John Hughes Jr. was an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. He directed and/or scripted some of the most successful comedy films of the 1980s and early 1990s including Weird Science, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and a whole slew of other cult classics that defined an entire genre of films that resonated with teenagers and their parents alike, because they were based on truth and authenticity. Hughes believed in creating strong characters that were anchored by honesty and some serious inner soul searching. It’s one of the reasons why his movies were so impactful on so many young minds.
There’s a lot we can learn from John Hughes’ creative process. He was adamant in his method of storytelling, refusing to write movies and projects he did not believe in. He worked fast, but only after research had finely tuned his initial spark of an idea. And he “so desperately hate[d] to end these movies that the first thing [he did] when done was write another one… and [no longer had to] feel sad about having to leave and everybody going away.” At the time that John Hughes came to the Hollywood scene most teen movies were pretty “gross” and lacking one important aspect – teens.
Some aspects that define John Hughes’ creative process are the following: 1) he took risks. 2) he set time frames and worked fast without censorship. 3) he worked off of what he referred to as “benchmarkmoments” – those times in life when we find ourselves having to adapt to change such as marriage, death, graduation, etc. 4) he wrote knowing which audience he was writing to. 5) He made movies for himself. And 6) my favorite aspect of his process – he believed music was a key component to creative storytelling (check out The Breakfast Club, you’ll understand).
John Hughes was also very humble in his talents and his work. He often critiqued himself while also remembering how impactful his movies were. A few quotes from him illustrate this:
“I don’t think I’m making any great statements, and I certainly don’t think I’m making art.”
“My early prose style – this is so embarrassing – was sort of a suburban, Presbyterian knockoff of Woody Allen.”
“I don’t consider myself qualified to do a movie about international intrigue – I seldom leave the country.”
John Hughes’ movies has a huge impact not only on generations, myself included, but on the culture of Hollywood and music as well. His movies launched the careers of the likes of Michael Keaton, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Bill Paxton, and Matthew Broderick and the movie Breakfast Club launched the career of Simple Minds in the United States (as did other movies for other artists. His legacy lives on in our culture today and these movies will continue to influence generations to come.
Just remember – Spend a little more time trying to make something of yourself, and a little less time trying to impress people.