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March 22, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

JJ Abrams on Storytelling and the Critical Role of Mystery

“And I realize that mystery is the catalyst for imagination. Now, it’s not the most ground-breaking idea, but when I started to think that maybe there are times when mystery is more important than knowledge, I started getting interested in this.”
JJ Abrams

“I used to have the “Ordinary People” script that I’d flip through. The romance of the script was amazing to me; it would inspire me. I wanted to try and fill pages with the same kind of spirit and thought and emotion that that script did.”
JJ Abrams

“So there’s that. In terms of the content of it, you look at stories, you think, well, what are stories but mystery boxes? There’s a fundamental question — in TV, the first act is called the teaser. It’s literally the teaser. It’s the big question. So you’re drawn into it. Then of course, there’s another question. And it goes on and on.”
JJ Abrams

“So there’s this thing with mystery boxes that I started feeling compelled. Then there’s the thing of mystery in terms of imagination — the withholding of information. You know, doing that intentionally is much more engaging.”
JJ Abrams

“And then, finally, there’s this idea — stretching the sort of paradigm a little bit — but the idea of the mystery box. Meaning, what you think you’re getting, then what you’re really getting. And it’s true in so many movies and stories.”
JJ Abrams

“There’s a half an hour of investment in character before you get to the stuff that you’re, you know, expecting.”
JJ Abrams

“What’s a bigger mystery box than a movie theater? You know? You go to the theater, you’re just so excited to see anything. The moment the lights go down is often the best part, you know? And you’re full of that amazing — that feeling of excited anticipation.”
JJ Abrams

“C’mon. “Why? ‘Cause I need it?” Best scene ever, right? Come on! So you think of “Jaws” — so that’s the kind of stuff that, like, you know, the investment of character, which is the stuff that really is inside the box, you know? It’s why when people do sequels, or rip off movies, you know, of a genre, they’re ripping off the wrong thing. You’re not supposed to rip off the shark or the monster. You gotta rip off — you know, if you rip something off — rip off the character. Rip off the stuff that matters.”
JJ Abrams

“The most incredible sort of mystery, I think, is now the question of what comes next. Because it is now democratized. So now, the creation of media is — it’s everywhere. The stuff that I was lucky and begging for to get when I was a kid is now ubiquitous. And so, there’s an amazing sense of opportunity out there. And when I think of the filmmakers who exist out there now who would have been silenced, you know — who have been silenced in the past — it’s a very exciting thing.”
JJ Abrams

“No community is best served when only the elite have control. And I feel like this is an amazing opportunity to see what else is out there.”
JJ Abrams

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