We had the good fortune of connecting with John Irwin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi John, how do you think about risk?
Life without risk would be awful. It keeps everything evolving, and continually shifts my perspectives on what’s really important. In any creative project I find worth doing, I know there will be risk- it’s a lot of why finding new challenges feels exciting to me in the first place. I try to push myself beyond what I’m familiar with in every new directing project, and that in turn is the only way to find fulfillment through it. It’s an ongoing struggle, especially since clients that seek me out for commercial work tend to want something very similar to a project I’ve already done. Creative people need to stay vigilant, guarding control over what it is we want to make next. Part of that is knowing how often to say no. With practice, it gets easier to say no to more stable paying jobs and resist being led down roads where the trade for more stability (and often, money) is met with less risk and control. For me, staying my own boss as a freelancer, keeps my yearly risk high but I get to retain control over where I’m going.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In general, the struggles out here in Los Angeles transform my creative spirit for the better every year. Discovering how to survive as a freelance filmmaker while also attempting to stay prudent in the choices of jobs I take on, carefully considering how much creative control each one brings, is no easy task. I used to get so caught up and frustrated by the process of maturing creatively which often requires an incredible amount of adaptation, self reflection and patience. But lately, I’ve really started to enjoy every bit of it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
A lot of “day plans” can change on a whim depending on mood but for a best friend who is unfamiliar with Los Angeles, here’s a proposed itinerary for a dreamy non-pandemic day in the city: We’d meet for breakfast at Cliff’s Edge in Silver Lake, choosing a table tucked away behind one of their giant trees. Afterwards, maybe we’d take a stroll through the farmer’s market across the street then maybe we head downtown on Upper Grand and walk through The Broad museum, coffee in hand. Let’s pretend traffic is especially light this day and hop on over to Venice Beach right after. We’ll stroll up the boardwalk, taking our time, and grab lunch at Fig Tree. Maybe we’ll hang on the beach for a bit, then rent some bikes up to the Santa Monica pier to spend an hour or so walking around up there. I don’t feel like getting my car wherever it’s parked, so let’s take a Lyft to the ArcLight to catch an early matinee of some terrific movie we’ve been dying to see. Afterwards, we’ll catch the best dinner ever at Gracias Madre in West Hollywood. From there, we’ve got to head across town the opposite direction again. Weirdly, there’s no traffic at all today, it’s unbelievable, not a single car. There’s an amazing show at the Dynasty Typewriter near MacArthur Park. We arrive just in time, the popcorn is awesome. And, why don’t we end this above average day over at Alcove on Hillhurst for drinks. That’ll do.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The biggest shout out has to go to my amazing and supportive wife, Vanessa. She’s been fighting to keep L.A.’s Dynasty Typewriter thriving through the pandemic by adapting to online shows and content. Her driving passion for the theater and all other aspects of her creative life is a constant inspiration to me. My creative friends in Los Angeles, trying to “make it” in their own way are a tremendous source of encouragement and mentorship every day of my life. They are the ones that push me to be a better filmmaker and creator. I’m lucky that I get to collaborate with so many talented creatives in order to complete projects I care about.