JJ Abrams, the master of words and storytelling

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I’m obsessed with printing and silk screening and bookbinding and box making.”

JJ Abrams


Writer, director and producer JJ Abrams credits his grandfather with first inspiring in him a love for machines, technology, and the creative process.

Hollywood writer, director and producer JJ Abrams shot to global fame as co-creator of the hugely successful, award-winning TV series Lost and has since directed the reboot of Star Trek and written, directed and co-produced Super 8 and Star Wars: The Awakening of the Force.

Jeffrey Jacobs Abrams was born in New York City on June 27, 1966. His first brush with professional filmmaking was during his final year as an undergraduate at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, when he co-wrote the screenplay that would become the 1990 comedy Taking Care of Business with Jill Mazursky.

The Storyteller

After some early acting credits, in 1998 Abrams created and wrote the WB network TV show Felicity, which ran for four seasons. Then, in 2001, Abrams created, wrote, directed and produced another successful TV show: Alias, featuring Jennifer Garner as spy Sydney Bristow. His adroitness with the series’ plot twists and storytelling paved the way for his next hit series, Lost.

“Finding out how things work is a gift”

However, his interest in filmmaking began much earlier; when his maternal grandfather gave him a Super 8 camera for his tenth birthday.

In a 2007 TED talk, Abrams described his grandfather as the “ultimate deconstructor”.

Finding out how things work is a gift” he told the audience in Monterey,

“he got me interested in all sort of different odd crafts, like the letterpress and box printing. I’m obsessed with printing and silk screening and bookbinding and box making.”

Abrams shared his memory of going to a Mid-town New York magic shop with his grandfather and showed the audience a magic mystery box he had purchased from the shop – but never opened. Abrams explained:

“I haven’t opened it because it represents something important to me; it represents my grandfather. It represents infinite possibility. It represents hope. It represents potential. I am drawn to infinite possibility and that sense of potential: mystery is the catalyst for imagination. Mystery is more important than knowledge.”

It is not hard to draw the clear line between this inspiration and Abrams hit 2004 show, Lost, or indeed much of Abrams work.

For Abrams, the magic box is the blank page, the possibilities offered by new technologies, the development of character, the things we aren’t shown in the movie, even the expectation inherent in entering a movie theatre itself: all saturated with the power of potential and the power of the imagination.

See more: www.ted.com/talks/j_j_abrams_mystery_box