By Jessica Lewis
Jason Reitman felt devastated when he learned that he wasn’t the first in line to direct the Oscar-nominated film Juno.
“It really broke my heart,” he said during a lecture he gave at Ryerson on Feb. 29. “It was [a really] important lesson for me; that [the film] needs to be so good that you want to kill yourself if you don’t get it.”
But Reitman got what he wanted when original director Brad Silberling, famous for helming Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, backed out of the project.
Juno threw everyone for a loop with sassy characters who bucked social norms and warmed hearts across North America. The movie received four Oscar nominations, including Best Director for Reitman.
Now he’s made a name for himself in Hollywood. He’s established his own production company, Hard C Productions, and has multiple projects in the works.
“I’ve got to admit, Juno was a very challenge-less film where everything that was supposed to happen, happened,” Reitman told The Eyeopener in an interview following the lecture.
“We needed snow and it just snowed in the middle of March in Vancouver. Vancouver never snows. We were just very lucky.”
The film wasn’t free of issues for the young director though.
“My baby was born right before we made Juno, and the movie’s about a kid having a baby, so there was this incredible synergy, but at the same time, the first few months of being a dad is heavy stuff; wonderful, but also emotionally draining.”
Reitman had plenty of non-parental advice to offer budding filmmakers in both his lecture and the interview. Narrative and story were his first and most important concerns.
“I think that comes from reading books, it comes from telling stories. Don’t worry about the actual physical part of how you make a movie because [the physical part] you’ll learn and you’ll learn very quickly.”
To him, storytelling is not only essential when talking to hundreds of people in a lecture hall, but also to hopeful film directors.
“It’s not as important to learn how to work the camera as much as it is to learn how to tell stories,” said Reitman following the lecture.
This isn’t the first time Reitman has appeared at Ryerson. Both of his films, 2005’s Thank You For Smoking and Juno, premiered not only at the Toronto International Film Festival, but at the Ryerson Theatre.
He even admitted he’d love to premiere his future projects here. “Give me the Ryerson with the real film fans!” he said, to a round of applause.
Reitman spent most of his lecture regaling the audience with tales of his filmmaking experiences, people he’s worked with and other projects like how he was the director of “the worst commercials ever made” for companies like Outback Steakhouse and Burger King.
Juno was still the thread that tied it all together. “I think it’s a film Canadians should feel proud of,” he said. “I’m proud of being Canadian.”
Reitman is not only a director from Canada who’s faced a surge in popularity within the span of a year, but he’s also managed to weather it all while keeping his feet on the ground.
“He really makes me proud of the kind of quality and modesty that is associated with Canadian directors,” said Matt Loeb, a second-year film student.
At the end of the night, Reitman was no flavour-of-the-month superstar. He was someone that university students could listen to with ease, believe in, laugh with, and look up to. He seemed normal.