On Tuesday, October 15, New York Film Academy (NYFA) had the pleasure of hosting Derek Kolstad, creator and writer of the iconic John Wick franchise starring Keanu Reeves. Tova Laiter, Director of the NYFA Q&A Series, moderated the event.
Derek Kolstad penned the original screenplay for John Wick, which has become Lionsgate’s most profitable franchise with two sequels, a VR game, a mobile game, and a probable third sequel, as well as a planned scripted TV adaptation that Kolstad is executive producing and a comic book series that he is consulting on.
Additionally, Kolstad most recently wrapped as a co-executive producer on the highly-anticipated Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier for Marvel Studios.
Following a screening of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, Laiter opened up the Q&A by asking Kolstad how he got his start in the business and how that led to his success as a screenwriter. “I started to write screenplays when I was 13,” Kolstad began, continuing, “when I didn’t even know the format. I wrote and filed it. I became a salesman and then one day, it was 2000, I drove out to LA and I got noticed right away.”
He added, “I wrote a script called Acolyte and I got a manager and did two direct-to-DVD movies that were an ungodly challenge. I was going to walk away and one producer on that project introduced me to managers Mike Goldberg and Josh Adler, who are still my reps, and they saved me.”
In regards to the inspiration for the John Wick franchise, Kolstad shared, “When I wrote John Wick, I was writing a love letter to the movies I loved. I wrote that initial screenplay in three days, the second draft in two weeks, sold it in February, and we went into production that November. So when you think of overnight success, I know I’m blessed, but I worked hard and long to get to that point.”
When asked by Laiter about the moment John Wick clicked for Kolstad, he stated, “John Wick was just me suddenly going, ‘I’m going to stop trying to be who I’m not and just embrace what I love.’”
The Q&A was then opened up to student filmmakers, where Kolstad was asked how the John Wick franchise stood out from other action movies in the market. Kolstad credited the success to the importance of character relationships, saying, “A good movie, regardless of genre, is a good movie. It comes down to the character and their relationships, and the audience wanting to be a part of that character’s life.”
New York Film Academy would like to thank Derek Kolstad for joining us and sharing his expertise with our students!
These guests are not faculty and do not teach at NYFA, but they have appeared to share their stories and experience with our students. As guest speakers are scheduled based on their availability, NYFA cannot guarantee whether a guest speaker will visit during a student’s attendance or who that guest speaker may be. This guest speaker forum is not part of any NYFA curriculum and attendance at guest speaker events is purely voluntary. Students should be aware that guest speaker events do not represent a job opportunity nor are they intended to provide industry connections.