Role Model to Superheroes: John Ridley ‘On Story’ (EP 1502)

86th Academy Awards Nominee Luncheon - Portraits

“The past, it is vibrant, it’s alive. You know there’s the old saws that ‘if you don’t learn from the past you’re gonna repeat it’. But I think more than just learning from the past is really understanding how we’ve arrived, as people, you know, we have – as difficult as it may seem, whether its in this country or around the world, um, you look at the arc of ‘us’ – and its been phenomenal. You look around this room, and you see, so many different kinds of people – you know, not that long ago we couldn’t come together like this. And talk like this. And share like this. That in itself is phenomenal.

So I think it’s one thing to say that history, you know – much like Baskerville’s, although that’s fiction – but it’s about making things relevant, so, it’s not just about swamps and bogs and things like that, but, it’s about feeling something in the moment about curiosity, about fear, about being thrilled – and those are the things in history that excite us, you know, it’s those moments.

Entertainment is an empathy machine. You know, we’re not here to just make pronouncements about things or to dictate. If that’s what we’re here to do the world would be that much more advanced in terms of where we are because there is so much in books and cinema and tv and things like that. It’s not about trying to dictate to individuals: here’s how you should feel, here’s how you should think, and here’s my big idea about the past. It’s about can you feel something. Can you put yourself in a place.

And these films that you see, about so many different subject matters – whether they’re of great importance or small delicate thesis, little pieces that just move you, and the people around you, and your gut clinches, your heart opens, your tears flow. That’s what we’re here to do. So, if we can take the past and make it present like you’re saying…if we can take emotion that seems like its coming from another side of the country, around the world, and make people in their space feel that same thing – that’s what I think we’re here to do.

Writing is unique in that there are amazing actors out there. Great actors but they have to wait for that story to come to them. Great directors have to wait for that story. The writer can go and write. You know, you can get up in the morning and it’s – not to go too far on tangent but it’s the difference between – read long time ago, someone said, “What’s the difference between Superman and Batman?”, and, the difference is you know that Batman – Bruce Wayne has to put on the costume to be Batman. Superman wakes up in the morning and he’s Superman. That’s it. He’s gotta put on a costume to be regular. And when you wake up in the morning as a writer you have the opportunity to be heroic, to tell a heroic story. In any way shape or form. And everyone else, as great as they are, as much as they contribute – as vital as they are – because you cannot do it without this team of people, you know, they’ve gotta wait for that story to come out there. So for all of those individuals who are writers, aspiring writers, you know its not about the check, it’s not about going to Hollywood, or, somewhere in Austin, or whatever – it’s about: wake up in the morning, saying, you know, I’m a writer. That’s it. I’m doin’ it.”