So jump forward, ‘Looper’ style, six years into the future, and I was once again looking down the lens of Rian’s camera. We were physically in a similar place - another cavernous hotel conference room, this one at the SXSW Film Festival - but we were different, career-wise. He was now the director of the latest film in the mega ‘Star Wars’ franchise, ‘The Last Jedi’, and everyone knew his name. And I was no longer trying to fit in, having found my place at FilmStruck and TCM, where I could talk about classic movies. Not a ‘Batman’ t-shirt in sight. Plus, I got to sit down! 

I still don’t know much about blockbusters like ‘Star Wars,’ so we chatted mainly about our mutual love of old films, and which movies Rian had been watching on FilmStruck. And of course, Rian Johnson was still his same, lovely self. Asking me about my life, and being genuinely excited for me. Happy that I had found my dream job. “See you on TCM!” Rian said, “I’ll be watching!” And with that, he gave me a hug and walked out the door.